Urban Agriculture: Uprooting the Status Quo and Fixing Our Food System
Christine Gould is the Founder & CEO of the Thought For Food (TFF) Foundation which is the world’s leading organization to empower the next generation to solve the biggest challenge facing our planet: how to feed and nourish the growing population. To date, TFF has worked with over 15,000 young entrepreneurs from all around the world, helped create thousands of ideas and supported the launch of 50+ startups that cover a wide variety of innovation spaces including biotech, vertical farming, logistics, new foods, and appropriate tech for smallholders.
Urban agriculture is a hot innovation space, attracting millions of millions of dollars in investments and offering exciting new opportunities for healthy food, green jobs, environmental protection and climate change resilience. With more than two-thirds of our global population expected to live in cities by 2030, it is clear that urban farming is - and will continue to develop as - a key part of the mosaic of solutions we need to feed the world.
In my work at Thought For Food, I see firsthand that young people around the world are drawn to innovate in this sector because it perfectly embodies all of the key attitudes of next generation innovation: openness, collaboration, beginner’s mindset, entrepreneurial methods and purpose and passion. Whether through collective gardens, vertical farms, aeroponic systems or green buildings, young people are rewriting the rules of where and how we grow nutritious and delicious food and totally upending what it means to be a farmer.
Urban agriculture is attracting a new generation of diverse talent - including engineers, architects, social scientists, data analysts, artists, designers and more. These people are jumping in, trying new things and looking at food production from vastly different point of views. The collective impact of these new minds is compounded by the synergies they create as they collaborate and combine their insights, ideas and skills.
Urban farmers are entrepreneurs, and what I love too is that there is a community approach to innovation in this space. Knowledge, know-how and enabling technologies are often open-sourced and shared broadly, with an aim to accelerate the pace of innovation. Ordinary people are leveraging DIY approaches to build their own urban ag solutions and startups, and are experimenting with new types of inclusive business models. This happening everywhere: from Berlin to Copenhagen, from Singapore to Tokyo, from Lagos to Nairobi, from Lima to Rio, and from New York to Atlanta.
Every city that wants to attract talent, business and investment requires a supportive community to serve as an integral part of its 21st century economy. What I have noticed and witnessed is that to create a more sustainable and competitive community, we must involve young people, and embrace and leverage their attitudes and approaches to innovation. Companies should support this by sharing their valuable expertise, research centers their cutting-edge technology, VCs and investors can bring the capital needed, and startups can share their success stories.
We encourage AgLanta and all the different urban ag actors there to continue cultivating this collaborative innovation ecosystem. We are convinced that the more collaborative the communities are, the more competitive they get, and stronger become the startups they raise.
I am excited to join the AgLanta conference this year as a keynote speaker and share my perspective and experience of working with young people in 160+ countries to drive innovation in the food and agriculture industry forward. I consider AgLanta as one of the rare food and agriculture conferences that creates a truly inspirational and action-focused experience, with valuable sessions, speakers and networking opportunities that explore smart ag, urban ag, entrepreneurship and more. I am looking forward to learn, share and celebrate the future of urban ag, as well as connect with the world’s thought leaders in this space.