I am so excited to be back tabling at Farmer’s Markets, and what better place to do that than Davis! Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by and participated. We met some really awesome community members who had questions and great conversation topics for us. Hopefully we will see you all again, and some new faces, too, in October with the Bohart Museum of Entomology for Halloween Creepy Crawlies! ~ Mary
Companies and creative minds are always releasing new products to address certain needs or niches. However, when it comes to new food technologies that aim to foster “greener” food systems, it can be difficult to stay up to date with all the terms and tech. That’s why, at the SciSays sister group at UC Berkeley, The CLEAR Project, I started the Future of Food poll with a few of my CLEAR Fellows. We choose 8 food technologies that hope to address one or more concerns with the way food is produced in hopes of harboring a greener food system for the future. At the Davis Farmer’s Market on Sept 11, 2019, I repeated it with SciSays.
The topics are (full descriptions at end of article):
- Vertical farming
- Biological fertilizers
- Genetic engineering
- Lab grown meat
- Meatless meat
- Synthetic wine
- Flexitarian diets
- Synthetic coffee ** (introduced at Davis Market in 2019)
As people approached our table, we invited them to vote for or against the various technologies by placing a bean in a jar. The binary “Yes/No” was semi-purposefully ambiguous, either inviting participants to follow their gut instincts and define the parameters themselves as they would walking through the aisles of a grocery store, or to ask us for more details and open up a friendly dialogue regarding the various topics. When pressed to define for them what a “Yes” vote meant, we would ask if they supported the continued research, development, or discussion of each topic. In other words, do you think this invention is on the right track for a greener food system? Participants of all ages were encouraged to vote. They did not have to vote on all 8/9 topics, but they were only allowed to vote once per topic.
This has quickly become one of my favorite outreach tables, second only to “DIY” DNA extractions I take to kids-focused STEM events. (Nothing beats the look of a proud parent/guardian smiling behind an ecstatic 10-year old who can tell me that DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid or how excited they are when they pull the gooey, snot-like DNA out of strawberry mush; stay tuned for more after SciSays goes to North Bay Discovery Day on October 26.) Anyway, I loved this booth and the conversations it led to so much that I hosted it 3 times in 1 month last year. Each time, I gain new insights for and against the technologies from the people that chose to stop by and share their thoughts.
Since January 2018, I have run this booth at 4 events in the Bay Area, and once in Davis. Being the science literacy groups that we are, we have compiled the data from these polls. The results: everyone loves microbial fertilizers, but synthetic wine may not be taking over wine aisles any time soon.
We will continue to feature this topic at various events, so keep an eye on both the CLEAR and SciSays pages to see when and where you can vote on the Future of Food!
Table Displays and Definitions:
- Vertical farming - Goal: Grow food using the smallest amount of land possible.
- Biological fertilizers - Goal: Use microorganisms to replace chemical fertilizers and pesticides for increasing crop yields.
- Aquaculture - Goal: Allow wild populations to regenerate and meet seafood demands by creating sustainable domesticated fish farms in open waters.
- Genetic engineering - Goal: Create crops that are higher in nutrients, easier to grow, or more resistant to pests and drought.
- Lab grown meat - Goal: Real meat is grown in a lab, reducing the number of livestock needed to keep up with a growing global population.
- (Pictured above as Test Tube Burgers in Jan 2018, changed April 2018)
- Meatless meat - Goal: Create plant-based products that taste like meat but don’t require raising and killing animals. Impossible Burger: Made with wheat, coconut oil, potatoes, and heme (protein); Beyond Meat: made with pea or soy protein
- Synthetic wine - Goal: Produce cheaper wine beverages faster without fermenting grapes, which takes times.
- Flexitarian diets - Goal: Incorporating more vegetarian proteins, like a variety of nutritious beans, into your diet and eating less meat.
- Synthetic coffee ** (introduced at Davis Market in 2019) Goal: Create coffee beverages without coffee beans saving water, reducing deforestation, and resources.
Show me the data!
Mary Madera is a graduate student in the Plant Biology Graduate Group at University of California, Davis. For more content from the UC Davis science communication group "Science Says", follow us on Twitter @SciSays.