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New Harvest at the Sustainable Foods Institute 2014, Monterey, CA May 14-17th

Published May 22, 2014 | Updated October 4, 2021 | Isha Datar

Photo of sea lions swimming around

Sea Lions in Monterey


From May 14-17, Monterey Bay Aquarium held their annual Sustainable Foods Conference – an invite-only, two day event for media and players in the food sustainability world.

I (Isha) took the stage on Thursday morning on the following panel:

Reinventing Food: Can Technology Solve Our Environmental Problems?

Does technology interfere with nature’s systems, or is it integral and necessary to our food system? We’ll look at efforts to use technology to redesign food production systems to help solve environmental and health problems. And we’ll explore innovative new ways that food, agriculture and technology are coming together, and what these advances mean for the future of food.

Moderated by Marc Gunther, Guardian Sustainable Business

  • Ethan Brown is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Beyond Meat, a company focused on perfectly replacing animal protein with plant protein.
  • Isha Datar is the Director of New Harvest, a non-profit organization advancing alternatives to conventionally produced meat.
  • Walt Rakistky of Solazyme, a company that has pioneered an industrial biotechnology platform that harnesses the prolific oil-producing ability of microalgae to produce renewable oils for fuel, food, chemical and pharmaceutical markets.
  • Jorge Heraud is the CEO and co-founder of Blue River Technology Inc., a startup applying computer vision and robotics to revolutionize agriculture. By precisely identifying every plant in a field, Blue River robots can diagnose and prescribe appropriate actions in real-time to maximize plant output. 
Photo of Sherrie and Isha at Cafe Gratitude

Sherrie and Isha at Cafe Gratitude

In my opinion, this panel was the most forward-looking and futuristic of the event. I was a bit disappointed to see that animal products weren’t first and foremost in discussion, as I consider animal agriculture to be the first place we should look in terms of creating a more sustainable food future.

The takeaway point for me is this: that the biggest “argument” against cultured meat is that it is not “real food” or “natural food”. The unfortunate truth about this is that this subscribes to an appeal to nature, which is a philosophical fallacy – just because something is natural does not mean it is good; and just because something is unnatural does not mean it is not good.

Nevertheless, I met a lot of great researchers doing excellent work, and some great media contacts as well. It is always nice to be able to address concerns about cultured meat in person too!

I also got a chance to meet Sherrie, New Harvest’s Donor Relations volunteer who lives nearby. We had dinner at Cafe Gratitude in Santa Cruz and it was great to meet up and talk shop about New Harvest!

About the Authors
Isha Datar is Executive Director at New Harvest