Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Danielle Gould, the Founder and CEO of Food+Tech Connect. Danielle Gould will be speaking at the summit.
Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?
Danielle Gould (DG): Food has always been a big part of my life, but it was my interest in green building and urban planning that lead me to pursue a career in food. I spent a summer at Arcosanti in Arizona to get hands-on green building experience. While I was there, I ended up working on their farm and learned about the concept of building-integrated agriculture. That summer, I began to understand how food is a powerful tool for creating a better world. I decided to leave my masters program and dedicate myself to urban agriculture. I got a job at BrightFarm Systems (now Brightfarms), and that’s where I became fascinated with how we could use data, technology, and new business models to create a better food future. The rest is history.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
DG: One of the biggest opportunities to transform the food system is to support entrepreneurs who are developing technologies and new business models that make our food tastier, safer, and more nutritious, as well as more affordable, accessible, and equitable.
FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?
DG: Right now, I’m really interested in innovations that focus on human and plant microbiomes. There is a lot of exciting work being done to understand how we can use microbes to treat all kinds of health, plant, and soil issues.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?
DG: I have too many food heroes to count, but the first two who come to mind are Annie Novak and Ben Flanner. I met Annie and Ben right when they were getting started with Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, one of the first rooftop farms in the country. In 2009, they put 200,000 pounds of growing medium on a 6,000-square-foot rooftop in Brooklyn, New York and started an organic farm and education center. Their ballsiness was so inspiring; it made me feel like anything was possible.
FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?
DG: I’ve always wanted to help create a world that’s better for people, planet, and profit, and food is a powerful, delicious tool through which to do that. It touches everything from community, health, and economic development to culture, the environment, and entertainment.
FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system?
DG: I think we need to increase the supply of sustainably raised and produced food. There has never been more eater demand for good food, but demand is currently outstripping supply. We need more support, funding, and training for new farmers, as well as for established farmers who want to transition from commodity crops to growing food and healthy soils.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
DG: Over the past five years, the top 25 food companies lost 18 billion dollars in market share. Over the last two years, many of those companies have launched funds and incubators to invest in startups who are able to better meet consumer needs. It’s working! Keep voting with your dollar and using your voice to demand a better food future.
FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?
DG: I would like to see everyone have access to tasty, nutritious food. I hope within a generation, this is a right, not a privilege. I also hope that all farmers and food workers are able to make a living wage.
FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?
DG: I would like to see the next president of the U.S. develop a food policy that supports healthy soils and ensures everyone has access to healthy, nutritious food. I would also like to see the next president appoint the first-ever Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help ignite an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit across the USDA.
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