Christine Gould, Founder and CEO of Thought For Food explains why she is so enthusiastic about food tech, and how it gives us an opportunity to rethink how we farm, produce and eat. Christine has dedicated her career to making ag innovation more open and collaborative, creating Thought For Food to inspire young people to get involved in developing the solutions their future depends on. Christine holds an MPA in Science & Technology Policy from Columbia University. She sits on the Board of Young Professionals in Ag Development and is a Founding Member of the Ashoka Changemakers League of Intrapreneurs. Christine will be speaking at the Food Tech Matters virtual event this October.
What initially sparked your interest in food tech / was there a Eureka moment?
I’ve spent the past 20+ years working in big multinational companies through to fast-growing startups, and I have had the chance to live and work all around the world. My father – now retired – was an agricultural scientist and professor, and my mom – also retired – was a teacher with a passion for improving our out-dated educational systems. From my youngest years, I have always been interested in combining the things that they both taught me – how we can educate and empower people to be more creative and innovative, and how we can we apply these approaches to solve our food system challenges? All of this has come together in Thought For Food.
I’ve dedicated my life and career to shaking up the food and agriculture industry, which is very entrenched when you compare it to other types of sectors. By fixing our food systems, I believe we solve all of the other big challenges facing our planet too.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known in the early days when starting out in this sector?
The most impactful innovations don’t come from a top-down approach. Grassroots innovators and entrepreneurs are launching solutions into the world which address real challenges and have the potential to have a big social and environmental impact and can provoke systemic change.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution. In order for solutions to be impactful in the food and agriculture sector, they need to be locally relevant and diverse. Previous decades were dominated by massively scalable solutions and one-track approaches which have resulted in the over-optimized and over-efficient industrial food system. We need to take into consideration diversity and local culture and build resiliency into the system through collaboration and knowledge sharing.
What impact is the Covid-19 pandemic having on the foodtech sector and where is innovation most needed right now?
Covid-19 is exposing the fragility of our food system and the downside of the just-in-time supply chains. Producing food and getting it from A to B is very complex and requires a lot of planning with longer time horizons than traditional industrial production methods.
The pandemic has also highlighted the fact that nutrition can boost immune systems and that obesity and other public health issues exacerbate disease. Innovation is urgently needed to ensure food and nutrition security so that we can address these interrelated challenges.
Have you seen areas where Covid-19 has positively impacted innovation/tech adoption?
Yes, I have seen that people are now looking towards digital solutions and automation—increasingly paying attention to the digital tools next-generation innovators have, for years, been using and advocating for. Working with Millennial and GenZ entrepreneurs, we have seen that digital solutions come naturally to them and that they bring forward digital solutions because they believe in their potential to build sustainable and inclusive food systems.
How important is it for events like Food Tech Matters to bring the agri-foodtech community together to explore the big questions around food and sustainability?
The time is ripe that everyone starts to rethink how we farm, produce and eat. It is on us – the leaders and experts of this industry – to come together and use the knowledge that we have gathered over years working in the food and agriculture space to create solutions which will turn the global pandemic into an opportunity for our food systems to become more resilient.