Dinner on Mars and Food Systems on Earth: Lenore Newman

Lenore Newman is “writing the book” on how humans will eat on Mars, and it’s allowing her to get deeper into how food systems on Earth are evolving and need to evolve more to serve us all. In her forthcoming book Dinner on Mars, she and co-author Evan Fraser are exploring the key innovations making truly sustainable food systems possible while she heads up the Food and Agriculture Institute at the University of Fraser Valley. She joined Space for Food for our April 23 event Food, Space, and Re-Imagination.

What are you doing in your work?

I’m working in Controlled Environment Growing/Controlled Environment Ag, Cellular Ag, Sustainable, equitable, accessible and secure food systems on Earth. I study emerging food technologies with a focus on controlled environment horticulture and cellular agriculture. I work with industry partners and other academics to study the uptake of emerging technologies.

What prepared you for what you're doing?

I grew up in the food industry (my family ran a fishing company), and then studied the physics of complex systems at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and then at York University in Toronto.

What's an indicator that a food system (or space habitat) is working for the people in it?

A food system should produce nutritious and flavourful food at a reasonable cost in a sustainable manner in as efficient a way as possible.

What is the most interesting work going on right now in your area?

Cellular agriculture offers us a way to radically improve the treatment of animals in the food system.

What innovation outside your direct area is most interesting to you?

Battery technology is very exciting -it allows electrification of some of the agricultural technologies such as vertical agriculture. This will be important in space, and for remote applications, too.

What problem related to Space for Food most needs to be addressed?

Transitioning to more plant focused systems. Animal agriculture is both needlessly cruel and astoundingly inefficient. Switching to plant-based systems where possible allows much more food to be produced with the same inputs.

Who is doing the most interesting work in your area (other than you, of course!)?

I think the work being done by New Harvest, a cellular agriculture NGO, is very exciting. They have supported a number of early stage startups to conduct exploratory research that will be critical going forward.

What's your favorite food, space, or ag memory?

Exploring indoor agriculture in the Netherlands. As a member of the British Columbia premier’s task force on food security I toured facilities in the Netherlands and interviewed government stakeholders. Their approach to supporting key sectors and the tight linkages between industry, academia, and government demonstrate how good policy can supercharge an industry. Of course their greenhouses are also incredibly impressive to see first hand!

What inspires or recharges you?

I love touring public markets for fun, such as the Ferry Building Market in San Francisco. I really enjoy exploring new foods and meeting new farmers and wholesalers. The markets themselves are interesting examples of food system technology. I love seeing how food moves from field to plate.

Learn more about Lenore and her work (and how you can be part of the development of future food systems, too) from her presentation at our April 23 eventFood, Space, and Re-Imagination. Don’t forget to follow her on Twitter at @DrLenoreNewman.