Future of Food Conference 2021
Highlighting the importance of creating a sustainable, resilient, and connected food and beverage industry in Western Australia.
On the 23rd September 2021 the inaugural Future of Food Conference gathered over 400 delegates both in person at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre and virtually to inspire and initiate change within the Australian agri-food sector. T
he aim of the day was to recognise future-forward businesses, champion innovative and successful agri-food professionals in their food journey, support the development of a progressive local food industry and empower consumers to make better-informed decisions about what they eat.
It was a privilege to hear from three inspirational keynote speakers: Mike Lee (Alpha Food Labs), John Foss (Fancy Plants) and Professor Duncan McFarlane (Cambridge University).
Mike discussed the importance of knowing what 21st century consumers are demanding in a post COVID world, which include a transparent food supply chain, food that can be used for medicinal purposes, reinventing the restaurant experience and changing the messaging from food being ‘delicious AND sustainable’ to food being ‘delicious BECAUSE it’s sustainable’.
John Foss described the journey he took to create an international chia industry — from figuring out how to grow a sustainable chia crop up in the Kimberly, to how he focused on
connection to the farmer to promote Future of Food Conference his brand around the world. He then explained his reasoning behind developing the Chia Pod as a consumer snack product and how he invested in processing technology to create plant based vegan snacks that are sustainable and delicious under the brand Fancy Plants.
Professor Duncan McFarlane spoke about the importance of digitalisation and how The shoestring Project is helping SMEs to overcome of the challenges when implementing digital
solutions. He explained that most SME owners find digital solutions too expensive and complex; however, there is significant enthusiasm in digitisation and a lot of small businesses have similar digital needs.
Duncan explained that they have identified and catalogued 59 digital solution areas that are common to small manufacturing companies such as automatically reading analogue displays on equipment, inventory tracking and real time tracking of internal jobs. Two plenary panels and twelve breakout sessions were also held, with over 70 facilitators and panel speakers contributing their time and expertise to a range of topics from investment and marketing trends to technology advancements in packaging and processing and the importance of transparency in the food supply chain.
The Future of Food Conference concluded with a panel of guests including the Honorable Alannah MacTiernan MLC, Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food;
Hydrogen Industry, David Doepel, Chair of the Peel Development Commission, David Eyre and Peter Schutz, from Future Food Systems CRC and John Foss from Fancy Plants.
Some of the key messages were how important the food and beverage industry need to connect and work together to generate opportunities to innovate and move forward in the value-add space, how important it is to keep in mind consumer driving factors such as sustainability and food for health and the demand for more transparency within the food supply chain.
Over 400 delegates attended the conference, either in person or virtually to participate in these discussions and the feedback received post conference is that they want more. As announced at the conference, the WA Future Food Network will continue working with all parts of the supply chain to build a connected, resilient, and progressive food and beverage industry in Western Australia. The WA Future Food Network will deliver the next conference, which is proposed for July 2023, along with other inspirational projects and events in the Peel and Southwest regions.