High school students breathe new life to food industry in Makeathon

Together with VTT, EIT Food and Atria, we organize our first Makeathon in late December. This was an amazing opportunity to collaborate with high school students. Who else would have a bigger stake in how we eat in the future than them?

A Makeathon is a collaboration model for overcoming big issues in intensive two-day workshops. The supervised workshops move from solving various smaller problems towards a bigger solution. The solution is then developed into a concrete model that proves how well the idea works. The students had experienced mentors to help them and to answer their questions about the industry.

Active ideation opens up new avenues

The challenge was formidable as participants had to find real problems in a very complex food system. Like in any ideation, you can never be sure where you end up. This models higlights the fact that the journey is far more important than the destination.

We had two days to build models of future food production. I envied the number of ideas the students came up with straight from the beginning. No adult group could ever match the number of post-its the youths handed over. We are way too set in our ways to make our brain accomplish such a free flow of ideas.

Younger generations change the way we think about food production

The process was also marked by learning from one another. The opinions surrounding food systems are often black and white, there are only good or bad things. In reality, exceptions are the rule and one solution works where the other doesn’t.

No one knows the right answer to future food solutions, yet. This is why it’s useful for businesses to hear what future consumers really think. For example, the fear of GMOs is disappearing among younger generations and it’s becoming just a technology among others. The structure and taste are the decisive factors in plant-based food, not the technology used to produce it.

The winning innovation in this Makeathon dealt with communications and encountering consumers. They argued that vegetarian food should no longer be regarded as something special. It should rather be a part of our everyday lives.