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Plant-Based Food: Is There A New Technology For A Regenerative Future?

Rapid growth in the global population and changes in the way we eat are contributing to a massively imbalanced and unsustainable future for our planet. The earth’s ecology can’t support the growing space required for agricultural production, in particular, cattle farms and the crops that feed them. As our population rises, so too, it seems, our obsession with getting adequate sources of protein. The dominant paradigm, particularly in developed Western countries, is this: our bodies need animal protein. 

Our intention is not to assert that everyone should follow the same diet, denigrate individual dietary preferences, or even contend that a vegan, plant-based diet is more sustainable and ethical than a diet that is primarily animal-sourced. 

As an interactive startup enterprise, our job is to build bridges between industry and education to support food-tech companies’ research and development activities as they generate solutions to such critical issues. To do that, we need to gently disrupt the notion that animal protein is a human body requirement and promulgate a solution to an increasingly vital issue that affects our collective health: the extensive use of the earth’s natural resources to maintain an animal-based diet.


What Does Plant-Based Food Have To Do With Business & Tech?


It’s a big issue, and it impacts the whole world. That’s why food-tech businesses worldwide are seeking ways to create more sustainable agricultural practices and examining the market viability of new plant-based food alternatives. (And they’re succeeding! – Check out this success story featured in Forbes).

We cannot separate the vitality of our planet from our own health. As we devote more of the earth’s available land surface to cattle farms and the crops that feed them, rainforests are devastated, entire species are wiped out, climate undergoes an alarming shift, and our population grows larger – not just in numbers but in body weight. All so that we can continue to eat Big Macs and rib-eye steaks with an illusory sense of health and power. The reality is that more than a third of the global population is obese, according to 2016 statistics – a number that has nearly tripled since 1975 (1). 

We’re a sick species and an even sicker planet. The way we eat is an unprecedented, holistic problem that pervades ecological well-being – and it requires more than just our attention. It demands creative resources, a new kind of intelligence, and technologies that transgress old problem-solving mechanisms and positions us on the frontier of a healthier future, one rich in non-animal proteins, solutions for sustainability, and a more vital, regenerative ecology.  

We’ve known for many years now that a plant-based diet is better than an animal-based one in many ways. So why do we continue ineffective and harmful eating behaviors?

Collectively, there are a couple of reasons. One is our attachment to false paradigms and an incorrigible resistance to giving them up in light of fresh, evidence-based ideas about health and nutrition. Why should we grasp so tightly our eating preferences? One possible reason is that food gives us a sense of security, particularly the food that has been woven into the fabric of our culture – the food we’ve grown up with. Indeed, many of us belong to a generation that considered Spam “the good meat.” 

Animal proteins have also had a space on the dinner plate under the guise that they provide more viable nutrition. For this reason, the average person consumes far more protein that nutrition experts recommend, and the majority of it comes from animals. Further, as developing countries like China and India gain access to resources they didn’t traditionally have and improve their quality of life, their protein consumption goes up, namely animal protein.


What Does An Animal-Based Diet Cost The Planet? 


Half of the planet’s inhabitable land is used for agriculture, and 77% goes to cattle (2). While we may be quick to excuse such an imbalance with the assumption that livestock and the crops required to sustain them take up far more geographical space than other crops, there’s a bigger problem. Livestock produces only 18% of the world’s calories and less than half its total protein supply, making it a much less efficient use of land space than crops alone (2). Further, the effects of animal products on the environment, even the lowest-impact effects, are far greater than those created by plants (3).

How can we reduce the impact of animal-based agriculture on the planet and its inhabitants, ourselves included? 

Current research suggests that certain plant-based food offers a comparable dose of protein that is less detrimental to our health. But it’s not a matter of just cutting back on animal foods and adding more veggies to our plate. This solution is a collective effort that drives not just sustainability but rather regeneration.

It’s the difference between change and transformation. We need to look beyond the enforcement of measures such as crop yields towards how business, technology, and ecology can intersect to create a global paradigmatic shift toward a more effective way of eating and cultivating food.

How do we tackle a task of such proportions?

There isn’t one way. We must approach it through a holistic lens at a grass-roots level. Rather than going straight to policymakers with hidden agendas, we could draw on the resources of fertile minds primed for learning, investigating, criticizing, analyzing, and exploring solutions. People who are vying to work with current data, create and contribute ideas, experiment with novel technologies and various brand archetypes, and apply new business concepts toward a solution.

You may be asking, where do we find such people? Meet the university student.


Experience-Based Learning For A Plant-Based Future.


Small business owners and massive corporations concerned with industrial ecology face a similar challenge: how to continually generate fresh new ideas and solutions to urgent problems and put them into action?

Experienced-based learning is an essential component of the higher education experience. And as more and more companies are discovering, it is an attractive and accessible solution for problems both small and large businesses face. 

Also known as action learning, this educational tool is a problem-solving method that drives the collaboration necessary for developing effective solutions to complex inquiries, such as how to create a plant-based future. It has two major outcomes: it solves real problems, and it develops creative leaders. 

In the specific and pressing issue of agricultural production and sustainability, action learning can plant the seeds necessary for transformation by linking relevant businesses with university students who are motivated and personally invested to contribute.

At TELANTO, we collaborate with everyone from small startups to some of the world’s leading businesses and universities to help solve problems like the massive agricultural-ecological one the world is facing now. 

Do you want to learn more about how to use action learning to solve your business problem? We have 10 of the top US MBA students ready to engage your challenge today

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About the Author

Timo Kerzel is Co-Founder of TELANTO - the digital platform to engage and scale university-industry collaboration, counting on a +15 year track record in global marketing, business development and business management in various companies including SAP. He holds an Executive MBA from IESE Business School, Barcelona and his B.A. from the School of Management & Innovation (Steinbeis) in Berlin. Furthermore certified as a Design Thinking Coach from HPI in Potsdam, Timo is passionate about customer and user centric solutions, creating true value for TELANTO's “Academic Business Network” Community.

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