There have been so many exciting ag and innovation events at MIT that I wanted to highlight some of the latest. These spin-offs, collaborations, or somehow otherwise related to our class earlier in the semester. We've got a new campus group/website, 100K, NCIIA, MIT Sustainability Summit, and Peer Recognition Awards all goin' on!
Firstly, the MIT Food and Agriculture Collaborative, an incredibly inter-disciplinary group of MIT students, faculty, and staff, have launched our new website! http://food-ag.mit.edu/ Check it out for the latest on food and ag happenings around MIT campus and around Boston... coming up are the MIT-hosted Tedx talks entitled "How do you eat?", and inspired by Jaime Oliver's fresh/whole food for school lunches campaign.
Next, co-organizer of the India trip, Erica Dhawan is currently participating in MIT's 100K business plan competition, as I write! She's in the development track, and pitching an idea for a sustainable ag venture in India. We've also collaborated with India trip participant Payal Patel to pitch a tech-related idea to aggregate agricultural supply of small-scale farmers of perishable products with the NCIIA... crossing our fingers that we get some good feedback to launch a pilot project in India this summer.
The 2nd annual MIT sustainability summit was a huge success. It was an intimate and collaborative space which broke beyond what my friend Tony calls the traditional 'muffins and powerpoint' format of a conference and really allowed for dynamic interaction, role play, and critical discussion between presenters and participants.
I put together the session called Sustainable Agriculture - generating value through innovation and partnerships in the US dairy industry - which included perspectives from a small-scale, Vermont dairy farmer, the large Hood dairy processor, policy group Food Aid, and academic researchers from the Tufts nutrition school. These diverse voices agreed that the 'rules' that govern the dairy market are really skewed, and that the pricing system and supply controls needed to be evaluated and changed. We also learned that the margin on what we pay as consumers and what the farmer receives in payments continues to widen, as in other industries, with food retail sucking up the in-between. And we heard a new term from Ross called "Farmsters" - referring to movement of young, urban hipsters who are getting back to the land and into organic farming. There was plenty of respectful debate as well from topics as broad as raw milk safety to the L3C format of organizing 'low-profits' (as opposed to non profits) with a social mission that can fundraise and make money. Lots of food for thought.
Lastly, tomorrow my friend Lizzy and I are going to receive the Peer Recognition Award at Sloan for our work with the MIT Food and Ag Collaborative. I mention this because it really heartens me to know that I am at a business school that cares about and honors students who reach out across campus to build new networks around a social/environmental issue that we are passionate about. And then get noticed by our peers! I love this school.