Imagining the Future Urban Food Market

Public food markets can be key centers of urban commerce and social life. Late last year, a brainstorming event in London considered how they might evolve to accommodate modern lifestyles and technologies.
January 22, 2016, 2pm PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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U.S. Department of Agriculture

More permanent than farmers' markets (though they can assume that role), urban food markets like London's Borough Market and Seattle's Pike Place offer counterpoints to the supermarket mainstream. Louise Marston reports on a event that took place late last year in Borough Market, bringing together "chefs, designers, policy makers, academics and market-goers [...] to explore ideas about what the market of the future might look like."

Marston writes, "The future of food is often treated either as an economic future - a future industry, with associated employment patterns and distribution routes. Or it is forecast as a global, ethical future - a looming crisis of growing population colliding with a growing preference for meat and processed food." Event participants considered a more holistic vision: food as an expression of community.

"There was also a desire to preserve the market as a meeting place, a place of conviviality. Some people wanted to emphasise the role of the market as a place for bartering, exchange and in capturing the full life-cycle of food, including its growing and waste."

Discussion also took place about how the public market—seen as something of a throwback—can be improved by 21st-century technologies. "Drones, hovercraft, helicopters and electric vehicles were all suggested as new ways for food to make its way to and from the market."

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Published on Wednesday, December 23, 2015 in Nesta
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