July 13, 2024

When you hear “the future of food,” what comes to mind? Star Trek-like food synthesisers, pills to replace your lunch, lab-grown meat, and insects for protein? Yes, the future of food might contain those things. However, it will also be a lot less… strange. 

That is according to Beatriz Jacoste Lozano, the director of the KM ZERO Food Innovation Hub. TNW caught up with her during last week’s Valencia Digital Summit, to learn more about the crucial work of transforming the way we source our food, while still catering to the emotional connection we have to what we eat. 

“If we want a product to work in the market, it needs to be aligned with cultural identity,” Jacoste Lozano says. “Food is something very close to our identity, our memories, our desires. So it has to also be delicious, right, and that is our first requirement for a novel food. That being said, there is a lot that needs to change — our food system is broken.” 

How our food systems are failing

And a broken system it is indeed. The food industry is largely dominated by multinational corporations that encourage unsustainable and unhealthy patterns of production and consumption. It is also the primary driver of biodiversity loss on the planet. In fact, agriculture alone is the identified threat to 24,000 of the 28,000 (86%) species at risk of extinction. 

It is also responsible for 30% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and 80% of global deforestation is a result of agricultural expansion. And still, the system has not managed to eradicate hunger and starvation. “Our food system is also failing when it comes to providing nourishment to people,” Jacoste Lozano states. “900 million people are still hungry.” 

The <3 of EU tech

The latest rumblings from the EU tech scene, a story from our wise ol’ founder Boris, and some questionable AI art. It’s free, every week, in your inbox. Sign up now!

By 2050, it faces the enormous task of having to feed 9.8 billion people. Furthermore, diet-related diseases are one of the top three causes of death worldwide, putting public healthcare systems under enormous pressure, and at great cost to society. 

Reforming the way we produce and consume food is absolutely essential for the health of the planet — and humanity. 

Not all food tech is high tech

KM ZERO is looking to facilitate and accelerate that change through open innovation and investment. The hub analyses the needs of the food industry, which mainly take the form of sustainability challenges. These can be related to packaging, water usage, carbon emissions, soil quality, etc. But it doesn’t stop there, and it’s not all high tech.  

“We think sustainability is not enough — we are now talking about regeneration and restoration,” Jacoste Lozano says. “We don’t believe all innovation has to be digital and technological, we also believe in looking back at regenerative practices.” 

Beatriz Lozano in front of presentation screen on stage