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Problem of feeding an urban population challenging and multi-faceted: LuLu Exchange CEO
May 6, 2015, 10:26 am

Food is at the center stage of Milan Expo 2015, the second to last pit stop for the world exhibition before it makes its way to Dubai in 2020. This year’s expo which kickstarted on May 1 with the theme ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, will showcase new food, energy, science and environmental technology of 147 participants and nations, including the UN, EU and CERN over the coming six months.

Although just a week into the Expo, the general atmosphere directed towards how to make this world self-sufficient in terms of food and energy, has been welcomed with great gusto by countries worldwide. The UK, with its theme and global business program ‘Grow in Britain’, has taken this opportunity to host the high-profile GREAT Week event, alongside the Expo.

The GREAT Weeks campaign is designed to help businesses of all sizes maximize their full potential in international markets. It focuses on a number of sectors including food & drink, agri-tech, life sciences, healthcare, technology and creative industries, among others.

A part of the GREAT Week discussion was the global food and drink challenges and opportunities conducted on May 5 at the UK House in Palazzo Giureconsulti in MIlan. The sector-focused business event brought together leaders from industry, opinion formers, buyers and decision makes from around the world.

One of the hotly debated sessions during the event was how countries are increasingly facing new set of challenges and opportunities due to the ever increasing global urban population. In response to this discussion, industry leaders shared their views on how to deliver high quality, affordability and consumer choice in a sustainable way to tackle the problem.

Adeeb Ahamed, CEO of LuLu Financial Group, one of the speakers during the session on feeding an urban nation, said, “The problem of feeding a population in excess of 6 billion in the near futures is as challenging as it is multi-faceted. Tackling hunger isn’t just about increasing production. It also includes cutting down on wastage, introducing policies to tackle climate change, transporting food amidst adequate supplies, supporting farmers and promoting technology change among a myriad of other solutions.”

The chief of the UAE-based financial group also went on to cite examples of how urban farming and other innovations have helped developing countries tackle the problem of food production and its wastage amid the rapidly increasing urban population. He then touched upon the need to develop proper storage facilities and also reduce logistical inefficiency by streamlining the movement of the crops from the farm to the consumer. His speech also urged consumers to take the upper hand in seeing that food does not go to waste.

“Information and communication technology holds great potential in assisting farmers and bridging the gap between researchers, policy makers and the press. Such interesting innovations should be scaled up and be made available to other emerging nations as well,” added Adeeb Ahamed.

Highlighting the emergence of technology in agriculture and farming, Adeeb Ahamed cited the example of two IT executives in India who left their plush corporate jobs to develop an app to assist farmers. The app called Rainbow enables farmers make informed decision for better yield of crops. Users can also get latest agro news, location based climate updates and contacts for the nearest seed and fertilizer dealers.

Following on the same lines, other topics discussed at the event included the challenges of food safety, traceability and sustainability for a growing and demanding global population, investing in healthy innovation and empowering consumer choice, and the importance of international trade, among others. The sessions were all followed with a panel discussion and Q&A session moderated by the panel chair.

The global food and drink challenges and opportunities seminar of the GREAT Weeks is an extension of the theme of the Milan Expo 2015, which reflect upon, and discuss, solutions to the contradictions of our world today in terms of feeding the planet. The President of the Lombardy Region, Roberto Maroni, during the inauguration of the Expo had said: "All of us here feed the future. With the Universal Exhibition in Milan, the subject of food is at the center of the global debate on food security".

In line with the theme, various countries have concentrated their exhibits on indigenous food production techniques and technologies, resources and cuisines. A particularly ground breaking exhibit at the Expo is the Future Food District – a pavilion that functions as a real supermarket where visitors can purchase items – created by Italian architect Carlo Ratti. Giving us a glimpse of supermarkets of the future, the 1,500 products on display at the Future Food District are positioned beneath digital mirrors that present information about the origins, ingredients and manufacturing of the foods.

The Future Food District also showcases innovative methods of producing food, including vertical hydroponic systems for growing vegetables, as well as algae and insect harvesting.

Other countries like the US are welcoming visitors with custom-built food trucks serving up regional American street foods, including hamburgers, barbecue and lobster rolls, while the exhibit includes a crop wall which is a 7,200-square-foot vertical farm growing 42 varieties of vegetables, grains and herbs to demonstrate future food production.

As Milan Mayor, Giuliano Pisapia puts it: “Expo Milano 2015 is designed to say to everyone on the planet that the hunger challenge can be beaten, that each of us can do something to stop the unsustainable exploitation of the planet.”

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