Foodycle, part 3: Insect food, urine farming, farmers’ visions…

Two years ago our association Ruoan tulevaisuus (Future of Food) started Foodyclea transdisciplinary food festival open and free for all.

Foodycle brings together scientists, activists, producers and entrepreneurs. It is a place for sharing ideas for more just and functional food systems.

This year Foodycle graduated into its third year of existence! It was organized at Helsinki Think Company on Viikki University Campus.

The day’s programme consisted of talks on future food systems, a Farmers’ market including producers’ insights on their livelihoods as well as street food kitchens selling delicious food. If you are interested in the whole program, check it out here. 

Here are some thoughts of mine after organizing and taking part in Foodycle part 3.

  • Insect food is coming big time. Two years ago we organized the first Foodycle and had one actor, Ravintola Ötökkä, telling people about bug food. In just two years, the field has expanded and this year we had participation from both Santtu Vekkeli (CEO and founder of Nordic Insect Economy) and Unibugs, an academic association aiming at promoting insect food as a viable solution for food security problems. My feeling after hearing these talks is that things are moving fast and insect foods will be found in Finnish supermarkets in the coming years, if not already in 2016.
  • Food waste is recognized as a severe problem in our food system, in the Western system especially in the way that consumers and retailers recklessly throw food away. One interesting solution for tackling this problem was provided by Brennan Clark, co-founder of Froodly, a mobile application developed for reducing food waste. The idea is that Froodly users share photos of soon-expiring food in supermarkets in order to a) avoid it from being thrown away b) find cheaper food c) earn credits inside the Froodly system. I have downloaded the app and find it very interesting, though it still needs a user mass big enough to make it fully functional.
  • Although we often boast about our modern food production models being extremely efficient (and thus proving Thomas Malthus wrong after all these years) systems which can feed millions of people, many of these systems are also dependent on fossil fuels for external inputs. In this way the whole efficiency argument can be debated. Urine is currently not utilized as a fertilizer in our food system although it is an excellent source of nitrogen. Dodo, an environmental NGO has completed pilot tests for using urine as a fertilizer for bean production at urban farming center Kääntöpöytä. The initial results are very promising. Why not scale up this idea? Why are we not using this valuable and almost ubiqutous nitrogen source as a fertilizer?
  • Farmers are in no way a united group with united opinions. After hearing the talks of our farmer guests, I was inspired and felt a rush of positive energy. This is not the case when I read Finnish newspaper articles on agriculture. All we hear is how unprofitable farming is. Yes, there are problems, but there are also promising young producers with innovative visions on the future. We need all kinds of farmers and as one farmer at Foodycle put it, ‘we need more people to join in’.

We had a great time and hope the participants did too. Hope to see you at next year’s Foodycle!

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