Following an eventful Day 1 of the annual S2G Summit, Day 2 delivered a robust agenda timely topics. Attendees from across the food and agriculture sector came together to connect, ideate and find ways to collaborate on solutions aimed at creating a healthier and more resilient food system.
If we are going to successfully and expeditiously bring about a food system transition, we believe we must have as many stakeholders at the table as possible. Our team is grateful to have convened attendees from 17 countries and 10 world-class investment banking institutions, 3 preeminent foundations covering sustainability and impact, and 3 leading universities in food agriculture, technology, and policy, as well as 61 investors across seed, venture, growth and public investment firms and 13 corporate venture capitalists.
It is crucial to connect those with capital to companies working on pioneering technologies and land managers seeking solutions. By bringing together representatives from publicly traded companies that represent $5.4 trillion in total market cap, investors with $13.2 trillion under management, food and agriculture companies with land totaling 404 million acres, as well as dozens of entrepreneurs, we hope to help generate pivotal relationships between ready capital, critical innovation and opportunities for implementation.
As S2G Managing Director Sanjeev Krishnan noted at the outset of the day, many of us know the why of the food system transition. The challenge is to figure out the what and the how.
Sanjeev discussed that we are living in an era of megatrends that are impacting the food system, the biggest trend of all being that humans are moving from a biological to a geological force, meaning that when we meet geological scarcity we discover and invent a new unlock. For the food transition, this unlock will enable incredible innovation that will not only be necessary to meet the food demands of the next few decades but will be crucial for the sector to be part of the solution to two of the greatest contingent liabilities of our era–climate stability and healthcare.
When it comes to the how of the food systems transition, our speakers brought their unique backgrounds and expertise to explore the current obstacles in our food systems and opportunities for change. The recipe for the transition includes consumer shifts, innovation, policy engagement, systems thinking and strong capital markets. Over the course of the day, our speakers dived into each of these drivers.
Millennials and Gen Z groups today have $3 trillion in buying power while 80 percent will invest based on beliefs and values. To illuminate how consumers can drive change in the food system, we heard from Jennifer Garner and John Foraker from Once Upon a Farm about building a purpose-driven brand as well as from Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and CEO of Pepsico, about how to change incumbent companies. Walter Robb also sat down with Seth Goldman, Co-Founder and Chief Change Agent of Eat the Change, to discuss how to give consumers the knowledge and tools to make healthier and more sustainable food choices.
When it comes to innovation, the food system is currently in the early stages of digitization with 68 percent of arable acres in the US using digital tools and over 1.5 million data points projected to be generated by the average farm per day by 2030, according to research from the Context Network. The computation revolution that has transformed other industries will have a game-changing impact on the food and ag sector. Jane Metcalfe, Co-Founder of Wired Magazine spoke with Danny Hillis, Co-Founder of Applied Invention, about how computation will disrupt the sector through unprecedented levels of data-driven insights. Bernhard Van Lengerich, Founder of Seeding the Future Foundation, shared what he looks for when investing in food systems innovation.
Policy engagement will be essential to ensuring resilient global supply chains, especially given the fragilities that have been laid bare due to the supply and demand shocks of the last few years. Dominic Barton, Former Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, spoke about the importance of engaging with China and how to do so effectively. Jeremy Jurgens, Managing Director at the World Economic Forum, and John Strackhouse, Chairman of the Doerr Institute, provided a debrief on Davos that focused on the interconnectedness of modern supply chains and how to navigate continuous disruption.
S2G is built on the premise that the most effective way to generate large-scale change is through systems thinking and investing, and Builders Vision CEO Lukas Walton spoke about the importance of this approach to look beyond our current systems and consider how they can be fundamentally improved. David Barber, Co-Founder of Blue Hill, Cortney Burns, the ‘Godmother of Fermentation,’ and Suzanne Devkota, Assistant Professor in the Cedars-Sinai Division of Gastroenterology, provided an example of the potential of systems thinking by diving into the interconnectivity of soil health and gut health.
Lastly, capital markets will be crucial for activating and scaling innovation, with $52 billion going toward food and agriculture investment as of the end of 2021. Howard Buffett, President of Global Impact LLC, spoke about the value drivers of ESG and the framework’s potential to make sustainability measurable. In addition, Ertharin Cousin, former Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, conversed with Marshall Burke and David Lobell, Professors at the Center for Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, about the market liabilities and opportunities when it comes to agriculture and climate change.
Bringing about the food systems transition will require consumers, innovators, policymakers and capital markets to align on shared goals and incorporate a systems approach to exploring opportunities for progress. Through gatherings like our annual summit, we hope to spark conversation and collaboration from stakeholders across the sector and nurture relationships and inspire ideas that will not only lead to novel solutions in the food and agriculture sector but will have cascading impacts on healthcare and climate stability.
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