Live from IFPA’s Global Show

Technology’s Critical Role in Fresh Produce

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A very special live podcast from IFPA’s 2022 Floral and Produce show!

We close out our season on nutrition with a panel of experts with Vonnie on the lasting impact technology has made and continues to grow on for the farming and fresh produce industries.

Our panel includes Haven Baker, CBO at Pairwise, Jenny Du, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at Apeel Sciences and Katie Seawell, Chief Commercial Office at Bowery Farming.

Join us as we discuss:

  • How technology can impact improving accessibility and lifespan of fresh produce
  • Helping set up for the next wave of entrepreneurs in the health and food industry
  • Improving access to produce to all communities
  • How younger generations are creating higher demand for fresh produce

How technology can impact improving accessibility and lifespan of fresh produce

The US has a fresh produce problem — only 1 in 10 Americans are currently hitting their daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. While it’s easy to suggest we, as the individual collective, need to make more of an effort to buy produce, the current system is set up in opposition to that goal.

The consistency just isn’t there.

If someone buys a pack of strawberries and they rot before they have time to eat them, it not only impacts the individual’s perception of consuming that fruit, but also their future buying decisions. No one wants to buy a product that continually comes with such a high risk factor.

Fortunately, the new technology that Haven, Jenny and Katie are working on enables less compromise for the consumer; particularly around unlocking nutrition.

"“If we're doing all of this and the flavors are not better, the food's not safer, and we're not enhancing the nutritional value, then it's for naught.”

Katie Seawell

Chief Commercial Officer

Bowery Farming

There’s no silver bullet approach to getting Americans to eat fresh produce again. Fortunately, different companies are all taking different angles to this issue — a crucial step as resources continue to get more scarce.

Katie explains, “We're going to have to feed more people more nutritious food with fewer resources. And I think each of these companies are playing a role in that ecosystem that will emerge in terms of transformation.”

Helping set up for the next wave of entrepreneurs in the health and food industry

For those that want to get involved in this food, health, nutrition nexus, ready to start a company, the three share their best advice:

Katie: You can get through the good days and bad days as long as you commit to your mission, connection and passion along your workplace journey. Building a company is not for the faint of heart but is incredibly rewarding for those who pursue it.

Jenny: Because of how incredibly difficult it is to penetrate the produce space, commitment to mission will be the difference between success and failure. Jenny echoes Katie’s sentiment that the pursuit is 100% worth your effort.

Haven: The first piece of advice is around timing: Through the current macroeconomic uncertainty, it’s important to focus on a revenue generating idea rather than a research idea. Second, make it a priority to get the right people into the right seats early on. If you choose poorly, you could spend months backfilling a position you desperately need.

Improving access to produce to all communities

Jenny emphasizes while it’s encouraging to see all the new offerings, there’s still an issue of access for everyone.

If our current selection of fresh produce can’t find a home, even if it doesn’t meet every specification that technology will eventually enable, we run into environmental issues in the short term.

As recent as 6 years ago, conversations around issues of food waste were not being had. Now, while it’s still very difficult to influence what happens with food by the time it reaches the consumer, efforts are being made to make sure waste doesn’t happen through the supply chain.

How younger generations are creating higher demand for fresh produce

Younger generations are breathing hope into the fresh produce system — and it stems from their expectations around the combination of health and technology. While previous generations may have had some interest in health, a fear of technology has stifled the public’s acceptance of new produce.

"You want folks to know the supply chain super well, but who are also open to seeing it being structured differently from how it is today.”

Jenny Du

Senior Vice President for Government Affairs

Apeel Sciences

Referring to GMOs, Jenny explains, “You have these really great technologies that can help us transform the food system and also meet the needs and the challenges we have. But depending on the approach and the way things just took off at the outset, it put these barriers up.”

With the expectation shift, produce can freely innovate in a way it never could before.

To hear all the freshest interviews in the produce industry, subscribe to Fresh Takes on Tech on Apple, Spotify, or your preferred podcast platform.

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