Transforming the Future of Food: Insights from True's "Reimagining Agtech" Event

Explore key insights from True's "Reimagining Agtech: Transforming the Future of Food" event, where industry leaders convened to discuss the urgent need for systemic change within our food systems. Delve into the challenges and opportunities identified in agtech adoption, the economic impacts of current practices, and the vital role of innovation and government support in shaping a sustainable future.

Transforming the Future of Food: Insights from True's "Reimagining Agtech" Event

Lauren Smithie / Events / 16 May 2024

True House was buzzing last night with some of the industry’s most inspiring leaders and innovators as we hosted our "Reimagining Agtech: Transforming the Future of Food" event in partnership with Eden Search. This gathering brought together over 100 senior leaders from across the agri-food supply chain to delve into the pivotal role of agtech in shaping our food systems. The event featured a keynote address by Henry Dimbleby, a key figure in DEFRA and the national food strategy plan, alongside Vee Gururajan, MD of B-hive, Shelagh Hancock, CEO at First Milk and Matt Truman, Executive Chair and Co-founder of True. The diverse panel, representing agriculture, agritech, private equity and innovation was expertly moderated by David Macaulay, MD of Eden Search, and covered the entire supply chain including; land use, farming practices, innovation, the funding landscape and the price of food. 

Urgent Need for Systemic Change

The discussions kicked off with a stark reality check from Henry Dimbleby, who highlighted that while food generates $12.5 trillion in revenue and employs 35% of the global workforce, it also incurs $12.7 trillion in damages to our health and the environment. The panel unanimously agreed on the critical need for systemic changes to address issues such as biodiversity loss, soil degradation, water pollution, climate change, and deforestation. The panel highlighted the important role that agtech has in being part of the solution, with Matt Truman commenting that “corporations must embrace innovation and change or they will be left behind”. 

The Challenge of Adoption in Agtech

Despite the excitement surrounding the innovative potential of agtech, the panel identified adoption as its biggest hurdle. Critical discussions ensued about the economic and strategic barriers to integrating these technologies into mainstream practices. "Who is going to pay for it?" was the overarching sentiment, highlighting a significant challenge to progress. From a farmers point of view, Shelagh of First Milk highlighted the importance of alignment with purpose and what you’re trying to achieve. She explained that any decisions made on investment have to be in the best interest of all farmers, and if aligned to purpose, investment in the sector is much easier.

Government's Role and the Economic Impact

The lack of a long-term strategic vision was a concern raised by the panel, stressing the need for clarity and support from the government. The panel also touched upon the broader economic implications, noting the substantial taxpayer money spent on activities that harm nature and the pervasive health issues exacerbated by poor-quality food. They highlighted the staggering statistic that by 2035, the health service is projected to spend more on type 2 diabetes than on all cancers combined. With the mention of diabetes came the mention of Ozempic, as the two now go hand in hand. Ozempic, originally developed for diabetes management, is increasingly being used for weight loss, a trend that could have significant repercussions for the food sector. It will be interesting to see the structural challenge food and beverage companies face as big pharma enters the conversation and taps into the lucrative potential of the drug.

The Road to a Sustainable Future

There was a consensus that access to grant funding for R&D and innovation in sectors like vertical farming and alternative proteins has improved. Vee's advice to investors and founders was to change the way they look at investment for the future, explaining that there’s a really good opportunity here and there is more funding available for agritech than there was a few years ago. The panelists pointed out that the short-term focus prevalent in political cycles could hinder long-lasting change and government needs to ensure progress is not hindered. 

Embrace Change and Innovate

The event concluded with a powerful call to action, urging corporations and farmers to embrace innovation. "The cost of food doesn’t reflect the cost of production," Dimbleby remarked, underscoring the need for a shift in how food costs are perceived and factored into sustainability efforts.

Ultimately, farmers will need to operate in different ways, they need to be more than just producers of food but rather stewards of the land, delivering goods, sequestering carbon, promoting biodiversity and improving water quality. They will need to bring more people and functions onto the land to create other economies. We predict there will be a huge skill shift for farmers which is another need for investment in the space. We invite those who shares our vision for a sustainable future to get in touch. Whether you are a leader in agriculture, a technology innovator, or someone passionate about transforming our food systems, your input and collaboration are vital. For more insights, discussions, or ways in which we can collaborate, please contact us at hello@true.global.

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