Dr. Gunhild Stordalen took the stage of the fifth annual EAT Stockholm Forum in a metallic silver suit and matching dyed grey pixie cut, and like her futuristic appearance, her topic was a forward-thinking initiative about how to feed the planet’s 10 billion people by 2050.
The Oslo-based nonprofit EAT Forum was founded by Stordalen and regularly hosts gatherings to foster collaboration among representatives from science, business, NGO and government groups. The meeting provided Cornell faculty a platform to meet and strengthen relations with organizations from over 50 countries working on sustainable ways to feed a rapidly growing human population.
David Lodge, Francis J. DiSalvo Director of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell and a member of EAT Forum’s advisory board, attended the event for the fourth time and outlined shared goals of the Atkinson Center and EAT.
“[The conference] brings representatives from all these groups together in a very professionally produced program,” Lodge said. “Our role in this topic of food is to bring Cornell research to bear to make food production occupy the smallest footprint possible.”
According to Lodge, ongoing agricultural research funded by the Atkinson Center is consistent with EAT’s mission: to “feed people nutritious food and [feed] more people in the future without destroying the planet.”
Cornell is currently putting its considerable research clout to work on food technology and farming practices, Lodge said. He gave the example of Prof. Johannes Lehmann, soil and crop sciences, who helped build the largest biochar facility, which heats and decomposes organic materials into usable products.
According to Lehmann, the facility is “a testbed for the conversion of wastes into soil amendments and other uses,” converting potentially harmful organic material into better soils to spur more nutritious produce and better crop yield.
Prof. John Tobin-de la Puente, jointly appointed at the SC Johnson College of Business and the M.P.A. program in Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, was asked by Lodge to join the forum and bring his background in economics to bear on the issue of sustainability.
“There is a strong recognition at Cornell that the intersection of economics and business and the environment is a crucial one, and one that needs to be managed more carefully,” Tobin said.
Cornell is consistently ranked third among the world’s agricultural universities, according to U.S. News rankings, but Tobin said that building stronger relationships with partners like the Stockholm Resilience center and other groups was the “most important” goal of attending the EAT forum.
“As much as we may like to think of ourselves at Cornell as one of the leading universities in the world in sustainability, and we are, geographically Western and Northwestern Europe are real centers of activity in the sustainability space,” Tobin told The Sun in an interview.
To further those goals, Cornell has invited Olav Kjorven, EAT chief strategy officer, to visit campus on Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, according to Chris Miller, alumni affairs and development specialist.
Kjorven plans to “speak at an Atkinson Center ‘Topical Lunch’ for invited faculty and grad students whose work in the increasing food security arena aligns with his expertise and the foci for EAT” and lead a “professional development program with invited grad students and post-docs,” Miller said in an email to The Sun.