From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.
Making explores the questions as to how something works and if it whether or not it could work differently.
The Maker Movement has been shaping a new generation of “agents of change” who are a huge interest to the Future Food Institute. The institute is committed to catalyzing a new generation of food makers. They want young, entrepreneurial-driven, food-focused people who are physically building a product to fill a gap they see in our society.
Dale Dougherty explains in Free to Make that cooking a meal with family is one of the original components of the Maker Movement. “Cooking for ourselves gives us control, it is something we are free to do, free to learn and free to share. The things that people have made themselves have magic power; they have hidden meanings that other people can’t see. That’s why it does make sense to give more and more space to those creators.”
Maker Faire Bay Area is the mother of all Maker Faires. This year, a 140 square meter Future Food area featured seventeen Food Makers, twelve Future Food speakers, and labs for kids.
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Seventeen Food Makers were selected to showcase in the Future Food Area. They each followed one of four main themes.
Change of Mindset: Alternative Proteins
Don Bugito is based in the pre-Columbian Mexican history of using insects as food, thus using both tradition and innovation to offer alternative proteins. Everything started from Monica’s willingness to show how to grow insects at home. She designed this little insect farm, but soon realized she was too far ahead of the the culture. She figured out that an educational shift was needed before people would invest in insects as a suitable protein. So she decided to start Don Bugito: insect based snacks aimed at introducing edible insects into the American food market as a protein alternative.
A similar approach has been taken by Megan and her company, Bitty Foods. Bitty Foods’ mission is to make delicious food with cricket flour. They want to increase consumer awareness of the positive effects of alternative proteins, which include sustainable food production, “healthy fats,” and micronutrients—the active ingredients needed for human metabolism. Everything started when she was backpacking around Latin America and Southeast Asia and those cultures eat insects. She started wondering why we don’t, and it just seemed to her that we have a cultural bias that could be overcome if we repackaged insects into a more appealing form. She learned about turning insects into powder from the deep corners of the Internet and so she started.
Dougherty: “People often spend time creating things because they want to feel alive, because they see a gap and the contribution they can give, because they want to be participants in the world rather than viewers.”
Change of View Point: From Waste to Appealing Food
Dan Kurzock and Jordan Schwartz, two former UCLA students, have developed nutritious and sustainable food products using the grains discarded after brewing, upcycling normally cast-off high-protein waste into breads, cookies, snack-bars, cereals, and chips.
Everything started because Dan was just blown away to see how much raw material was used to make five gallons of beer. By his junior year, Dan and his longtime buddy Jordan Schwartz started baking and selling bread made from spent beer grains, which still had a lot of fiber and protein. They worked out of Jordan’s apartment and sold about 20 loaves a week to people on campus, earning enough profit to finance their hobby. Now Regrained is a growing company.
On a similar mission, Imperfect Produces and Ugly Juices take the two fruits or vegetables out of five that are commonly classified as too “ugly” for retail sale and discarded, and use them for their products. Ugly Juices produces organic fruit juices using raw materials discarded by large producers, while Imperfect Produce brings “ugly” but delicious fruit and vegetables to home consumers.
Dougherty: “Making is educating, empowering, sharing and collaborating. With the Maker Movement as a framework for collaboration, making can be a team sport. Nobody has to go alone.”
Change of Place: Indoor Farming
Daniel and Camille met each other as students at MIT Media Lab. They are both mechanical engineers and love building things. In Boston, they used to built controlled environment agriculture systems, but apparently it wasn’t enough. Their passion for making products that surprise and inspire people brought them to San Francisco to build HAMAMA. This project allows everyone to grow microgreens year-round at home.
Same concept but different approach is the one of Brielle Pettinelli and Eric De Feo, founders of Root. They are offering house and apartment dwellers the chance to turn their homes into a place where they can both live and grow food.
Good examples seem to be endless: Green Skies Vertical Farm presented an urban micro-farm that uses soil and hydroponic methods to produce fresh, organic herbs, microgreens and salad greens. Their approach significantly reduces the use of water and soil, thus reducing carbon dioxide and energy use. Ruth and her project, Grow Bucket Life, enable individuals to turn old and unused metal cans into functional greenhouses that are in keeping with the do-it-yourself maker philosophy.
Local Greens presented an urban farm based on controlled environment agriculture (CEA) that has launched its first facility with the goal of producing sustainable and high quality foods in the same community as the consumer. Eventually, Common Garden showed to all the Maker Faire folks its software that applies precision automation to indoor cultivation, increasing efficiency and reducing costs.
A more simple and fun-based approach is was adopted by Back to the Roots: Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora turned down corporate job offers to instead become full-time mushroom farmers. The two learned they could grow gourmet mushrooms off of coffee grounds, one of America’s largest, urban waste streams.
After reading articles and studying YouTube videos, the pair set up ten test buckets in Velez’s fraternity kitchen. The Mushroom Farm went from a product barely sold at local farmers markets to an item with over 10,000 points of distribution including, Whole Foods, Target, Home Depot, Petco, Nordstrom, Amazon, Kroger, Safeway and Costco.
Change of Approach: Authentic Food
Dandelion Chocolate had a terrific presence in our Future Food Area. It is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the Mission District of San Francisco that wants to bring back the true flavor of cocoa beans. Todd Masonis and Cameron They were simply making chocolate to see if they could. It worked out and now they have one of the most famous chocolate company in California. Their mission is to increase the knowledge around chocolate, its authentic ingredients and simplicity.
Pique Tea and its founder Amanda instead, crystallize the tea leaves from India, China and Sri Lanka, using technology to bring the original flavor of one of the oldest drinks to the world. The main purpose here is to connect authentic practices with final users and their need for easy healthy solutions.
Eventually Zego: they produce gluten-free and allergen-free snacks and foods with transparent ingredient lists to remove the worry for sensitive individuals. The company engaged with participants by making everybody experiences both the mind-blowing taste and the technology of their creations.
Lexicon of Food Sustainability Award
Lexicon of Food is the most comprehensive database addressing sustainability in food. The Lexicon of Food network illuminates success stories in sustainable agriculture and food production in both the industrial and public sectors, providing a content map to our interconnected food system. Arranged alphabetically, the website has a detailed list of terms and themes often used in conversations about food sustainability. Each of these is accompanied by a definition from a leader in the field, information artwork and a list of related articles. The main purpose behind that is to encourage the conversation and storytelling about America’s rapidly evolving food culture. Douglas Gayeton is an award-winning American multimedia artist, filmmaker, writer, and photographer who divides his time between a farm near Petaluma, California.
For this specific occasion, Lexicon of Food decided to launch for the first time the Food Sustainability Award for Food Innovation. The idea behind that is to reward a Food Makers that stands out for the problem faced as well as for the creativity in solving it. The award this year was won by Dan Kurzock and Regrained, for tackling such a huge problem like unused food in a completely innovative and tasty way.
Kids Lab with Dandelion Chocolate
But the best and most fun activity of the weekend was certainly our Kids Lab. Friday is a special day at the Maker Faire – schools from all over California are coming over to experience a new educational approach. Maker movement is about experiential learning and hands-on education. Making can give kids the “permission to play.”
That’s way we involved Cynthia from Dandeline Chocolate to expose a black female class from Girl Stem Stars, a non profit advancing black girls in Stem education, to cocoa world: from beans sourcing to chocolate bars production, Cynthia explained the girls all the process along the food chain. Eventually, everybody made hot chocolate following a simple recipe: isn’t it about making?
The Future Food Area gave space to those Food Heroes that we have been speaking about for weeks here in the Maker Magazine. We see it as the tangible place where to finally see faces, taste flavors and share a meal, that can be brought to more and more locations.
At the Future Food Institute we often say that “innovation is a cooperative effort” and this is the ultimate proof of it. As Dale says, the DIY movement is moving to DIT, do it together, or DIWO, do it with others, because the world is a better place as a participatory sport.