Google’s Refresh: Food + Tech

Google wants to better understand the ways that technology can benefit food systems. Skeptical? So was I. But after participating in three meetings, including one in Chicago last week, I am warming to the idea.

Watch the conversation about the future of AI in our food system with former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Food Tank, Google, and Refresh Working Group members. I think you will particularly enjoy the duet between Ali Lange (Google, formerly of the Center for Democracy and Technology), and Don Bustos, a Native New Mexican farmer. Ankita Raturi hit the ball out of the park when she notes that rural US needs stable internet access. This one is worth the watch.

“I think we have a long way to go before we start deploying Siri for farms,” she said. “We need fundamental technical infrastructure right now … very basic building blocks. What are the fundamental pieces we need to build first, and then people can imagine what other tools might be able to do.” –Ankita Raturi

In a first report from the working group, From Soil to Supper, you will see short pieces on how AI is currently in use, primarily for data collection for traditional production, distribution, and retailing. It is my hope that future reports will begin to address power disparities in the food system and the way that data privatization and technology appropriate for small to mid-scale farms is being developed. Something to help farmers anticipate extreme weather, like the Driftless flooding, would be appreciated, I am sure.

And if you have thoughts about food+tech you want me to bring to the table, please post comments below. I would be happy to share your thoughts with the working group at our next meeting.

 

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