Plus events and news from the food supply chain
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God made a Forklift Driver

As I write this, the James Beard awards are occurring. These awards are given out to notables in the cooking world: trendsetting chefs and outstanding writers illuminating the issues of the food world. Much well-deserved applause to all the 2019 nominees and winners.

In the 21st century, chefs are celebrities. Deadliest Catch has been on TV since 2005. Farmers markets pop every weekend where you can meet the folks who grew your vegetables or pastured chicken eggs. But there’s a whole world of largely invisible people between where food originates and your plate.

So in the spirit of Paul Harvey’s God Made a Farmer

And on the ninth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said “I need more hands.” So God made some more people.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, butcher chickens, eat supper, then go home and stay up past midnight caring for her family.” So God made a chicken processing line worker.

“I need somebody strong enough to drive all night, yet sensible enough to stop when tired. Somebody to tame cantankerous machinery, journey across the country, wait to see their families – then turn around and do it again.” So God made a trucker.

God said, “I need somebody willing to spend all day picking by hand….then crack their back and say, ‘See you tomorrow’.  I need someone who can pick peppers, pluck oranges, who can cut asparagus. Who, harvest season, will finish their 40-hour workweek by Tuesday noon. Then, once the crop is brought in, move on to the next set of crops.” So God made a farm worker.

God had to have someone willing to ride the aisles of a warehouse to pull an order together ahead of the day’s shipment. So God made a forklift driver.

God said, “I need someone strong enough to work all day in the heat and humidity, yet gentle enough to pollinate vanilla by hand. Who will put in endless hours to raise the money to send his kid to school.”

It had to be folks who had clever hands and quick minds and hard work ethics. Somebodies to plant, pull, drive, deliver, and pack, and ship, and remove the waste and unload the trucks and keep the books and finish a hard week’s work with little fanfare.

Folks who’d bale the entire supply chain together with the soft, strong bonds of community…who would evolve with the changing job roles as technology advances on. So God made some people.

by LX Van Dries
Food+City Marketing Intern, Spring 2019
Food+City News
The Year in Review
Another academic year has come to a close, and our home at the University of Texas at Austin has quieted significantly in the last couple weeks. We enjoyed hosting and learning from the five speakers listed below as part of our Food Futures speaker series.  From freight container farming to smart cities to feeding declining numbers of military troops in complicated settings, we explored topics from all over the food supply chain, and from all over the world. Our Founder/Director, Robyn Metcalfe, completed her most recent book, Food Routes, and has been touring and speaking internationally on food futures and supply chain logistics. Additionally, our fifth annual Startup Challenge in March was a great success. After receiving almost 100 applications from across the globe, our community of mentors, judges, and advisors reviewed and rated each one. The top 13 startups were invited to participate in a three-month mentorship program and pitch their food logistics solution at SXSW. 
Five talented teams took home the awards from The 2019 Food+City Startup Challenge at SXSW, and those congratulations went to: 
  •  En Solucion (Austin, TX.) – 1st place and $10,000
  •  Cambridge Crops (Cambridge, MA.)- 2nd place and $5,000
  •  Heliponix (Evansville, IN.) – 3rd place and $2,500
  •  Chefis (Mexico City, MX.), - People’s Choice Award and Marketing consulting services from Mass Challenge Texas
  • LV Fruitfly (Austin, TX.) – Student prize winner and $2,500
We will continue to forge new paths in the food systems arena, and inspire innovation and conversations about the miracle of feeding cities. Speaking of which, summer is here! Time for a cool lemonade and a cucumber-tomato-sweet onion salad, mmmm, like the one we just posted to Instagram. Follow our social media feeds at the links below, if you don't already. 
Robyn's Corner

Smithsonian Associates Inside Science Series

Robyn was a recent podcast guest on The Not Old Better Show, Smithsonian Associates Inside Science Series with Paul Vogelzang. Listen to their discussion of specialized diets, the appearance of man-made meats on the menus of fast food chains, her Smithsonian Associates presentation entitled, The Global Grocery Store: How Your Food Gets From Farm to Table, and more here on episode #351 of the podcast series.

More information about The Not Old Better Show, here:    

Robots are changing how we feel about food.
And not in a good way. 

by Robyn Metcalfe, in WIRED 5/17/19
As a response to labour shortages, tech-driven startups announce robots and the use of artificial intelligence to reduce the demand for humans to pick and process raw materials. One new ag-tech company calls their automated harvesting system Harvest Croo. Its website shows a robot harvester that replaces an entire crew of human strawberry harvesters. In food service, food delivery, warehouse management, and food production, all jobs that require many hands, companies are using technology to cut costs and make things more productive. The Croo machine aspires to pick only ripe-enough strawberries and replaces backbreaking work with articulating arms and hands.

We seem ever more accepting of the metaphormosis of our human food system into a new digital one. But perhaps we’re not yet woke to the challenges of the disappearance of humans from the food we eat. Decades of stories about malevolent Monsanto are slowly turning to a more thoughtful and accepting invitation to companies that make our food out of cells in labs or insert genes to make our wheat more drought resistant. It may be that younger generations of consumers will look past the concerns of the Boomers who rejected GMOs as alleged Frankenfood makers. Our attitudes toward technology in our food system have become more pliant as long as the makers of our food system comply to values and ethics. And this leads again to the exit of humans and the entry of GPS tags, robots in our kitchens, and drones at our doorstep.

Read the entirety of Robyn's May 17 article in WIRED here.

Order Food Routes Today!

F+C Director Robyn Metcalfe's new book can be ordered on Amazon now! 

 "Even if we think we know a lot about good and healthy food―even if we buy organic, believe in slow food, and read Eater―we probably don't know much about how food gets to the table. What happens between the farm and the kitchen?  In Food Routes, Robyn Metcalfe explores an often-overlooked aspect of the global food system: how food moves from producer to consumer. She finds that the food supply chain is adapting to our increasingly complex demands for both personalization and convenience―but, she says, it won't be an easy ride."
Read more and order from Amazon! 
Special from MIT Press:
30% off this Title
 with code MFOODROUTES

Happy Trails! Don't be a Stranger!
The Face behind our recent articles, McCombs Business School undergraduate LX Van Dries, has been a dynamo of a Marketing Intern. 
LX, what motivated you to work for Food+City?
I’ve been interested in food for just about forever. There are so many interesting things about it. The way that food gets from its place of origin to the consumer, the market and sociological forces that shape that, and the systems involved at fascinating to me. What I love about Food+City is that it isn’t a singular product or service, it works with so. very. many. companies and organizations so you really get to see a lot of what’s going on in the world of food infrastructure. My degree plan requires an internship, so when I saw that Food+City was offering one, I jumped at the chance.

What was the best part of the job?
The best part of the job was definitely the people. Not just the folks who worked at Food+City, but the larger community of founders, thinkers, and food-fans as well. One of the best things about being any kind of a nerd (and I am decidedly a food nerd) is getting the chance to connect with other people who share your passion. I just love finding out what people are thinking about and where their passions are.
We're going to miss you, will you miss us?
I’m still going to be around! For you dear readers of the newsletter, you’ll see me contributing on a regular basis. And if you’re working at Food+City you can expect me to pop around Gearing Hall to bother you periodically next semester. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.
What are your post Food+City plans?
Well, as mentioned, I am going to be continuing to contribute to the newsletter for an indefinite period. Besides that, I’m coming up on my last semester of college at the University of Texas. By the end of December I’m going to have my degree in Management, Change Consulting. We’ll see what opportunities open up after that as I’ve always been the peripatetic sort.
We've loved your writing posts. Is there anywhere else we can find your work?
I do have a blog, Luncheons & Dragons, that is getting ready to come out of mothballs. You might enjoy this piece I wrote nearly a year ago after the passing of Tony Bourdain. Keep an eye on it for an upcoming series of meals based on Marvel movies, and there’s a rumor of a video series in the works.

Startup Spotlight:
Our Finalists in the News

MassChallenge strengthens the global innovation ecosystem by accelerating high-potential startups across all industries, from anywhere in the world for zero-equity taken. MassChallenge Texas has just announced its winners, and two of our Food+City 2019 Challenge finalists made the cut for the 74 Startups selected for the Austin Accelerator's 2019 program: one from our general cohort, and one from our student competition.
Read more about these two below.

Food+City Challenge 2019 finalist Alpaca Market shakes up the vending machine status quo, replacing junk food with farm food in their kiosks across Austin. Alpaca Market founders and husband-and-wife team, Joe and Brittaney Kerby, owe their success to a menu that is fresh, nutrient-dense,  chef-prepared, while being convenient, accessible, and affordable.

Additionally, Alpaca Market donates a portion of each sale to various food charities in Austin, including Central Texas Food Bank, and because the food in each kiosk is made fresh every day, the unsold leftovers are donated to places like Keep Austin Fed. Find a vending machine here.


University of Texas at Austin students Jonathan Wong and Mary Katherine Arnott created SwipeMeIn to reduce food and economic waste and fight food insecurity on campus. SwipeMeIn incentivizes stakeholders on college campuses to more efficiently use up meal swipes and food resources. This finalist in our inaugural 2019 Student Challenge cohort donates 100% of their profit to UT's Food Pantry and Student Emergency Services. 

Upcoming Events:
Calgary- June 5-7
Inventures 2019 is the must-attend ‘unconference’ for creative minds. Network with entrepreneurs and start-ups with venture capitalists, angel investors, service providers, and thought leaders to discover and share the latest in innovation -- all with the Canadian Rockies right outside. Robyn, our Founder, will present on the importance of conserving agricultural biodiversity by conserving heritage breeds as a compliment to genetic engineering technology.

Additional topics to include:

  • Building smarter cities

  • Feeding a hungry planet

  • Integrating the artificial mind

  • Designing health systems for a global village

  • Exploring blockchain breakthroughs

  • Greening our blue planet

Charleston - July 21-23
Chicken Marketing Summit. Consumers have more choices for when, where and how they buy chicken than ever before.  Advances in mobile technology, computing power and connectivity have made home delivery of prepared meals, groceries and meal kits commonplace. The differences between foodservice and retail distribution channels for food have been blurred as convenience and grocery stores offer more made-to-order meals and restaurants have more carry out and home delivery options.  Early Bird registration is now open. 
New York - June 18-19
This year’s Future Food-Tech Summit in New York (June 18-19) will focus on the role of technology in achieving healthy and sustainable food systems in an urbanized world – exploring everything from gut-friendly functional foods, healthier snacking and data-driven personalized nutrition to next-generation proteins, biotech innovation and digitized supply chains. Food+City subscribers use code FC400 for $400 off a Future Food-Tech Delegate Pass. Find out more and register here

17 early to mid-stage food-tech start-ups have been selected to pitch their breakthrough technology solutions in front of over 250 international food business leaders, technology integrators and investors at Future Food-Tech New York this year. F+C Founder Robyn Metcalfe will lead a panel,  and the new program will include everything from gut-friendly functional foods, healthier snacking and data-driven personalized nutrition to next-generation proteins, biotech innovation and digitized supply chains. 

Food Chain News and What We're Reading

F+C 2018 Challenge finalist Vinder announces partnership with TOFGA to encourage farmers markets through a revenue share program to embrace Vinder as a marketing tool for both the market and its vendors. 

The Economist: 1843 - This article about Vanilla Fever in Madagascar will have you wondering why we dare refer to something as "plain vanilla". Read More....

The Guardian - A long form article about the history of the beef supply chain in America and the effects it had in shaping the country's foodways. Read More....

Food Logistics - The FDA is turning to AI and machine learning to trace imported foods from ports to consumer. Read More....

What We're Reading - Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee - This collection of vignettes about America studded with the occasional regional recipe has been rightly lionized with prizes (including the 2019 James Beard Award for Food Writing). Edward Lee acts as Kerouac, haphazardly driving around the country and meeting the people and foods that make up the greater community of the country. (And currently on Kindle Unlimited)

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