By Courteney Peters

In 2017, for the first time ever, the Metro Restaurant of the Year Awards in Auckland featured a category called “food for good" (it went to Ponsonby's Orphans Kitchen). The idea of the award was to celebrate a restaurant that goes “above and beyond to positively contribute to the natural and cultural environment they operate in". This is an interesting example of a nationwide paradigm shift in action - a movement that asks us to stop and question what we're eating, and the affect our consumption is having on the world. New Zealand’s evolving food culture is a reflection of our unique context as a small country at the far end of the world, that's heavily reliant on agriculture for trade. More and more, the food and agricultural industries seem to be asking the question, "how we can do better?" Not just from an environmental stand point, but in terms of efficiency, quality, and transparency, too.

Six weeks ago, we sat down with Peter Wren-Hilton, the organizer of Techweek’17 headline event, Farming 2020, to discuss these questions. He’d just returned from a week in Silicon Valley, talking to agricultural experts about the future of the industry, and how technology could be put to work to increase the efficiency and output of food production, while reducing the undeniably alarming waste and environmental damage it causes. It’s a huge question for environmentalists, and one the Farming 2020 event hopes to go some way toward answering, over three days of demonstrations, presentations and discussions about the future of agriculture. The event includes early stage, disruptive AgTech startups, as well as big industry players like Fonterra.

The discussion continues across the country throughout Techweek. In Wellington, InternetNZ’s Food and the Internet will explore the ways in which the internet is changing the way we purchase and consume food. Chaired by Chef Martin Bosley, the panel includes Emma Foley, who was behind the recent launch of Uber Eats in New Zealand, and Collier Isaacs of Farm IQ.

In Auckland on Friday, our partners at ATEED are running a day-long symposium called FOOD + TECH. It features keynote speaker Rob Trice, of the Food Bowl, who has been invited from the US to talk about the ways technology is disrupting the food production and agricultural industries. He appears alongside an equally impressive panel of experts, including Angeline Achariya, CEO of the Food Innovation Centre at Monash University in Melbourne.

Also on Friday, Kea winds up it’s three-part Inspire breakfast series with The Future of Food, a collaboration with the Christchuch Chapter of Singularity University. This collaborative panel discussion will look at the food industry though our country’s unique cultural lens, and asks how we can make a positive global impact.

Some think of food as a simple necessity, but in New Zealand, most of us are lucky enough to engage with it on a level beyond pure survival. In the hands of the privileged, food quickly becomes an expression of culture, heritage, place, and political ideology. The Future of Food at Techweek’17 is asking big questions about an activity you engage in daily: eating. How will what you eat affect the future? Join us at these events to help find the answer.

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