This Financial Times Opinion piece says, Big Food is fast on its way to surpassing Big Tech as the world’s most politicised business. Food security is a term that was, until recently, used only in developing countries.
Now, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of highly concentrated food supply chains. In the US, this has led to calls for antitrust action. A federal judge filed a big warning shot last week, by giving Bumble Bee Food’s former chief executive a rare prison sentence for his role in an antitrust conspiracy to fix the price of canned tuna. The Department of Justice is also investigating Tyson Foods, Cargill, National Beef and JBS SA. The meat industry, a hotspot in the spread of Covid-19, has not felt this much heat since Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle.
Plenty, founded by a third generation Illinois farmer builds vertical indoor farms in “food deserts”. The farms grow fruits and vegetables on giant walls that can be placed anywhere, since light and water are controlled by technology. That allows families in urban neighbourhoods, such as Compton or Oakland, California, to access fresh produce.
Plenty’s workers are mainly highly skilled technicians. According to chief executive Matt Barnard, the company uses 99 per cent less land and 95 per cent less water to grow pesticide-free crops that are not genetically modified. He said, “The pandemic has really changed the conversation about where and how people get their food.”