Richard Canady from the White House Office of Science has created the foundation Food Intelligent Grids (FIG), with the vision of improving food security by creating smart urban food systems. The mission of the Foundation is to conduct research to develop science and technologies that can make food systems more responsive to the needs of malnourished urban populations by linking community leaders, farmers, food processors, waste utilizers, consumers, policy makers, and technology providers in social and informatics networks to optimize local food systems.
“In the last century, we’ve developed food processing and packaging, and we’ve become able to get amazing products,” said Canady. “But we tend to produce food farther and farther from where we need it. Now we can go back, producing things locally, thanks to technology. We all understand that production is needed close to where people live. “The fundamental need of people in relation to food is always the same: nutrition. The new thing is that, thanks to big data, we can find more efficient ways to move crops from one place to another, reducing distances and avoiding the unnecessary disposal of food.We call it smart-grid, a way to optimize supply chain length.”
The project was initiated through partnerships with the Italian National Research Council (CNR), which developed initial case studies regarding smart food systems. CNR cited that the benefits of such systems include the efficient use of supply chains and capacity, resilience and sustainability, distribution of markets and capital flow, and, a focus for socially beneficial technological growth.
“We are working on the creation of collective brands of agricultural entrepreneurs, networks of farmhouses and other aggregation systems,” explains project collaborator Daniele Rossi from Confagricoltura, an organisation representing Italian agricultural businesses. “Furthermore, technology can give a helping hand. The digital training of the agricultural entrepreneurs involved is one of the aims of the project, to give them the chance to interact directly with consumers, creating new possibilities of engagement.”