Slow food and big ideas

February 17, 2019

Many of you probably have heard of Slow Food. We associate carefully prepared (mostly Italian) food enjoyed in the slow passage of time at some pleasant location. And that is correct. But the slow food movement, started by Carlo Petrini back in the 80s as a response to McDonalds opening a first 'restaurant' in Italy, is of course much more than that.  

This years’ annual global gathering of TONIIC, a community of impact investors, was held in Pollenzo, Italy. The Albergo dell’Agenzia is a historic landmark hotel, but more importantly the headquarters of the Slow Food movement. Restored from ruins in the late 1990s by Carlo and his team, this remarkable place was built as a research facility for agriculture back in 1830. International conferences were held then trying to advance farming techniques. So it is a very suitable location for the University of Gastronomic Sciences and the Banca del vino.

At the first dinner, Carlo joined us and presented to us the importance of food. Gastronomy is not only about cooking and eating high caliber food. It is about biology and chemistry, about economy and trade, but first and foremost about culture. About the importance we give to the generation of nutrition, the interconnectedness that sharing food offers, the cultural significance of recipes and meals which cannot be sacrificed to soulless efficiency of the insanely cruel global industrial food system. Concepts such as food sovereignty include questions whether we can truly own land and wells, if we can patent or modify seeds and if we can suppress local foods economically in order to sell more global brands. The passion with which the entire Slow Food team represents this way of thinking is so authentic, it is impossible not to be changed by it.

But not only Carlo and his team are looking for different ways. We all know we need to change what we eat, how our food is produced and how we interact economically in this process, so the meeting agenda included a panel discussion around new trends in artificial food production. Jamie Arbib from Rethinkx is working on a report highlighting the disruptive nature of lab grown food replacing animal proteins. It is hard to argue with the economics of it and apparently, it is starting to taste good as well. Artificial meat can substantially reduce the carbon footprint of meat products and eliminate animal cruelty. However, if not open sourced, this technology will further increase the power of the worlds largest food conglomerates.  Renske Lynde from Food System 6 is working to accelerate startups in the food sector that work on future solutions. Claire Smith at Beyond Investing is looking into vegan solutions to help more people to adopt a plant-based, cruelty-free lifestyle.

There is a lot we can all do to overcome the tyranny of every day convenience guiding our choices. We can buy locally, eat vegan or at a minimum organic, exclude harmful products, be mindful of what we eat and while we eat it. And as investors see that our money goes towards a sustainable, equitable food systems. Think slow Slow food isfood!

p.s. I am dedicating this post to my friend Andrea Bassani, who introduced to me the concept of slow food and the significance that preparing good meals has in the Italian culture. I will be forever grateful to him. Carlo salutes you!

Ralf Schroeder

Looking for ways to align my portfolio with my values and beliefs.