Are you ready for the new dawn of the food system?


Ready, set, go – Transform the food system

How to kickstart the future of food

The food system needs an urgent transformation to safeguard our planet’s resources and boost human health—that is what we have argued throughout the ‘New Dawn’ article series. It is now time to get started. How can you prepare for the future of food? Ecosystem collaboration, a clear vision, and profound transformation are key.

In our previous articles we deep dived into the themes that we consider pivotal for the future of food: personalized healthy nutrition, responsible production, and responsible waste management. Within these dimensions, we have suggested actions that will contribute to the required food transformation. In this final article, we explore how to get started and make the food system transformation a reality.

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Move from food value chain to ecosystem collaboration

When you need to innovate, you need collaboration—and it’s no different for the future of food. The food ecosystem touches on immensely complex issues such as climate, water, energy, technology, earning models, policy, safety, and regulation—and no single player in the system can achieve the required transformation alone. The food ecosystem includes not only players from the food industry, but also government organizations, universities, research institutions, finance companies, and others. Collaboration among these players enable possible initiatives that can have a profound impact on people’s lives and society. 

However, collaboration is not always easy. Challenges include creating sustainable business models, avoiding long political processes, and building a consensus to enact policy and support systems. But ecosystem collaboration is the only way forward to create systemic change. Working with ecosystem partners, companies can create an impact that goes much further than what they can achieve on their own.

Successful collaboration: improving animal welfare through AI technology

An example of a successful collaboration within the food ecosystem is the Dutch slaughterhouses. A number  of organizations consisting of animal welfare groups De Dierenbescherming and Eyes on Animals, meat producer Vion, and Deloitte teamed up to develop an innovative camera surveillance system in slaughterhouses, in which artificial intelligence is used to monitor the movements and interactions of people, animals and objects. The objective was to improve how identify, address, and avoid welfare and animal handling issues are identified and addressed. Collaboration between animal welfare organizations and slaughterhouses is not as unlikely as you might think, as there is a common denominator: the need to monitor animals better. This unique collaboration led to the successful launch of AI4Animals .

New partnerships

Partnering across the ecosystem value chain or connecting to start-ups and scale-ups can drive technological innovation and exciting new business models. Collaborations create opportunities to generate value for your organization. When it comes to collaborating with start-ups and scale-ups in particular, incumbents can combine their resources, skills and knowledge with the creativity, flexibility and speed that are characteristic of start-ups and scale-ups.

How to start

Step 1. Define your North Star

To prepare for the future, companies first need to know where they are heading by defining their North Star. But what does this mean for your company? Where do you want to be in 30 years’ time from now? You need to assess where your organization stands today, where you want to be in the future, and plan a multi-year transformation to get you to that point.

You can identify the value spaces where your company can make an impact and define possible actions to fill it. These possible actions should be tested by the following criteria:

  1. Does the proposed action fit your purpose? 
  2. Is it viable and is there actually a market demand? 
  3. Is it feasible and can you make money with it? 
  4. Is it sustainable over time?

If the answer to all these questions is ‘yes’, you should do it.

Future of Food value spaces

Below you'll find some inspiration on the opportunities within the Future of Food, categorised into a) personalised healthy nutrition, b) responsible production, and c) responsible waste management.

Step 2. Futureproof your organization and move into action

You will need to futureproof your organization, recognize the disruptive changes that are needed, and reinvent yourself to adapt to the future state. This is a long-term process that will require commitment from the board as well as alignment throughout the company. From production to distribution, from design to legal, from HR to marketing—all departments in the company need to be involved. Teams should be given a mandate and the autonomy to realize strategy outcomes, thus cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit in the way of working. 

Undertaking a transformation requires not only a vision, but also clear targets and KPIs. As we have discussed in our previous articles on the future of food, transformation need not be completely new innovations at the edge. They can include actions that improve your core business, as this is a place where you can learn fast and cheaply. This requires a multi-faceted innovation strategy with different types of people, technology investments, and KPIs. Since many opportunities in the food industry are powered by digital technology, for many companies becoming futureproof will include investing in their digital capabilities. 

Are you ready for the new dawn?

It may sound like a massive task but transforming the food system offers the opportunity to contribute to a better, healthier, and more sustainable world; to tap into new markets and profit opportunities; and to make an impact that matters. It is the time to be bold, brave, commercial, and take up the challenge together—as together is the way we can take major steps.

Connect with us to take on the challenge

Please connect with us if you would like to explore what the food system transformation means for your organization. Sign up here if you would like to be updated on the release of upcoming articles and webinars which deep dive into transformation themes.

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