From Diane’s Desk: A Review of Seeds & Chips 2017
For a nonprofit that works mainly in the U.S., you might wonder why Change Food was at last week’s Seeds & Chips “The Global Food Innovation Summit” in Milan, Italy. And after reading this review, I hope you’ll see why Change Food loves to participate in these types of gatherings, and why it’s important that we do, especially considering one of our central goals is to build bridges and facilitate networking and collaboration.
Thanks to Danielle Gould of Food & Tech Connect, I first met Sharon Cittone and Marco Gualtieri, the organizers of Seeds & Chips, at the World Food Expo Milan in 2015 when the Aspen Institute Italy invited me to speak at the Expo. Sharon, Marco and I quickly realized we had a lot in common, and this year I was asked to be a keynote speaker in their session “How Big Is the Food Revolution?” (We’ll post the talk once it’s up online!)
I don’t need many excuses to go to Italy, so I gratefully accepted, and Change Food also became a Supporting Partner of the event. The Summit was put on at the same time as Tuttofood, which is Italy’s largest food event — similar to the Fancy Food Show in New York City.
In true Italian style, the event was highly produced, full of both substance and show. I am confident saying that Seeds & Chips is the most well-produced food event globally — and, yes, even better than TEDxManhattan was. The talks were interesting; the panels were informative; the atmosphere was exciting and inspiring.
But, most importantly, Seeds & Chips is about the audience — both those participating and those attending. I enjoyed at least one aperitivo and dinner each night; some nights there were multiple events. That meant a lot of evenings out with conference participants, which meant a lot of networking, connecting, and making new friends. There were also breaks and the flexibility to meet up with other attendees during the day. It was not only a summit, it was it’s own kind of brain trust. And this is how innovation and change happens.
The audience is Seeds & Chip’s biggest asset. The event is friendly and, most importantly, inclusive. And, for me, it was full of people working in the food space whom I had never met before, nor heard of most of their companies. And that type of connecting is so necessary. I’m less interested in going to conferences where I already know everyone and what they’re doing and am much more interested in attending events where I will learn about new companies, new ideas, and new projects underway to better our food system. And that’s the climate that Seeds & Chips so successfully created last week.
Besides the people attending, the other highlight was the keynote speech by President Barack Obama, plus his Q&A with former White House staffer Sam Kass. How exciting to hear Obama’s first public talk since leaving office. And how thrilling to hear him say he’s going to spend his newfound time building a global network of activists; His Seeds & Chips talk reflected his focus on the impact of food on climate change; to hear President Obama acknowledge and compliment small farmers was heartwarming.
And even though I met so many new people, I also saw some familiar faces. It was wonderful to see and spend some time with Change Food friends and former speakers Viraj Puri (Gotham Greens), Konstantin Zvereff (Blue Cart), Mitchell Davis (James Beard Foundation), Danielle Nierenberg(Food Tank), Paul Lightfoot (BrightFarms) and Food-X mentees from RISE Products, Allison Stewart and Jessica Aguirre. RISE even won an SaC17 Award. (Stay tuned for Change Food’s upcycled dinner with RISE in July!)
The main takeaway from Seeds & Chips is that it is one of “the” conferences to go to if you are interested in food and/or food tech. The 2018 event is May 7–10 in Milan, and Change Food is hoping to get more farming and advocacy on to their stage. More on that to come!