We’re excited to introduce you to our speakers for the 2016 Change Food Fest through a series of personal Q&A’s. Our second speaker in this series is Erica Orange of The Future Hunters.
Erica serves as Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of The Future Hunters, one of the world’s leading futurist consulting firms. She evaluates emerging social, technological, economic, political, demographic and environmental trends – and identifies the strategic implications (the “So what?”) of those trends for several of the most influential Fortune 500 companies, trade associations and public sector clients. Erica’s ability to identify patterns, think critically and analytically, and translate that into actionable strategies is what has made her an invaluable asset to clients (learn more about Erica and her work).
CF: What exactly is a futurist?
Being a futurist is a fun and non-traditional job. Futurists do just that – they look at the future, and attempt to explore predictions and possibilities about it. There are many types of futurists out there, too. For me, I describe what I do as one big Venn diagram. I look at how long-term trends (sociocultural, technological, economic, environmental, etc.) intersect, influence each other, and tell a greater story as to what is unfolding in the external environment. It’s then my job to make sense of it all and translate the implications for companies and brands.
CF: How do you contribute to or work with the food movement?
When it comes to the food movement, people globally are dealing with a growing list of concerns (e.g., dangerous droughts, extreme weather patterns, rising carbon dioxide levels, polluted soil, skyrocketing seed prices, the unknown effects of genetically modified crops, the diversion of arable land for biofuels, the environmentally-taxing effects of conventional meat production, uncertainties over the long-term sustainability of both rural and urban communities, etc.) Many of these realities – whether singly or in combination – are forcing us to rethink our connection to the land, rediscover our link to food, reevaluate our traditional ideas of agriculture, and reexamine our relationship to nature.
Much of my work focuses on the disruptive forces on the horizon. Food, and the future of food, is just one of many things right now that is being disrupted – and, in many ways, “hacked.” The word “hacking” has recently morphed to include clever shortcuts to solutions or systems. We see this happening today with the entire food ecosystem. Food sourcing, food waste, food consumption and food formulation are all being hacked, improved, re-engineered and made more efficient. Everything we know about food – how it’s grown, how it’s consumed, how it influences our health – is starting to change. Rapidly. Whether related to urban agriculture, vertical farming, underwater crops or terraforming in outer space, the food frontiers are exploding. Adding 3D printing, greater knowledge of the light spectrum, genetic engineering, logistics and waste prevention further expands our current understanding of food. The implications for sustainability, human health and consumer behavior will be profound.
CF: If you could do one thing to change the food system, what would it be?
For me, it’s less about one specific thing and more about reimagining the system in the first place. For instance, what would happen if we looked at all the degraded and abandoned lands in the world as a blank canvas; a palette for design and innovation? As an opportunity rather than a curse? And if we imagine a future where the majority of our food is grown and/or manufactured indoors – in vertical farms, converted warehouses and science labs – how will we use our land? And what will we use it for? Think of all the talent we could employ, the jobs we could create, and the living beings we could feed.
CF: What are 3 things an average person can do to help change the food system?
(1) Rediscover that food is medicine.
(2) Not fall victim to the latest food trends. What we eat has changed more in the last 30 years than in the previous 30,000. And we now have greater access to foods from around the world, but many of these foods are on a collision course with sustainability.
(3) Put a premium on clean, sustainably-sourced, hyper-local foods.
CF: Where can we find more information about your work?
Check out our website: www.thefuturehunters.com, or my Twitter: @erorange
Stay tuned for spotlights on our other speakers, coming soon!
The Change Food Fest “Growing the Good Food Movement” will take place in New York City on November 12 and 13, 2016. We will explore and celebrate change happening in the food system. Rather than simply talk about problems, we will actively look at solutions that are leading us to the sustainable food system we wish to see. Our focus will be on both real and visionary change and will include an exploration into seafood, plant based vs meat diets, possible impacts of new businesses and investment money coming into the food space – and much more. Join us! You can purchase a ticket or host a viewing party of the live webcast in your local community.