Danielle Nierenberg on How We Should Harness Food Tech’s Power

According to the Food Tank founder, we have to think of more creative ways to use technology to solve social and environmental problems.

In 2013, Danielle Nierenberg founded Food Tank: a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build a global community for safe, healthy and nourished eaters through advocacy, education and stories. The organization has a wide reach, as well as more than 40 of the world’s top food and agriculture policy leaders on the advisory board.

We’re honored to partner with Food Tank for our upcoming Food Loves Tech event in June. In anticipation of the June 10–12 gathering (tickets on sale now!), Danielle chatted with us about how she sees tech shaping the future and where we need to focus our attention.

Edible Manhattan: What are food tech trends that you’re noticing?
Danielle Nierenberg: One of the things we’ve tracked closely is the use of information and communications technology in the developing world. For example, women, a group previously unable to get information and education they needed to farm because of their gender, can now use cell phones, smart phones and SMS technologies to search for and receive information. No one on the other end knows who is searching this information, creating more equality in the food system.

We’re also seeing more interest in nutrient density and companies leveraging technology to alter their products to meet demands. Companies like Pacific Foods are adding extra protein to their broth or snack and nutrition bar companies using new labeling to promote nutrient density.

EM: In what ways do you think these trends will evolve?
DN: For the latter, 3D printing now allows people to produce at a mass scale. But there’s a tendency to use technology to focus on what is trendy, like cricket protein, or on snack foods but not really focus in on the bigger issues we face around the world: hunger, poverty and environmental degradation. We have to think of more creative ways to use technology to solve overall hunger and social problems, especially for the developing world.

EM: How do you see food and tech working together to solve our problems as eaters and growers?
DN: There’s so much opportunity out there! Whether companies use potential ways to use bio-technology that are less controversial than current uses or use existing technology to improve nutrient density and equality, increase income and protect the environment.

I’m particularly focused on the developing world, so making sure rural communities are connected, with access to Internet or other communication technology is important. This will solve three problems: reducing poverty by redistributing resources and preventing migration.

The goal should be to create equality and make rural areas better places to live.

EM: Any projects that come to mind that are particularly notable?
DN: Because I’m a nerd, I’m really excited about robots and drones. But my concern is how are we going to use these technologies to make farmers money and help their bottom line. The goal should be to create equality and make rural areas better places to live.

EM: Where would you like to see things go in the future?
DN: Technology is so far ahead of us and we don’t know how to use it yet. It’s a struggle for government workers, leaders and farmers. Bringing together the people working in technology and those living and working in the developing world in a meaningful wayis long overdue.

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Suzanne Zuppello

Suzanne is a New York native dividing her time between Brooklyn and the beaches of Long Island. Ask her where to find the best gabagool in Brooklyn—you won’t regret it.