Sustainable Farming Corn

Bulletproofing Supply Chains

Shifting sustainability from catchy motto to mainstream business model.

Innovation Forum delivers one of the world’s most revered platforms for change, addressing the biggest challenges in sustainable food systems and supply chains from production to packaging to policies. The organization inspires conversations and collaborations amongst the industry’s vast contributors.  

Green Field Solutions’ head of sustainability, Jennifer Luchte, talked with Innovation Forum’s Emily Heslop, Project Director, and Diana Kim, Marketing Manager, about the importance of actionable conversations, the role farmers play in those conversations, and what the future of food and beverage looks like. Ahead of the organization’s flagship conference—The Future of Food and Beverage USA—the trio discussed how real conversations have been foundational to inspiring real change. 

Diana, can you introduce Innovation Forum?

Innovation Forum serves as a collaborative platform that brings together stakeholders from across the value chain and supply chain. We facilitate sustainability events, stakeholder engagements, and publish content with the aim of fostering discussions that drive innovation and strategy-building for sustainable practices in food systems, apparel, packaging, and various other sectors. Our conferences are widely recognized for delivering a conducive environment for meaningful dialogues, where we strive to involve a diverse range of stakeholders in the conversation.

The Future of Food and Beverage Conference is our flagship event in that industry. This will now be our fifth installment of this event, hosted every year in the US and in Europe. For 2024, we are seeing this evolve with a greater focus on placing farmers at the center of these conversations and with policy changes impacting the internal resource allocation of some of the major food brands in the world.

How can people plug into Innovation Forum?

The conferences are one way, but we also host webinars and virtual events. We have a publishing arm as well, so we have our own podcast channel. Our website has the latest articles and news pieces for sustainable business news. 

Future of Food Farm Tour
Future of Food Farm Tour

Emily, what can we expect at year’s Future of Food and Beverage USA?

We’ll be bringing together key stakeholders from the public sector and private sector to discuss areas such as water stewardship, regenerative agriculture, climate action, soil health amongst other of the most pressing issues facing the food and beverage industry today.

As Diana said, we’re actively exploring ways to meaningfully incorporate farmer voices in a manner that propels the conversation forward productively. This year, we’re shaking up the traditional format by going beyond merely having farmers participate on panels and allow them to become the discussion moderators. Through this, we want to provide them with a dedicated platform to voice their perspectives, pose thought-provoking questions, and challenge the prevailing status quo. This approach aims to foster a more inclusive and impactful dialogue, where the invaluable insights and experiences of those at the forefront of agricultural production can shape the broader discussions across the forum. 

What are farmers saying?

A central challenge in the transition towards regenerative agriculture revolves around the economic model and cost implications. Traditionally, corporations and consumers have benefited from squeezing suppliers and farmers on price, an unethical and unsustainable approach that jeopardizes our ability to feed a growing global population sustainably.

While there is a collective recognition of the need to embed more resilient and regenerative practices at the farm level, this transition comes with a cost burden that is often unaccounted for in the final product pricing and the premiums received by farmers. A critical part of the conversation focuses on ensuring that this transitional cost is not unfairly and unduly borne by those who are already most at risk – the farmers and producers themselves.

We must rethink our incentive models to enable the widespread adoption of regenerative agricultural practices, without disproportionately burdening the most vulnerable stakeholders in the supply chain. Striking this balance is crucial for achieving long-term sustainability and resilience in our food systems.

Case Study: Necessity Drives Innovation
Interview With A Scientist: Feeding a Growing World

How can farmer voices and candid conversations turn into actions that can help bulletproof supply chains?

Innovation Forum provides an opportunity to have a more candid, off-record discussion where our moderators push speakers and challenge them. Our conferences are not a PR platform, and we really want attendees to come away from discussions feeling like they’ve got tangible action points that they can then take back to their own organizations. 

For several years, our discussions revolved around formulating strategies and setting targets. However, the recent discourse has shifted towards a more critical examination of the various targets established—be it packaging targets, achieving Net Zero emissions by 2030, or any other ambitious goals set leading up to 2050. The pressing concern now is how we can effectively scale up our existing programs beyond their pilot phases to ensure tangible results and progress, rather than merely discussing theoretical concepts.

What factors are most impacting the future of food and beverage today?

We’re seeing an increase in legislation and financing opportunities both in the US and Europe. For example, the USDA’s climate-smart commodity grants have allocated $3.1 billion specifically for agriculture-focused projects, facilitating innovation and sustainable practice adoption. 

The food and beverage industry faces a perfect storm of challenges. The pandemic really exposed just how vulnerable our global supply chains are to disruptions. And now with the added strain from recent geopolitical conflicts and the escalating impacts of climate change like droughts and floods, it’s putting immense pressure on supply chain resilience.

These challenges present an opportunity to transition towards a restorative, regenerative agriculture model. By taking a holistic approach – embedding resilience into supply chains, scaling up regenerative practices, and implementing robust adaptation strategies – companies can better position themselves to withstand future disruptions. 

Case Study: Sustainable Food Systems
Q&A: The Future of Food is a Group Effort 

Want to learn more about Innovation Forum, the Future of Food and Beverage USA, and other upcoming conferences? Click here for details.