Innovation & Resiliency was the theme of the 14th annual Municipal Agriculture Economic Development & Planning Forum that was co-hosted by the Regional Municipality of York and OMAFRA in early November 2021.
The Agri-Food Forum was kicked off with welcoming remarks from Minister Lisa Thompson, speaking on the importance of agri-food economic development and land use planning and the opportunities within innovation of the agri-food sector.
Minister Thompson was followed by the keynote presentation entitled Facing our Futures by Nikolas Badminton. He took the Agri-Food Forum participants on a futurist journey of the agri-food sector and asked attendees to rethink the agri-food industry. Badminton spoke of what he called “signals of change” and how these signals provide glimpses into what the future will bring.
The first “signals of change” explored by Badminton, were the impact of energy use, climate changes such as water scarcity, shifting of economic wealth globally, and the growth of urban populations particularly in Africa & Asia. Badminton linked these influences back to the agri-food sector globally.
Another “signal of change” identified by Badminton was “data growth”. He shared that data application typically follows a path of data turning into useful information that becomes knowledge and through integration that becomes wisdom. Badminton spoke of how the application of artificial intelligence (AI) will modify this path. He spoke of how data collection will now be easier, and industry can now put effort into creating the knowledge and wisdom with the support of AI (artificial intelligence). The application of AI, automation, and the re-imagining of supply chains with indoor urban growing was dubbed as Bionic Farming by Badminton
Badminton final “change signals” were covered in “Novel Nutrition & Young Consumers”. For novel nutrition, his key points were the consumer desire for health & nutrition via food, the desire for convenience with technology, alternate proteins, sustainability paired with waste reduction and new flavours/experiences. Badminton spoke of the effect of “Young Consumers” and their influence on the agri-food sector with trends such as ready to cook meal kits, ghost kitchens, their buying patterns impacting food packaging and food waste.
Badminton wrapped up his presentation by talking about the work the agri-food sector could be doing to consider the “signals of change”, generating hypothetical scenarios from these signs of change, and move into planning for those potential future scenarios.
The Forum continued with an additional 50 plus speakers over the two days and covered many topics of importance to agriculture economic development and land use planning. To view a full list of speakers and videos shown at the forum visit the York Link website. To view any of the presentations and materials (other than Nikolas Badminton’s keynote which is restricted to attendees) you may visit this google drive. The Agri-Food Forum is held annually to provide those with an interest in agriculture economic development and land use planning with an opportunity to learn, network and share experiences.
The next Agri-Food Forum will be hosted by Brant County in the fall of 2022.