Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Sara Roversi, the Co-Founder of You Can Group and Future Food Institute, an entrepreneurial ecosystem that fuels the creation of new startups in the food and tech sectors.
Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?
Sara Roversi (SR): I believe that food is a global language and a driver for global economic prosperity. Food is a passion that has enabled me to transcend borders, connect with people, and expand my knowledge horizons. Food is a catalyst for change and food players are pioneers, responsible for more than just the bottom line. Their choices will have tremendous impacts on human health and on world sustainability. Food is the all-encompassing element that is also a central focus in all of our global challenges and has inspired me to explore how to face these challenges with like-minded individuals and innovative approaches.
This is why my husband and I decided to establish the Future Food Institute Trust. We want to build a more equitable world, inspiring and empowering a new generation of creative and responsible food entrepreneurs. It is through the power of food that we can together find the solutions to our pressing global issues, and agriculture is our starting point.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
SR: Innovation in the food world reveals a growing need of pragmatism, consistency, and return to the land. We need to exploit the momentum and mobilize new generations—they need to be empowered to create scalable solutions and be supported in realizing their vision for a better world. Young food entrepreneurs are key actors that can help in the sustainable advancement in the food industry. Collaboration sparks innovation, and at the Future Food Institute, we support entrepreneurship and celebrate the process of turning creative concepts into opportunities for real action.
FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?
SR: Robotics, the internet of things, 3D printing, the introduction of novel foods, and precision farming. With the Future Food Institute, we are so deeply involved and excited by these innovations and the agricultural system that we decided to launch Future Farm: the farm of the future. There, ancient and underused grains will be studied, cropped, and commercialized. Our intent is to go waste-zero: the produced waste will be transformed into edibles or biomasses.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?
SR: I am constantly inspired. Every single day, I am inspired by several hero[es] that I am lucky enough to meet. I am inspired by the accomplishment of the women in my past. Marie Curie, to name one. I am inspired by the path the Future Food Institute fellows are exploring; I am inspired by the work of food innovators that have dedicated their lives in believing that it is actually possible. I am so inspired that every day I am encouraged to seize life and sprint towards success. I am so inspired and so attracted to inspiration that I named one of my companies “YOU CAN.”
FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?
SR: The desire to make good food accessible to everybody, while discovering new horizons and possibilities.
I come from Emilia and Romagna, northern Italy, which is one of the most influential agri-food clusters in the world. It integrates culinary traditions and world class excellences in packaging, logistics, agriculture, and food processing. With the Future Food Institute, we try to connect and bring local knowledge to the forefront with a global network to leverage the impact we can make on the future through food, offering tools to strengthen and advance our community while nurturing a global food innovation scene.
FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system our parents and grandparents didn’t have to deal with?
SR: The overwhelming paradox of having too much label information available about the food we eat, and yet not knowing who produced it, where and how it was produced, and to what extent can we trust these quality labels. We don’t know the cost of our choices in terms of social, environmental, and economic impact.
FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system?
SR: Biodiversity, biodiversity, and again, biodiversity. In the last years, we have lost way too many important parts of our historical biodiversity, generating food intolerances and focusing on intensive monocultures. We need to retrieve biodiversity, especially in grain farming for food production. And then, of course, we could open an entire chapter about water related issues.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
SR: Acquire knowledge on food. Learn where it comes from, who produced it, what the labels really mean. Asking themselves: “What is the impact of my choice?”
FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?
SR: Malnutrition! We need to tackle the double burden of malnutrition: undernutrition and obesity—conditions that are life-threatening and very difficult to treat. New business models, optimization in agriculture, and food waste reduction can be seen as solutions.
FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?
The next President should focus on agricultural culture: how to exploit biodiversity, deal with GMOs, and work on integrated and organic farming. In this way, Americans could have an actual choosing power when buying their groceries and have shopping experiences with their kids.
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