Making the future

“Make. Just make. This is the key. The world is a better place as a participatory sport.”

The Maker Movement has been shaping a new generation of “agents of change” as well as Future Food Institute is committed to catalyze a new generation of Food Makers. We are young, entrepreneurial-driven, food-focused people who are physically building a product to fill a gap we see in our society. The link is clear: as Dale Dougherty explains in Free to Make, cooking a meal with family is one of the original components of Maker Movement. Cooking for ourselves gives us control, it is something we are free to do, free to learn and free to share. The things that people have made themselves have magic power; they have hidden meanings that other people can’t see.

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We took the challenge and the privilege of introducing Future Food in Maker Faire Bay Area for the first time — what I can say is that it was extremely exciting! Organising events is something that I really love. I love project management and when people a, innovation and social interactions are involved, nothing could actually be better. I personally love maker movement — as business focused, social entrepreneurship passioned and education lover millennial, I see my self in the perfect space. It is an area where I can say something and totally learn a lot.

Millennials are considered to be influenced by technology — often this has a negative shadow. Affected by social media, it is said that we prefer remote interactions to personal experiences, we prefer to type than to touch, we prefear appearance to reality. I believe Maker Movement is the proof that these are not universal truths. We love to make, to share, to give and to learn. We love to bring ideas on the market, wether it is for pleasure or for business, we love to make things real.

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Maker Faire Bay Area is the mother of all Maker Fairs. It has celebrated 191 Fairs in 2016 alone with more than 1.4 million attendees globally. This year a 140 square meters Future Food area was featuring seventeen Food Makers, twelve Future Food speakers and labs for kids.

Food Makers were selected across four main changes:

1.Change of mindset: alternative proteins

2.Change of view point: from waste to appealing food

3.Change of place: indoor farming

4.Change of approach: authentic food

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The Future Food expo was crowded by rich and valuable makers that I’ve been lucky to work with. Monica, co-founder of Don Bugito, aims to educate the American food market to use insects as a protein alternative. A similar approach has been taken by Megan and her company, Bitty Foods, which is turning insects into powder to make it more appealing. Dan Kurzock and Jordan Schwartz have developed nutritious and sustainable food products using the grains discarded after brewing, upcycling normally cast-off high-protein waste into breads, cookies, snack-bars, cereals, and chips.

Furthermore, we had many indoor farming projects: the main driver here is to close the gap between production and consumption, fighting food deserts and increasing food growing education.

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HAMAMA was a great example, allowing everyone to grow microgreensyear-round at home. Root, offers house and apartment dwellers the chance to turn their homes into a place to grow food. Green Skies Vertical Farmpresented an urban micro-farm, while Grow Bucket Life enables individuals to turn old and unused metal cans into functional greenhouses. Local Greenspresented an urban farm based on controlled environment agriculture and Common Garden brought its software that applies precision automation to indoor cultivation. We featured also Back to the Roots: a company that allows everybody to become mushroom farmers just using coffee grounds.

People often spend time creating things because they want to feel alive, because they see a gap and the contribution they can give, because they want to be participants in the world rather than viewers. As Dale is pointing out, making is educating, empowering, sharing and collaborating. With the Maker Movement as a framework for collaboration, making can be a team sport. Nobody has to go alone!

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With this in mind we involved Dandelion Chocolate for running our Kids Lab. Dandelion is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the Mission District of San Francisco that wants to bring back the true flavor of cocoa beans. Friday was a special day at the Maker Faire — schools from all over California are coming over to experience a new educational approach. Maker movement is about experiential learning and hands-on education. Making can give kids the “permission to play”. That’s way we involved Cynthia from Dandeline to expose a black female class from Girl Stem Stars, a non profit advancing black girls in Stem education, to cocoa world: from beans sourcing to chocolate bars production, Cynthia explained the girls all the process along the food chain. Eventually, everybody made hot chocolate following a simple recipe: isn’t it about making? It is called Thinkering: enable kids to learn by making stuff.

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Other great makers that joined us at Maker Faire were Pique Tea and its founder Amanda: they crystallize the tea leaves from India, China and Sri Lanka, using technology to bring the original flavour of one of the oldest drinks to the world. The main purpose here is to connect authentic practices with final users and their need for easy healthy solutions. Zego: they produce gluten-free and allergen-free snacks and foods with transparent ingredient lists to remove the worry for sensitive individuals. The company engaged with participants by making everybody experiences both the mind-blowing taste and the technology of their creations.

Lexicon of Food Sustainability Award

Lexicon of Food is the most comprehensive database addressing sustainability in food and I’ve had the chance to work with them during this Maker Faire. Their network illuminates success stories in sustainable agriculture and food production in both the industrial and public sectors, providing a content map to our interconnected food system. Arranged alphabetically, the website has a detailed list of terms and themes often used in conversations about food sustainability. The main purpose is to encourage the conversation and storytelling about America’s rapidly evolving food culture.

For this specific occasion, Lexicon of Food decided to launch for the first time the Food Sustainability Award for Food Innovation. The idea behind that is to reward a Food Maker that stands out for the problem faced as well as for the creativity in solving it.

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What’s next?

I personally strongly believe in the power of Maker Movement for improving our educational system, both on a broad level and with a food focus. The Future Food Area gave space to Food Heroes that we have been speaking about for weeks in the Maker Magazine, building a physical bridge between storytelling and physical encounters.

I do believe that any remarkable change can occur just through an open approach and food is the ultimate example of it. Kitchens have been the first maker space in history as well as recipes have been the first open-sourced pieces of code.

As Dale says, the DIY movement is moving to DIT, do it together, or DIWO, do it with others, because the world is a better place as a participatory sport.