Meet Our Judges: Penny McBride
We spoke with Penny McBride, Vice-Chairwoman of Farmtech Society, to talk about her thoughts about food technology trends in the UAE and abroad.
What is your favorite memory related to food?
My parents are Japanese and my mother was a terrific cook, she put a lot of care into everything that she made, including cutting vegetables into fun shapes when we were kids. Even when we went on family picnics, everything was tasty and well presented. I think that this sense of deliberate preparation gave me an appreciation for both food quality and how it can bring people together. I love to travel and have so many fond memories of exploring the cuisine of the great places that I have been fortunate to visit over the years. Food is a great way of connecting with the local culture and should never be dismissed as a great understanding of history and present conditions.
What makes you excited about food technology?
As we face the many challenges of bringing fresh and nutritious food to people, I think that food technology plays such an important role in not only offering nutritious food options but also has the possibility of connecting people to the food that they eat in a way that hasn’t been available for some time. We’re at a unique point in time where people want to understand food systems and the impact that it has on their mental and physical health. Food technology can offer a platform for people to create a new outcome.
In your opinion, what key technologies have promising applications for UAE food security challenges?
It is not one sole technology at this time that will be brought to the forefront of the UAE Security Challenge but rather an entire host of solutions that can be used to answer some key questions not only for the UAE but the entire world. There are solutions that will be more fitting for communities that may not have the financial resources, to those that have all of the resources that they need at their fingertips. There are many amazing systems, ranging from new labor-saving devices to reconfigured growing systems that will be revealed.
Surveys have shown that youth are increasingly disengaged from food and agriculture work. How do we renew youth engagement in this area?
Throughout the globe, there is a serious decline of new farmers in this area of work. But I believe that it comes from empowering youth to understand the need for healthy food and the need to create food security within the UAE. Now it is not just lettuce that can be grown but also fruits and proteins that have the potential to be grown indoors. It’s an exciting time to be at the forefront of creating systems of technology that can take what has been used in other parts of the world for some time and make it better for the UAE. When young people see that they hold many of the answers to our critical environmental concerns and realize a system such as CEA – which can be a part of the solution, I believe that they will become engaged. It is necessary to set up educational programs incorporated into existing science curriculum and there are both primary and secondary schools that are offering themselves up as good examples.
What are books, papers, and/or articles that you’re reading about food security that you would recommend?
In order to understand food security, you also need to understand why and how food is grown. These may not directly address food security but give a good picture of what is happening with food systems in general: Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity by Lester Brown, and The Omnivores Dilemma and In Defense of Food by Michel Pollen.