SARS-CoV-2 is pushing a world already in distress. Unsettling powershifts rattle the geopolitical order, while mankind faces an enormous collective challenge. We must learn to manage soils, water, crops, biodiversity, and climate in such a way that we can continue to feed the world's growing population and simultaneously supply its population with energy from biomass.

The coronavirus does not remove that challenge. It'll impact the way we approach it and urge us to hasten our pace. Just before the SARS-CoV-2 spread around the world causing the Covid-19 pandemic, I wrote: "More and more people need more and more food to combat basic hunger and famine. At the same time, consumers in developed economies want more food choices, healthier-sustainable food choices, in addition to a comfortable lifestyle. The basics: clothing, housing, mobility, gadgets, and travel are considered a birthright. However, overconsumption and food waste are damaging our natural environment beyond the Earth’s carrying capacity. We hope to counterbalance these detrimental consequences with the help of technology, but despite technological shrewdness, we remain fully dependent on the earth’s ability to replenish itself.”

Our current way of life and organizing the economy is close to reaching its peak. On top of that, the new coronavirus confronts us with our vulnerability. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that food systems are already suffering from food insecurity. In the Netherlands, horticulture is hard hit, suffering turnover losses of 50 to 70% and even more in some cases. In the US and UK farmers are being forced to dump milk. Russia is limiting its wheat exports, India its rice exports. It'll destabilise global flows of food taken for granted so far. This kind of instability, no longer potential but real, is why we need to reconsider the way we have organized both our food and other systems.

The looks of change
It is heartening to see the number of multinational companies (e.g. OP2B), notably in the food chain, that seem to realize they must adapt to the changing times. They have stated that profit is no longer their main goal. Relevance to survive in a world heading towards scarcity and shortages is their new purpose. If a company does the right things and subordinates itself to mankind’s societal goals, money will play a new role. Money will be a result, not a goal, and it provides a means to stay creative and relevant.

Energy for post-corona change
A new mindset was already developing. Will this energy for change inspire trust amongst individuals? Will the institutional economy follow? How do we create and mobilize the action needed to change systems and attitudes that have evolved over centuries, if not millennia? What about the people reliant upon this outdated system for their livelihoods or those who live on subsistence farming? Surely, they will find it difficult to embrace a new paradigm. A vision of the future should be able to encompass all the stakeholders.

Can we learn anything from the massive global mobilization we see occurring around the coronavirus to advance our critical agenda? IFAMA provides a platform for discussion by bringing together relevant stakeholders: businesses, governments, NGO’s, academia, and students. The City of Rotterdam, the Province of Zuid-Holland and numerous Dutch sponsors seek to expand their networks in order to take a first step towards creating a new and lasting type of permanent global network for the exchange of ideas and the development of a new post-corona vision of the worlds of business, citizens and government. The coronavirus crisis is probably the biggest challenge mankind is facing since World War II. At the same time this crisis is offering new horizons and opportunities for creative and forward-thinking organizations.

The next generation of IFAMA conferences is addressing these questions of how to align change throughout the entire food chain. How do we inspire extremely diverse global communities to unleash the extraordinary human capacity to reinvent ourselves? All of us working in the food chain have a crucial role in helping to ensure the safety, quality, quantity, and affordability of food for future generations.

IFAMA2020 goes digital will be addressing these questions both from inside and outside the IFAMA network. Your input is essential. We need you there.

Foodlog will host the IFAMA2020 conference online

IFAMA’s 30th World Conference: Food for the Future—initially planned for June 15-18, 2020 in Rotterdam, was cancelled. Instead, the organizing partners have decided to develop something even better—an ongoing digital program in which you can participate and follow on demand.

Read and watch our informal interview with IFAMA's president Hector Laurence: ‘IFAMA has a significant role in discussing how to manage global food supply’

Dick Veerman, founder of Foodlog and anchor of IFAMA 2020 explains what to expect: