MIT Sustainability Summit to spotlight Food and Agriculture Systems and the Circular Economy

| MIT Climate Change Blog
April 22, 2015

How do we reshape the global agriculture system to meet the climate, population, and resource challenges of the 21st century?

CAMBRIDGE, MA, April 10, 2015 — The MIT Climate Change Conversation is thrilled to sponsor the MIT Sustainability Summit, which will take place April 24-25, 2015 at MIT’s McDermott Court. The conference’s theme is “Farming, Food and the Future: Changing the Shape of Agriculture Systems.”

As a student-led event that is joined by leaders in the public, private, and civil sectors, the MIT Sustainability Summit is a perfect illustration of how we can all come together to foster collaboration and create lasting solutions to poverty. Oxfam America believes that together we can stand against injustice and recognize our ability to hold the powerful accountable.  Through collaboration with corporations and by empowering consumers we can influence decisions that promote sustainable food systems and increase global food security. The most important step towards that goal is bringing public and private sectors together and that’s why this summit is so important.”
— RAYMOND OFFENHEISER, PRESIDENT, OXFAM AMERICA

The 2015 MIT Sustainability Summit will focus on understanding -- and offering solutions to -- the complex problems facing local and global agriculture systems. This year’s Summit will tackle food and farming challenges through the lens of the “Circular Economy,” a systems-thinking approach that claims a flourishing, sustainable world is built on intentionally cycling resources between production to consumption: from farm to table and back again. How can we move beyond a single-use model of agricultural products? How can we promote and harness the functions that biodiverse and resilient agricultural ecosystems naturally provide? What is needed for a more sustainable, circular agricultural system to take hold?

These questions and more will be addressed at the Seventh Annual Sustainability Summit. The conference will be held on April 24-25 at the world-renowned campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Slated keynote speakers include:

  • Fedele Bauccio, Co-founder and CEO, Bon Appetit Management Company
  • Ken Webster, Head of Innovation, Ellen MacArthur Foundation
  • Paul Matteucci, Operating Partner, US Venture Capital Partners
  • John Duschinsky, CEO, The Conservation Farm
  • Ray Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America

The core themes of this year’s conference are “Rethinking Consumption,” “Creating Resilience,” and “Enabling the Transformation,” featuring over ten panels, including:

  • The Role of Retail in the Circular Economy: This panel of speakers will focus on how retail stakeholders, such as grocery markets, restaurants, food producers, and more, can individually and collectively create a more circular economy through their supply chains and on-site practices.
  • Breaking Down Food Packaging: With recent debates focused on preserving freshness to decrease food waste at the expense of increasing synthetic packaging waste, this panel will focus on an important part in revising the food system. To decrease total waste, we will be looking at a range of potential packaging options, including edible packaging, and compostable and bio-derived polymers.
  • Financing the Transition to Circular Agriculture: Achieving a more circular agriculture system at scale will require private sector involvement in the form of venture capital, private equity and impact investing. This panel brings together experts in sustainable agriculture investing to discuss the unique challenges of funding ventures in agriculture, as well as the financial innovations that are being used to invest in real assets such as farmland.

Other highlights include:
 

  • MIT Waste Research and Innovation Night, featuring cutting-edge research and start-ups around waste-sector innovations from MIT students, alums, and the surrounding community
  • A Networking Happy Hour on Friday night and in-kind donations from ABInbev, Boloco, Stonyfield Organic, and Ben & Jerry’s
  • A sustainable outdoor venue at MIT’s McDermott Court

Current sponsors of the Sustainability Summit include the Abdul Lateef Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab, (J-WAFS), Biogen, Pure Strategies, AB-InBev, Annie’s Homegrown, Flagship Ventures, Delhaize Group, and Thoughtforms.

For more information, to register for the conference, or to inquire about sponsorship, please visit: http://sustainabilitysummit.mit.edu

About the MIT Sustainability Summit
About the MIT Sustainability Summit: The MIT Sustainability Summit is an annual event that has grown to include more than 350 attendees ranging from professionals, academics, and students. As one of the world’s preeminent research universities, MIT and its five schools--science, engineering, architecture and planning, humanities and social science, and management--are in a unique position to bring business and societal leaders together with academic researchers and students to address challenges in sustainability.