Chewing on the Big Issues of the Food Industry at SXSW 2019

The South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) was founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas. While the conference began with a heavy focus on interactive industries, as well as music and film, the March 8-17, 2019 lineup also includes nine tracks in the “convergence” industry category.

One of which is food.

Featuring nearly thirty speaker/panel sessions, five food-related meetups, and three mentor sessions, The Food Track is designed to bring “chefs, entrepreneurs, activists, farmers, scientists, and enthusiasts together.

The featured session for the food track, “Localizing Food to Restore Human Health”, will be led by Matt Barnard of Plenty, Mark Bittman (an independent journalist), Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn, and Daphne Miller, MD author of Farmacology: Total Health from the Ground Up.

While highlighting the need for innovation that is beneficial not only to businesses, but also to the environment and public health, the session also seeks to emphasize the cultural components of food. “Food exists at the intersection of want and need like nothing else in human nature” which makes it crucial, not only for bodily health, but also for its ability to bring people together to form new ideas and connections. Through an exploration of past wisdom incorporated with new methods, the speakers of this session will discuss a return to the flavors, cultural prominence, and health of the food our ancestors ate.

The topic of discussion for the majority of the food sessions will be the future. 2019 food industry hot topics, such as plant-based meat, alternative protein, and AgTech, will all be discussed, along with some futuristic topics that aren’t nearly as prevalent.

One panel will focus on the $300 billion wine industry as its companies strive to appeal to a majority Millennial market. Andy Dratt of Imbibe will speak about the future of sweetener technology, necessitated by the demonization of sugar. One panel will even focus on food of the dystopia, and the engineering involved in turning human waste into sustenance in a post-plant society. Sessions will also discuss Aquaculture, the “Fourth Agricultural Revolution,” and the future contributions and challenges of young food activists and entrepreneurs.

Food activism and combating food deserts will also be heavily-discussed topics at the conference. The “Tomorrow’s Perfect Food Narrative” session, will focus on the role of social media and image-sharing and emphasize the use of the plate as a platform to speak about larger issues. The “Gastro-Diplomacy” panel will highlight food industry jobs as a unique opportunity for refugees and food itself as a “bridge between communities.”

The Most Expensive Meal in the World” panel will surprise some attendees when they point out that a simple plate of food in South Sudan can cost the average citizen such a high price it would be similar to an American paying $300. This panel will discuss how new optics allow them “to quantify disparities in access to food,” taking into account factors such as warfare, climate, and the functionality of food markets.

Ynzo Van Zanten will be speaking about Tony’s Chocolonely and its mission to create a future where all chocolate production is 100% slave-free. This mission is very timely in a culture that increasingly wants to know where its food comes from. Two separate panels will be focusing on food production transparency and traceability.

SXSW’s 2019 conference will join together some of the most brilliant minds in the food industry and will host discussions on key issues in this sector that may determine how humanity will survive in the years to come.

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