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Day Two of Global Table

A leading voice in agricultural science, Dr Howard-Yana Shapiro encouraged brave new ideas, while alternative proteins, opportunities in China and transformative farming technology took centre stage on Day Two.

“I’m not sure we have that much time anymore.”

Dr Shapiro, Mars Incorporated’s Chief Agricultural Officer, opened Day Two of Global Table with a call for the world to catch up and act now on the issues facing our agricultural systems.

Over a 50-year career, the agricultural scientist has devoted time to projects that improve the nutritional value and resilience of major crops, most notably cacao. Along the way, he’s shared his breakthroughs in the hope of changing things for the better.

“If you own something, the speed of change is only as fast as you are,” he said.

During his address, Dr Shapiro gave numerous examples of taking on problems with unconventional approaches, something he dubs uncommon collaboration. In 2011, he started a project that brought together all 54 countries in Africa to enhance the nutrition of 101 key African food crops. It was supported by more than 25 corporate partners including Google, IBM and the World Food Organization of the UN.

Later, faced with a carcinogenic toxin spoiling harvested crops, Dr Shapiro gave the problem to ordinary citizens to solve via an online puzzle that anyone could attempt. To date, 1.6 million solutions have been submitted for review.

Throughout the day, the scientist continued to put forward ideas and offer his help to bring them to life.

Elsewhere at Global Table, alternative proteins took centre stage, with the launch of world-first research into the leading food trend by Deloitte Access Economics. The research commissioned by Food Frontier found alternative protein products could add $3 billion to Australia’s economy and generate up to 6,000 jobs by 2030.

The launch was followed by a full afternoon on the future of the fast-growing alternative protein market. Weighing in on the discussion were several startups such as Singapore’s Shiok Meats, V2Food and Sunfed from New Zealand, plus market researcher Denise Hamblin of Colmar Brunton, VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio, Louise Cordina of chicken producer Cordina Group and more.

“People want to eat more protein, but they don’t want to get it from an animal,” said the founder of Sunfed, Shama Sukul Lee.

Ideas for retooling our agricultural systems continued to flow with a series of pitch competitions happening throughout the day, featuring closed-loop systems for greenhouses, solutions for remote communities struggling to access fresh food and more. Successful startups in the competitions get to participate in accelerator programs run by Beanstalk AgTech and FoodTech Accelerator, an initiative of Deloitte Italia.

While there was plenty of attention on new horizons, the valuable knowledge of past generations was highlighted in a conference panel devoted to Australia’s native food industry. Other conference highlights included sessions on the growing aquaculture industry, the vast array of precision agriculture products in 2019, vertical farming, new breeding technologies, AI and Big Data’s applications in agriculture and more. Members of Austrade’s taskforce on Agriculture 4.0 – a body to support innovation in Australian agriculture – were also at Global Table to discuss the steps Australian farms must take to remain competitive.

Food exporters, buyers and others with an eye on China gathered in the Trade Zone for a whole day devoted to the world’s largest market. Sessions covered how to build a brand in China, protecting IP, the key considerations for Chinese customers and e-commerce and other digital innovations. The overarching message was one of cautious optimism: Australian brands can have great success in China but must be prepared to work for it.

Tomorrow – the third and final day of the event – the discussions continue, with ideas and solutions on how we might be eating, growing, distributing and thinking about food in the near future.

Watch our wrap-up video and all the highlights of day two and make sure to subscribe to our Youtube channel for more content and updates in the following weeks

Gallery Highlights Day Two

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