HEL of a business!
The journey of food from the fields to the plates is at a turning point. Climate change is affecting cultivation conditions, food consumption is concentrating to urban areas and the demand for sustainably produced food is increasing. And now a global pandemic halted or at least hindered the supply chains of many products. What will the future of food production look like? And what role do smart cities play in the equation?
The concept of a food system provides answers to how do we produce food, how does it end up on our plates and why do we eat what we eat. But why should we be interested in this? Because a sustainable food system benefits us all in the end.
Food Tech Platform Finland has defined a vision for the next generation Food System 2.0 as “regenerative, ethical, efficient and engaging.” Four key sectors were identified to influence on the realisation of that vision.
- Enabled by advanced technologies
- Delivering new value for people in the form of food agency and through new business models
- Organized into circular economies
- Situated in the urban city setting
Tackling these is a common issue for everyone: public and private organisations and individuals. As we see that cities play an important role in the scenario, let’s explore some of the ways how Greater Helsinki is rising to the challenge.
From farm to fork with advanced food tech
Optimising the farm to fork chain gets a lot easier with the aid of technology. And, like vegetables, you need the right conditions for innovations to flourish. Finland hosts a thriving food tech scene where advanced technologies like AI, IoT, robotics, automation and blockchain are available and already in use, and people are open for co-creation. And, the cities in the region actively support and encourage sustainable innovations.
For a food tech growth company, Greater Helsinki is the optimal environment to develop their business in. iFarm, a company producing solutions for vertical farms, recently set up their European base in here. An iFarm vertical farm is a closed system where crops grow in an environment precisely controlled by advanced technological solutions. Their multi-awarded solution saves space, energy and water and can be installed in any indoor space be it an old warehouse or a basement of an apartment building.
“We need more food, we need tastier food and we need fresher food. When food is grown outside where it is consumed it needs to travel and then it loses its freshness, and you have to use pesticides to preserve it. You also have to plan very carefully how much food you need and where to store it. Anyway, you have losses on the way. When you are growing food exactly where people are living and eating it, it’s much easier,” Kirill Zelenski, CEO of iFarm Finland explains.
Shared economy brings added value
Consumer habits are also changing, especially in the urban settings. Ownership is losing its importance especially for millennials and sharing economy is strengthening its foothold. Value for people comes from participating and creating themselves rather than material possession. Food co-ops, urban farming and platform economy provide opportunities for businesses.
Developing new innovations together with the community has been the guiding light in the Greater Helsinki region for many years. New solutions are also piloted in real-life environments with real users. Co-creation and giving power to the citizens enables companies, cities and other establishments to innovate truly user centric services and solutions. Helsinki’s goal is to enable partnerships between different businesses and groups to create new, value adding services.
Saving the environment with circular economy
Helsinki has recently published a road map to circular and shared economy to help solve sustainability challenges. The aim is to build a future where goods aren’t produced from raw materials but instead encourage material circulation to save natural resources.
Finland is also the first country to launch a national roadmap to a circular economy. It was produced by Sitra and it outlines concrete actions and measures to be taken towards a more sustainable economy. One of the projects that emerged from the roadmap was done together with restaurant Ultima in the city centre of Helsinki. The concept of this fine-dining restaurant was built around sustainable development, circular economy principles and the latest food production technologies. The project outlined, that “the most important task of the restaurant is to convince people that technical innovations can enable sustainable and ethical urban cultivation alongside conventional food production.”
One part of the project was to experiment with indoor food production methods. This work is now continued in the Urban Farm Lab of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Vantaa.
Bringing food production to urban surroundings
Urbanisation makes cities the focal point of food consumption. Based on the ‘Cities and circular economy for food’ report by the Ellen MacArthur Institution, 80% of world’s food is estimated to be consumed in cities by 2050.
Bringing food production close to where people live shortens the supply chains, decreases food waste and overall diminishes the unnecessary environmental impact of food.
“Our solution is about more effective use of space especially in cities where space is in short supply. It may be a basement, or an empty room and you can put food production there. It’s a very interesting idea to avoid big farmerships and try to mover food production into the city,” explains Kirill Zelenski, CEO of iFarm Finland.
But it’s not only the production of food that requires developing. Mission Zero Foodprint is a project that aims to develop more carbon neutral foodservices with digital solutions and boosting resource efficiency. The project is a joint effort of Forum Virium Helsinki, restaurants, food service companies and other relevant stakeholders, and for its part promotes Helsinki to reach its goal to be carbon neutral by 2035.
Food tech from Finland is a guarantee of quality
We Finns take pride in the quality of our produce. The unique weather conditions ensure that fresh produce grown in the northern fields have first-class taste. Flavours are packed in due to the long and light summer days and the cleanliness of the air and soil ensures a clean palette. When you combine it with our strong and long reputation as the hi-tech hub of Europe, the home of the future of food tech is here.
“Finland is a European country with good reputation. When we say our company is from Finland the perception is always good, no matter where. And when it’s a food tech company from Finland, it’s even better,” summarises Zelenski.
Writer: Vera Hallikainen
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