At the end of January the Food for Us researchers (Sarah Jane Durr and Thato Tantsi) presented the work that they are doing on the Food for Us project at the annual Agro-ecology conference held in Cape Town. The theme for the 2019 conference was Agro-ecology conference for the 21stcentury. This encompassed taking a new look at how to approach the development of sustainable food systems and furthermore the future of agro-ecology in our current, rather volatile, social, environmental and political climate.

 A number of students from the Environmental Learning and Research centre participated in the Agro-ecology conference by presenting the impactful work that was being done. Thato Tantsi (Rhodes University MBA student) and Sarah Durr (Environmental Education Med student) both presented the findings that they had encountered through their initial analysis of the Food for Us project.

The research was presented under the title; “Social Learning and innovation findings, a food surplus and market transformation mobile application initiative (Food for Us)” in a session that looked at innovation and technology in the future of agro-ecology.

Sarah discussed the unexpected findings that emerged out of the Food for Us research, this included the importance of networked support systems that accompany the introduction of technology and innovation. Sarah emphasized that the technology is not the solution to the social and environmental challenges of Food waste, but the social capital and relationships that develop around innovation may be.

Thato Tantsi explained that another learning from the Food for Us research was the importance of having a sustainable business model for social innovative projects. Thato explained the importance of taking a holistic approach to building a sustainable business model where all of the stakeholders are actively involved in building a business model that benefits all.

There was much interest from the audience who attended the session, with many of the users highlighting the need for this type of innovation in their own contexts. The importance of the research around the social interaction between the users and the technological innovation is pivotal to the successful implementation of mobile application technology in communities.

This presentation showed that there is consensus within the agro-ecology community that there needs to be innovative and creative thinking around how to approach the challenges of our current food systems. The Food for Us project was well received with many potential contact and partnerships being developed between the Sarah and Thato and the audience.

We look forward to sharing these important contributions to the field in future discussions, working to developing a second phase for the Food for Us research project where this work can be expanded.

Written by: Sarah Jane Durr