Enter, Learn, Be Inspired...Words of Wisdom from a Challenge Prize Entrant

By McCalley Cunningham
Introduction by Shelly Brenckman, Marketing Coordinator and Startup Aggieland Co-founder

McCalley Cunningham, a 19-year-old freshman Animal Sciences major, is a standout student from our “Dormcubator” on campus and was accepted as a freshman to our student business accelerator, Startup Aggieland. Just one month into her first semester as an undergraduate at Texas A&M University, we needed a “pitch person” to fly for a week to Orlando and represent our student program in competition at the Collegiate  Entrepreneurs Organization. With 48 hours’ notice, we had to prepare McCalley to pitch against upperclassmen at various universities across the nation and get her to Florida. McCalley also entered the Food Challenge Prize. She competed on Valentine’s Day 2015 with much older competitors and held her own. Two months later, she earned a $5,000 investment – top prize in our pitch competition called Shark Frenzy – from Norton Rose Fulbright for her same concept, “Go Fresh!” “Mac” was awarded the “Rising Star” award in September 2015 by the Shop.org Conference. Mac has done all of this while also working for us since her second semester of freshman year as a Teaching Assistant with two courses and while managing her agricultural pursuits (one of these being a part of the 2014-2015 National Texas A&M Wool Judging Team).  We are very impressed by McCalley’s determination and proud of her strong work ethic.


The Food+City Challenge has been a major contribution to my success as an entrepreneur. I entered college with one goal -- to make a difference. I didn’t know how or when that was going to happen. One day, my adviser for Startup Aggieland, informed students in our Startup Living Learning Community about an upcoming competition called “The Food Lab Challenge.”  I decided to apply with my business idea, “Go Fresh!” Products.  Startup Aggieland is at Texas A&M University and is a student business accelerator.

Out of 120 entries in this Food Challenge inaugural national competition, I was chosen among the 20 finalists. After weeks of mentoring through the UT Food Lab, now called Food + City, I was able to interact with extraordinary entrepreneurs inspired to make innovations in the food industry. Everybody who participated in the Food Lab Challenge had a different idea, but was there for the same reason. I was inspired by each of the teams as well as the mentors.

Ever since then, I have been working on “Go Fresh!” as a student client company of Startup Aggieland, realizing that I can make an impact in people’s lives as a young entrepreneur.  Our world is expected to have nine billion people by the year 2050. That’s a lot of people to feed!!  Instead of producing more food, “Go Fresh!” wants to help people waste less beginning with a focus on produce.  I am working towards helping consumers and restaurant owners with the challenge of keeping their fruits and vegetables fresher, longer.

I could not have made it this far without the Food Lab Challenge Prize and the encouragement of Food+City Publisher and Editor, Dr. Robyn Metcalfe.  The competition prepared me for the development of my business. I discovered my target customer, how I would sell my product and how I would reach my customer. This event opened so many doors and helped me grow as a person. Thank you, Food+City Challenge Prize for helping me realize how to make a positive influence in the world!

Is Austin a Hotbed for Food Startups? Survey Says…

Tuesday night four academic institutions came together to encourage Austin to think about how to take its place as a hub for food entrepreneurs.  Rice, The University of Texas at Austin, Harvard University, and Boston University brought together their collective alumni organizations to host an evening of discussion and exploration of Austin’s home-grown food innovators.

Often taken for granted that Austin is a “Foodie” city, the city known for its weirdness is seeking a way to play a role in the surge in startups in the food system. Charlotte, Detroit, Denver, and Seattle are creating almost as much buzz as San Francisco and Brooklyn. What can Austin offer food entrepreneurs in this increasingly competitive environment?

Five panelists offered their insights: Kevin Longa, a Silicon Valley film entrepreneur, Matt Gase, founder of Stubb’s BBQ, Curt Nelson co-founder of Austin Foodshed Investors, Sara Brand, co-founder of 512 Brewing and founder of True Wealth Innovations, Erin Harper of the Whole Foods Local Producer Loan Program, and Melanie Haupt, food historian and author of Austin Restaurants: Capital Cuisines through the Generations. Tom Stevenson of the Rice Alliance and Encendrejoined Dr. Robyn Metcalfe, Founder and Editorial Director of Food+City to moderate the panel and invite audience participation.

While the question about whether Austin is or could be the next hotbed for food innovation wasn’t conclusively answered, the audience and panelists offered some advice and direction for how to view Austin’s potential.

Melanie Haupt suggested that Austin’s long history of innovation grew from food entrepreneurs who took advantage of a “cultural moment.” One moment was the arrival of the music industry, another was consumer demand for a local source of beef processing, and a more recent moment is the desire for a closer connection between food producers and consumers. Austin food entrepreneurs have observed these moments and built startups that stood the test of time.

Whole Foods Market took advantage of one such cultural moment when its founders observed a growing interest in organic, healthy food in the 1970s, which led to the creation of a market shaped by a grass-roots community in Austin. Erin Harper pointed out that Whole Foods now has a deep understanding of the ecosystem of food entrepreneurs who continually keep the companies supply pipeline full of new and healthy foods. Mr. Longa shared his insights from Silicon Valley and his observations of Austin during his brief visit to Austin. He advocated Austinites to just “be Austin,” much to the delight of the audience, who appreciated his recognition that Austin has a unique character to offer entrepreneurs.

Curt Nelson and Sara Brand spoke to the need for investors to realize the importance of food startups and the unique needs that food startups seem to have. Nelson advocated values-based investing, much in keeping with Whole Food’s philosophy, and Brand pointed out the importance of aligning consumers and investors, pointing out that women participate in over 80% of food purchases while 4% of funders invest in food startups run by women.

Matt Gase offered his advice for startups who reach a level of success that invites a change in their business models. Gase notes now large food companies are looking for strategic investments in smaller, more innovative entrepreneurs. Food startups in Austin should be aware of these developments and prepared for suitors.

The discussion of how to move Austin forward in a more connected and intentional food innovation hub will continue. All those interested in participating in ongoing discussions should contact Food+City to get on the list for notifications and newsletters. Contact info@foodandcity.org

Want more highlights from the panel? Search #ATXfoodstartup on twitter. 

Food Challenge Finalist Update (CitySprout)

Kakaxi device installation on MacDonald Farm at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec

Kakaxi device installation on MacDonald Farm at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec

Last year, after pitching CitySprout during the Food Challenge Prize event, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Taizo Otsuka of Japan. As an entrepreneur and investor, Mr. Otsuka has helped to launch 15 companies and 2 non-­profit organizations. After the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011, he set his sights on raising agricultural awareness and started a non-­profit in Japan called, "Tohoku Kaikon" literally translated as "cultivation of the Tohoku Region.” support and grow a new generation of sustainable farmers. 
The “Tohoku Kaikon” publication’s goal is to support and grow a new generation of sustainable farmers. By enhancing the connection between consumers and food-­producing areas, consumers have the opportunity to connect with the people that are producing the food they eat. The monthly magazine publication is delivered to regular subscribers along with a certain food highlighted as the feature of the month. 
In the months following the Food Lab Challenge, Mr. Otsuka and I had the chance to talk about the state of our food system. I became fascinated with the idea that while we were talking about hyper-­local solutions, our food system is global and that we are facing the same growing problem, farmers are getting older and few young people are taking up farming as a profession. 
We were able to recognize the similarities of CitySprout (online farmers market) and Tohoku Kaiko (information sharing platform) and have since partnered and created a new social platform, Kakaxi, to connect people to farmers and the story behind food. What has come from our relationship is the merging of the two concepts to create a Farm to Table social network that uses the Kakaxi smart-­farm monitoring device to directly connect consumers with diversified, organic, and “CSA farmers” in their area. 
We know that farmers are busy, many are not accustomed to new technology. We have developed this device to help farmers provide information to customers and allow customers understand the story and conditions behind production. We are currently in a test-­marketing phase and we will begin distributing the device “rent-­free” to CSA-­style organic farms nationwide in Spring 2016. 
The device itself is solar powered with internal sensors that collect key data from the atmosphere (temperature, day length, humidity). External soil sensors pull key vitals, can measure sap flow (photosynthesis), and wind gradient as well. Additionally, the device is fitted with a time-­lapse camera that will take snapshot photos of the farm to be shared with consumers showcasing the seed to harvest story of their food. The device is Bluetooth enabled and stores data in cloud for easy access. 

The Next Food Revolution: Why Competitions Matter

By: Dr. Robyn Metcalfe

The digital revolution is on track to completely transform our food system.  We’re not the only ones who think so: technology companies such as IBM, entrepreneurs such as Jorge Heraud, and philanthropists such as Bill Gates, all agree that we are only beginning to see big changes in how we produce and consume food.  We can’t wait to see what develops. Our 2016 Food+City Challenge Prize plans to witness the revelation of this new revolution. 

Grow Box

In 1750, Scientific Agriculture in Britain launched the beginning of a dramatic increase in food production. It was scientific because it depended upon measuring, improving, and creating new technology. Jethro Tull, the inventor of the seed drill was among those who optimized the use of land. By the mid-1800s, another revolution occurred, the Industrial Revolution, when inventors applied new technologies such as steam power to enable humans to make things by machine rather than by hand. Food traveled to cities by rail, transforming food distribution throughout the world.  During the early 19th century, we felt the impact of the Technological Revolution when steam, electricity, other technologies made it possible to grow, process, and deliver food at scale. All three of these revolutions depended upon entrepreneurs who discovered new technologies and opportunities to improve our food system. Now, with the Internet of Things and the digital revolution promising as yet undiscovered applications, we have a food revolution in the making.  We’re not the only ones anxious to see how technology, in the hands of smart entrepreneurs, will change our food system. Food+Tech Connect in New York has plenty of food startup workshops and programs to launch enthusiastic food entrepreneurs. Food incubators and startup competitions are sprouting everywhere. Thought for Food, offers $10K in prizes for student and young professionals food startup teams; 33 Entrepreneurs from Bordeaux, France is actively supporting food entrepreneurs with a competition for a $100,000 prize; Bon Appetech hosts an event that awards prizes to 10 food startups, and in Italy, Barilla’s YES BCFN has an annual competition for food startups that rewards winners with 10,000 euros. 

We suggest a fresh and bold perspective. One that’s out of the box: the big box grocery store, boxed food storage, and the boundaries implied by the structure of any box. Our food system is organizing a market-driven revolt from an older-technology-driven food system, to one that is the Internet of Food. The production, storage, transport, processing, and preparation, design, and consumption of food is a network that begs for a systemic solution. We can’t fiddle with one end of our food system without feeling a ripple at the other end. Our Food+City Challenge Prize encourages entrepreneurs throughout the system. Applications of technology to solve freight system management, testing of perishable commodities, payment and investing in food, delivery and distribution hardware and software, smart kitchens, storage lockers, light and energy systems for enclosed growing systems. The potential for systems integration is huge. And the requirement for ideas that scale is even more critical. Everyone is moving to cities. We focus on cities as the place for innovation. Cities are dense, highly populated landscapes where improvements in our food system can have their greatest impacts. Cities are an agglomeration of interests that require mutual adaptation and cooperation and standards. The home+work proximity begs for solutions that integrate life in the workplace and with personal space. High land values in urban centers demand a food system that optimizes small spaces with larger agricultural spaces. 

The Food+City Challenge Prize invites all of these ideas to compete on February 6th, 2016. The ecosystem of food startup incubators and competitions can work together, engaging entrepreneurs around the globe to think systematically, if not revolutionarily, to discover how this new food system will best serve our increasingly urban global population.


Waste Not

Waste Not

Logi, a mythological Nordic warrior, won an medieval eating contest that involved consuming a tray of meat, bones, and the tray itself. (The tray was made of bread in those days, so not such a big deal as it appears.) His gluttonous display was typical of how men proved they were, indeed, men. The more food consumed, the more powerful the man.

For centuries now, eating enormous quantities of food has been necessary to maintain one’s social status among the elite as much as it was among the poor who never knew when the next famine would occur. The abundance or scarcity of food is one of the world’s paradoxes. We eat a lot, not quite like Nordic warriors, and at the same time, we waste a lot.

Food waste tops the list of concerns for food system reformers these days. And why not?  The UN Food and Agriculture Organization claims that we waste about 1.3 billion tons per year of edible parts of food, or about 4o percent of the food we produce. That’s enough to motivate anyone to reconsider what goes into the trash bin after a meal. The 2013 FAO report, Food Wastage Footprint, Impacts On Natural Resources, dissects the mountain of food waste generated each year. Perishable fruits and vegetables occupy much of that mountain for obvious reasons. In spite of advances in food preservation, we haven’t yet found the right technology for eliminating perishability.

But before wringing our hands, we should wonder about what constitutes food wastage, as the FAO calls food waste.  We hear about food waste in the media and at events that reference the same FAO report.  As much a consequence of recirculating Internet data, this reliance on a single source can’t be our only source for the war on waste. If the topic is so fundamental to improving our food system, should we be evaluating a range of studies from multiple perspectives? Even without reading the UN report, we might wonder about packaging and about all the leaks along the food supply chain where food becomes waste. Did the FAO really go to a significant number of landfills and weigh all the different types of waste? Might there be other methods for finding food leaks and breaks the food distribution system?

The whole topic is messy. But even without knowing the exact amount of food waste in our food system, I imagine we’d all agree that the problem could use a big solution.

Overwhelming problems often numb our ability to act individually.  Wondering what just one person might contribute to a heap of wasted resources, I spent a week photographing my food wastage footprint.  Although not a life-transforming experiment, taking the photos told a micro-story about one person’s waste footprint.

I became so self-conscious about my food waste, that I began eating more trimmings and food before taking a photo, simply because I was embarrassed by the amount of waste that was about to become public record.  Being shunned by one’s peers because of an oversize waste footprint could become the next neurosis requiring treatment by modern psychiatrists.

While overcoming the fear of disapproval by my peers, I saw that my food waste footprint grew and became the size of Sasquatch by the end of the week.  This wasn’t a complete surprise, since the amount of food that I was required to buy in the grocery store was more than one person could eat in a week: remains of a head of lettuce, a quart of milk, were all spoiled by the end of the week. Perhaps this is an admonition to never eat alone. More fun and less waste.

So what are the takeaways, so to speak? I wonder if there is a better way for single people to buy and prepare food. Would more single-serving packaging alleviate the problem. Lately I’ve noticed “Ready to Serve Brown and Wild Rice” from Riviana Foods in packages of two servings, ready to microwave. Would growing my own food less the amount of waste, since I could pick just what I needed for a meal and could compost the remains of the day? Maybe, but that would require a lifestyle change for many of us. How about portion controls? When I ate out, the waste trail increased. Restaurants, unless you eat exclusively at over-priced, small-plate restaurants, typically serve more than you can eat. In my case, a sandwich was served with a side of coleslaw, which I don’t eat and didn’t see on the menu. Packaging still needs a solution: my yogurt snack still delivers a foil top and plastic container even after the yogurt disappears.

While my micro-experiment was both fun and enlightening, the exercise missed some of the bigger-picture considerations. How can we see beyond the FAO report? Bjorn Lomborg joins the United Nations Food and Agriculture to emphasize the amount of food wasted in the global food system. Lomborg moves beyond the statistic to consider systemic solutions, such as the need for improvements in our global transportation infrastructure. Ronald Baily’s new book, The End of Doom, points out that we have a highly productive food system that will produce enough food in the future. So there’s enough food, it seems, just in the wrong places.

So how do we get all the food to all the right places in the right condition, unspoiled, nutritious, and tasty?  We could use a focused, concerted effort to address food distribution, before the food reaches consumers, will minimize food left in the field, on the loading dock, and in the waste bins of food processors.  Those efforts include new packaging, tracking, and transport technologies. Everyone, from chefs to consumers, needs a behavior-changing incentive to prepare, serve, and consume food in smaller quantities. The move towards selling food in smaller portioned packages is a step in that direction.

These innovations, many of them in the works now, will do much more to lower the amount of food waste than anything revealed in my photos. But, hey, try it yourself. Take your cellphone and snap a few post-meal images of your food trail and send them to me at farmerobyn@gmail.com. Or for Twitter, use #myfoodwaste to create the story of your own waste footprint.

The Food Lab @ UT is now Food+City!

For over four years now, The Food Lab at The University of Texas at Austin has been thinking big about the food system. We’ve brought together students, professors, researchers, and innovators across the world to spark a more productive dialogue about how we feed our cities. We’ve held two conferences in Boston and Austin that attracted international speakers and attendees from diverse backgrounds including academia, industry, agriculture, and technology. We’ve discovered and encouraged student innovation on the UT Austin campus, and we’ve challenged innovators everywhere to bring us their best business ideas for solving problems in the food system.

We’re proud of and inspired by the vibrant community of bright, passionate, food-oriented thinkers we’ve helped grow here in Austin. We adhere to the UT motto that what starts here changes the world, and it’s time to take our ambitions global.

As of today, The Food Lab will become a part of Food+City. Why? Because our experience these past four years encouraged us to focus on how we feed our cities. We discovered that you wanted more on this topic. We can use this new focus to bring you deeper, more provocative and creative projects. 

Food+City is a platform for bold exploration of the global food system. We provoke fresh perspectives on the realities of how we feed cities, and inspire action. Our mission will manifest itself in a number of ways -- just one of which is the return of the Food Challenge Prize (now the Food+City Challenge Prize), focused on logistical challenges and opportunities.

Don’t worry; it’s still us. The mission of the Food Lab has always been to provide awareness of food issues, to encourage and motivate food system research, and to provide support for those exploring and experimenting. We’ve thrived on connecting people, projects and purposes. We will continue to celebrate the fresh perspectives we can bring that will help us better understand our food system. All of that will continue, and our home here at the University of Texas at Austin is our flagship. We’ll still host the Challenge Prize, explore the Miracle of Feeding Cities, and provide support to startups that are leveraging university research. That’s just the start, though. The promise and encouragement we’ve seen here at UT Austin has inspired us to grow beyond our walls.

Learn more about Food+City on this site.  We’ll have a lot to share over the coming months. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally if you have additional questions.

We hope you’ll join us as we think even bigger about the food system, and amplify what has started here to inspire more action and change.

Onward and upwards!

Dr. Robyn S. Metcalfe

Milan Expo 2015: Big Ideas

While “thought leaders” gather around the world to predict the future of food, Italians are hosting this year’s world’s fair, the Milan Expo 2015. The Italians are using the Expo to burnish its brand as the preeminent leader of food innovation. The Italians came up with the Maserati and the Moka pot, so why not edible packaging and digital delivery of food?

But wait, what happened to French leadership in all things food-related? If you attend the Milan Expo, you’ll  be hard pressed to see where France fits in. Of course, since Italy is the host of the fair, the affair has an effusive Italian feel. Eataly has a large footprint, as does espresso, gelato, and pasta. And in almost every detail, from the kiosks to the drinking fountains, you can see the fingerprints of Italian designers.

Nations have used these fairs as a platform for nation-branding, so it’s no surprise that Italy emerges as the new leader of food design, taste, and innovation. No telling what the French will need to do to regain their preeminent position as the arbiter of food. Although a group of young chefs in Paris is rallying the new generation of French chefs, they will have to imagine how to regain the crown for leadership of all things food-related now that chefs in other countries have moved ahead without being tied to a stubborn French narcissism. And, in addition to the new generation of French chefs, French entrepreneurs are finding opportunities to regain their high regard for a blend of art and science in food. This summer, 33entrepreneurs, a French startup accelerator in Bordeaux, France, will be traveling throughout the US with its tour of food startup contests in the areas of food, beverages, wine, and travel. (The organization’s use of “33” comes from its goal of “disrupting the way 33% of the world’s GDP.”) Perhaps these young startups will put France back in the game.

After all, the French launched the world’s first industrial exposition in 1798, in Paris, and established France, in particular Paris, as the leader in food and fashion. Everyone, including the English, attended these events, enjoying food created by French chefs and delighting the French flair for fashion. The French expositions were really a display of how technology and art merged to make useful innovations. In 1885, Jules Burlat described the 1844 fair, noting how industrial art and fine art shared the stage. Almost 4,000 exhibitors crowded the pavilions during the 1844 world’s fair in Paris, displaying the latest inventions in industry and agriculture. Steam was the biggest game changer, giving inventors a new source of power. One exhibitor showed how he used steam to power a seawater-to-freshwater conversion system.

These French fairs launched a succession of world’s fairs, including the famous London Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations London Great Exhibition in 1851. The famous French chef Alexis Soyer set up a restaurant in the midst of the British fair, parading preeminent French gastronomy to the six million attendees.

But the Italians have the stage now and the Milan Expo is well worth attending.
Most of the exhibits are breathtaking. In Europe, where the distances are shorter and the challenges are bite-sized, food innovations are stunning and at the Expo you can see what our food world might look like in 2050. For example, the Coop Market of Italy built a digital supermarket on the fairgrounds. If you want some apples for a snack, you can go to the market, and while you put them into your basket, you can read all about your apples and see who grew them, how they grew them, how the apples traveled to the market, the size of their carbon footprint, their full nutritional analysis, and suggested uses. All this data is stunningly displayed in real-time overhead as you move through the wide aisles. If ever you could imagine how big data might be merged and displayed to create a new transparency of the food system, this moment is telling. 

The implications of a convergence of Big Data and Big Food are just beginning to emerge. At the Institute for Food Technologists conference this month futurist Mike Walsh said, “The era of big data will impact not just the production, processing, and distribution of food, but the way that business leaders make decisions.” Seems that your Instagram photos, tweets, healthy metrics, and POS data will shape the our future food system. The data/food mashup will give a digital expression to Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s infamous statement in 1826, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”

Other examples of how Big Data will shape an emerging personalized food system is at the McDonald’s exhibit. The new order entry kiosks make the fast food industry minimum wage debate somehow irrelevant. You can watch families crowd around the kiosks while they personalize their hamburgers, adding lettuce and gluten free options as they enter their own orders. A lone McDonald’s staff member stood by a checkout register, the last man standing in the world of mobile payment systems.

A mobile warehouse will deliver your bottle of water that you can sip while watching a mockup of a smart kitchen. The multiple displays and kitchen robots show how your future kitchen may integrate data gathered from your biometric tracking device to design personal food. Your smart kitchen will enable you a comfortable amount of work for you to do with your owns hands with ingredients taken from your pantry inventory that is connected to an online ordering system, connected to the local grocery delivery warehouse. Lots of imagination went into this display. The Expo has a number of displays that take the discussions at the growing number of food-related conferences into the prototyping stage.

The Milan Expo 2015, the international worlds fair with a food theme, brings home the importance of seeing our work in a global context. Innovation outside of the US is alive, fast-moving, and in some ways, ahead of our food innovators. Since countries outside the US, particularly those in Africa and Europe, operate within smaller jurisdictions, they are able to operate without the complexities of multi-state landscapes. That said, the exhibits in Milan are provocative and suggest an integrated, technology-based food system. The Expo was a reminded to think of our work in a global context. Startups and stories need connections to the rest of the world. The next fair, Expo 2017, will be held in Astana, Kazakhstan. Energy is the theme, food served at the fair will be all organic, they say.

Avian Flu Ripples Through the Egg Supply Chain

Avian Flu Ripples Through the Egg Supply Chain

 

Sickness travels fast in close quarters. Unfortunately, that makes a confined animal feeding operation (CAFOs) the ideal place for a disease to become an epidemic. Birds, who are packed together even more tightly than CAFO pigs or cattle, are at particular risk. Last year, a porcine epidemic virus may have killed as many as 10-percent of U.S. pigs but in just the last six months, over 48 million birds have been affected—mostly egg-laying hens and turkeys.

Actually contracting the avian flu, however, is not responsible for all of these bird deaths over the last six months. Some producers have had to euthanize their entire stock in order to prevent the rapid spread of disease. According to the Sioux City Journal, once the virus is detected, farmers must cull the entire flock and have the farm area sanitized. The current bird flu has affected 223 flocks according to USDA data, each one ranging in size from 10 to 4.9 million birds. Disposing of the infected birds raises significant space and sanitation issues. There’s no vaccine currently effective enough for use.

Cameraless Images "Naturally Modified"

Ajay Malghan Photography

A wise man once said, “If everyone is doing it, then surely it can’t be right”.  This is an ethos I’ve taken to heart while forging a career as an artist over the past decade.  If art is the filter through which we see the world, I figure it’s best to try to see our surroundings in a different way than we’ve been exposed to.

Naturally Modified Corn

Naturally Modified Corn

Isolating myself from trends (megapixels, digital manipulation etc.) in the photography world eventually led me to bypass the camera in making “Naturally Modified,” a series of cameraless images created in the darkroom that uses food as the medium.

The process basically turns the photo enlarger into a microscope with color filters.  I begin by slicing the fruit, vegetable or cheeseburger and placing it between two 8x10 pieces of glass.  After placing them into the enlarger, I project the object onto an 8x10 piece of paper and insert it into the color printer.  The printer does all the work!  This print is later scanned at a high resolution, which allows me to print the image at 40x50 inches.  This takes the imagery into a realm that has more to do with painting than photography.

Naturally Modified Banana Peel

Naturally Modified Banana Peel

The textures of the various foods, engage me throughout the process.  By no means would I have ever thought that a banana peel or corn stalk could be so interesting or complex in structure.  I think there’s something to be said for taking food items that we typically discard and making a beautiful piece of art with them.

Photography can have an interesting way of stripping its subject matter from its context.  The abstract takes that to another level.  These images aren’t trying to prove anything about food, art or science.  The process uses color as an instrument to show us how many different ways there are to look at one object.  

Opportunity for Students Worldwide: Barilla's Young Earth Solutions Contest, Deadline May 31

Follow @BarillaCFN

The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) is an international idea center with the objective to analyze the predominant issues tied to food and nutrition around the world. It works by gathering experiences and qualified skills worldwide and fostering an ongoing, open dialogue using a rigorous, multidisciplinary approach.

BCFN Young Earth Solutions (YES!) is an annual contest that challenges students worldwide to develop new sustainable ideas on food and nutrition. Finalists' ideas will be presented at the next International Forum on Food and Nutrition in Milan, Italy, this October. Registration open until May 31st.

Students interested in participating in BCFN YES! must submit a project idea for a solution to the topic of sustainability in the food supply system. The best ideas will be presented before an audience of international experts during the Seventh International Forum of Food and Nutrition. 

This year, the Forum will take place within the International EXPO in Milan, Italy - "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life",  a global showcase and platform to exchange ideas and share solutions on the theme of foodThe 2015 winner, individual or team, will receive an award of 10,000 Euros (approximately $9,000) to implement the winning idea. 

Gianna Bonis-Proumo, from Spain to Australia for the winner of BCFN YES! 2014

Gianna Bonis-Proumo, from Spain to Australia for the winner of BCFN YES! 2014

Last year’s winner was Gianna Bonis-Profumo, a Spaniard of Italian heritage, who lives and studies in Australia. Passionate about sustainable development and the valuing of women in agriculture, she submitted a project entitled “Food and Nutrition Hub – Integrated Food Production and Nutrition Education,” to fight against the high level of malnutrition in rural areas in Southeast Asia through a system of family gardens cultivated using sustainable practices and marked by savings and the elimination of waste. The Food and Nutrition Hub creates centers for nutrition in villages and can teach the value of a healthy diet to mothers, who are often the main cultivators of these small pieces of land, to improve the health of children and entire families.

 “I would like to encourage every student to send their ideas,” said Gianna Bonis-Profumo, “because it is very important that we young people get involved in finding solutions to current challenges, to improve the food system, reduce obesity, improve and promote sustainable agriculture. It’s an important opportunity to meet people with big ideas and create a network to help make the world a better place.”