December 22, 2017 casper

LAUNCH Food has seen an unprecedented number of collaborations between innovators in this cohort. Here are just a few of the collaborative projects in the works:

Biofilta has installed their Foodwall vertical gardening system at the George Institute, where innovator Bruce Neal (FoodSwitch) is deputy executive director. Bruce introduced Biofilta’s Marc Noyce to colleagues at the Institute, and, Marc says, Bruce’s colleagues quickly came to the conclusion that their office should have a Foodwall just from hearing about it. “It was probably the easiest sale I’ll ever come across,” Marc laughs.

For Bruce, the Foodwall provides a tangible (and delicious) way for the George Institute’s employees to engage with the organization’s healthy eating policies. “It’s all very well having a [nutrition] policy,” Bruce says, “but how do you make that policy real for people?” The answer lies among the kale, lettuce, peppers, and herbs growing in the garden beds on the Institute's rooftop. A couple dozen Institute employees volunteered to maintain the garden on a rotating schedule. Soon, some of that produce will be incorporated into the meals they have catered for Institute functions on a weekly basis. For now, much of it ends up in common spaces for employees to take home for free. And this small operation will be scaling up shortly: the Institute has ordered three more Foodwall units for the rooftop. “It’s fun, you know,” Bruce says. “And it makes it real for people. They can see green stuff growing where before it was just a big empty concrete space.”

Entomo Farms and Coffee Flour continue to collaborate on LAUNCH’s first working group along with three other ingredients companies from inside and outside of LAUNCH. The five companies, from three continents, are engaged in non-competitive work to share experiences and best practices. So far, the working group has resulted in shared research, contacts and documentation, and opportunities. Members are exploring the potential to bundle their products for retailers, and/or to combine their products for sale.

HarvestPlus has been in discussion with Telenor Mobile Agriculture to potentially harness Telenor’s network of farmers. Telenor’s Prosperous Farmer (Khush’haal Zamindar) innovation is a mobile advisory service tailored to the needs of rural farmers in Pakistan. Farmers receive a daily call with information about local weather conditions, livestock advice, and more. They then have the option to dial in to the service for more specific information. As more farmers start to use the service, Telenor’s Habib Saqib says, the team is hoping to integrate more nutrition advisories and advertising from mission-aligned companies. In particular, HarvestPlus is interested in harnessing Telenor’s platform– which recently reached its four-millionth farmer– to raise awareness of its biofortified high-zinc wheat.

Habib acknowledges that this will be a shift from the kind of messaging farmers are used to. “A lot of focus here is on growing maximum yield,” he says. “[There hasn’t] been a lot of awareness about how fortified seeds can have an impact.” However, based on feedback from the LAUNCH Food Forum, the Telenor team has started thinking of their service as a content hosting platform. This new framing opens new opportunities for collaboration with stakeholders like HarvestPlus and beyond.

Salah Sukkarieh of the University of Sydney has been discussing using his Digital Farmhand robotic agriculture technology in Biofilta’s school garden projects. Biofilta has been introducing their Foodwall technology to schools around Melbourne since 2016. While the Foodwall systems are a valuable way for young children to learn about where food comes from, Biofilta’s Marc Noyce acknowledges that “the humble community garden isn’t particularly attractive.” Adding Salah’s robotic technology, Marc says, “is a segue into schools that we’ve never thought of.”

“We’re looking for schools to grow great food for their communities in a cost effective way,” Marc says, “and [we’re also] able to offer the next phase– to work with robotics to get kids involved in technology and urban agriculture.”

Salah and his team have been striving to make the Digital Farmhand technology as modular as possible so that it can be integrated into a variety of different projects as opportunities arise. The Biofilta opportunity, Salah says, “shows the power of that modularity. The fact that there’s a whole new type of growing platform and we can fit ourselves into that.”

For Marc, learning about Salah’s work helped him realize that robotics would be a valuable space for Biofilta to plug into. “I don’t think we’d have [realized that] anywhere as quick [if we] hadn’t been in this program with like-minded people in complementary industries,” he says.