How to feed an entire conference with local food? Ask the crowd!

imageTEDxSydney’s crowd-farmed feast (Photo: TEDxSydney)

This year, the team at TEDxSydney took on a seemingly impossible task: feed 2,200 people with only the food grown in their own backyards. There was fear; there was trepidation; there were even pigs; but, in the end, the mission was successful.
Michael of Milkwood Farm with his contribution to TEDxSydney 2013

How did they do it? With a lot of volunteers, a lot of vegetables, and — surprisingly — a lot of honeybees. And why? A year ago, a group of enterprising Sydney DIYers decided to throw a giant dinner party comprised of dishes cooked completely from “community-harvested” food — food sourced from people whose farms are on windowsills and balconies, in backyards and neighborhood blocks. The dinner served as the launch party for Grow it Local, an online community dedicated to mapping and supporting the non-traditional farms of Sydney’s citizens, allowing urban gardeners to add their “patches” to a giant collaborative map, and share advice and tips with one another.
imageLocally-grown goods take over TEDxSydney (Photo: TEDxSydney)

Remo Giuffre — the curator of TEDxSydney and an urban gardener himself — attended the dinner and decided that in 2013, TEDxSydney had to work with Grow it Local for something special. "As a local,” he said, “I was at that original dinner in 2012 … and I remember loving the cozy community vibe. It was my idea to try to bring that vibe to TEDxSydney 2013.”

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Eat this TEDx Talk: 7 talks on food and its future

From the molecular underpinnings behind good wine and cheese pairings to engineering medicine into milk. From eating bugs to simply eating local. These talks encourage you think more carefully about what’s on the end of your fork — and might even impact your next diet.

Cooking with chemestry: Francois Chartier at TEDxUdeM

What makes certain foods pair so well? Why do other combinations fall short? Francois Chartier uses molecular chemistry to investigate the dominant ingredients in our favorite foods — uncovering some surprisingly tasty blends. (French with English subtitles.) (Filmed at TEDxUdeM.)

Eat less meat, more bugs: Florence Dunkel at TEDxBozeman

Insects are high in protein and — if prepared well — delicious. And according to Florence Dunkel, their low-cost, ecological production means we need to incorporate them into our diets if we want a stable future for food security. (Filmed at TEDxBozeman.)

The brain cafe: Gary Wenk at TEDxColumbus

What’s the best diet for your brain? Gary Wenk sheds light on some of the controversial, and often contradictory, studies linking eating habits to health, mood and behavior. (Filmed at TEDxColumbus.)

Medicine from milk: Harry Meade at TEDxBoston

Medicines can involve complex, intricately folded proteins that are expensive to produce with traditional methods. Harry Meade shares his ingenious work-around —breeding goats that can generate these medicinal proteins in their milk. (Filmed at TEDxBoston.)

Delicious, healthy hospital food: Joshna Maharaj at TEDxToronto

If hospitals want people to get better, why do they serve unhealthy food? Chef Joshna Maharaj wants hospitals to serve tasty, sustainable and fresh food. (Filmed at TEDxToronto.)

The local future of food: Rob Spiro at TEDxSoMa

Rob Spiro exposes some of the systemic problems with large scale grocery chains and calls on us to change our food culture to focus on locally farmed foods. (Filmed at TEDxSoMa.)

Urban farming: Roman Gaus at TEDxZurich

Roman Gaus never thought he’d be a farmer. Now part of an urban farming collective in his city of Zurich, Switzerland, he harvests his own fish and produce on a regular basis. In this talk at TEDxZurich, he explains aquaponics: self-contained agriculture that relies on a symbiotic relationship between plants and fish — the fish provide nutrients for plants while the plants filter water for fish — all within portable containers made from recycled materials. (Filmed at TEDxZurich.)

Stephen Ritz: A teacher growing green in the South Bronx

Featured on in July, the frenetic, exuberant Stephen Ritz explains how teaching a group of high-risk kids in the South Bronx to garnden spun off into a student run movement to green New York City.  (Filmed at TEDxManhattan.)

Technology of The City 2.0: Symbiotic farming
Urban farmer Roman Gaus was once a force in some of the world’s leading corporations. Now CEO of a farming collective in Zurich, Switzerland, Urban Farmers, Roman and his colleagues install pop-up farms in unexpected places all over the city, including home rooftops.

In his talk at TEDxZurich, Roman explains their methods: a farming technique called aquaponics and farms in recycled corrugated containers. Aquaponics relies on a symbiotic relationship between plants and fish — fish provide nutrients for plants while the plants filter water for fish.

In this way, Roman grows his dinners: protein and produce. Above, examples of Urban Farmers’s farms. Below, from his talk:

"…In the city of Basel [Switzerland], there is 2 million square meters of idle rooftop space, and using just 5% of that would yield harvests for 40,000 people.

…We started by building miniature farms—small urban farms; we’re using recycled corrugated containers and greenhouses—so on top you would have the vegetables [and] inside the corrugated container you have the fish. And really what we wanted to do here is prove the point that this is about self-sufficiency. A family of three can basically live on vegetable and protein consumption [from] a box like this. So, you know, small communities, schools, restaurants, groups of people can go get together and grow their own food. 

[With aquaponics] you use about 90% less water than conventional agriculture, have everything in closed loops so it’s very resource efficient, and we lose—literally—little waste.

…We’ll be 9 billion people pretty soon. And.. 70% of us—the majority of us—will live in cities. So it could make a lot of sense growing food where people are going to live: in the city.”

(Photos: Top row: Adi’s Agro-Blog; Middle: Conceptual Devices; Bottom:

TEDxCity2.0 day is October 13. For more City 2.0 technology and innovation,
check out our City 2.0 TEDxTalks playlist.