Program

We are still working to confirm the schedule for 2015. Please stay tuned for program updates!
Friday 24 April 2015
08:00
Registration and Breakfast
09:00
Opening Remarks: MIT's Food and Agriculture Focus
09:15
Introduction: What is the Circular Economy?
09:30
Keynote
10:00
The Role of Retail in the Circular Economy
Retailers play an important role in connecting production and consumption of goods. This series of speakers will focus on how retail stakeholders, such as grocery markets, restaurants, food producers, and more, can collectively and individually create a more circular economy. Potential topics for discussion include business models for recycling, successful reverse supply chains, improved production systems, and facilitating beneficial consumer choices.
11:00
Coffee Break
11:30
Scaling Resilience Across Production Systems
Resilience is essential for the sustainability of our agricultural system. Crops must endure climatic variation, farms must remain viable businesses, and communities must remain empowered. Biodiverse farming can build this resilience across all production systems, including forestry, farming, grasslands, and aquaculture. This panel will demonstrate how farming techniques such as integrated pest management develop robust farming ecosystems that can yield bountiful harvests and hedge investment risks and how access to genetically diverse crops maintains social systems and food security.
12:30
Lunch
13:30
Technology, Agriculture and Circularity
Transitioning to a more circular agriculture system will require a complete re-thinking of how food is produced, with a focus on making this production more sustainable without sacrificing yield. In recent years there has been a surge of technology and data use on the farm that provides a glimpse of how the agriculture system of the future can be more productive as well as environmentally sound. This panel explores the latest developments in crop modeling, precision agriculture and farm robotics to determine the role that technology can play in changing the shape of our agriculture system.
14:45
Creating Consumption Cascades
Biological materials can be "cascaded" through multiple beneficial uses before ultimately returning to the earth for conversion back into raw nutrients. Identifying creative and profitable cascades from food and biomaterials waste is essential to the circular economy. This panel highlights some innovative companies, technologies, and materials that are creating circularity through consumption cascades.
16:00
Coffee Break
16:30
Agriculture and Food Waste in Urban Settings
This panel will potentially focus on two elements of food systems in cities – how to manage organic waste on a city-wide level, as well as how to produce food in an urban setting. How can we design systems via urban planning or technological advances to help facilitate this loop? How can we educate and incentivize city-dwellers about these opportunities?
17:15
Keynote
18:00
Networking Happy Hour
Saturday 25 April 2015
09:00
Registration and Coffee
09:30
Opening Remarks and Keynote
10:30
Closing the Big Loop: Energy and Nutrient Recovery from Waste
In a circular economy, outputs become inputs. Technological advancements and changes in the perception of waste, however, can help connect waste streams to new processes. Manure can power farms or be transformed into a commodity fuel that flows through pipelines. Human urine, if diverted from traditional wastewater systems, can function as a fertilizer. This panel covers the technologies and infrastructural changes necessary to turn these wastes into resources.
10:30
Aquaculture: Transitioning to Sustainable and Diversified Products
The technical processes for culturing fish using environmentally friendly methods have existed for many years, but historically the costs have made them economically unfeasible. However, over the past several years the market has seen more and more companies incorporate these processes into their operations. Some companies are even pioneering new ways to convert what were once waste streams into marketable products, which is making aquaculture a more circular system of food production.  This panel explores the conditions and processes that have allowed companies to offset the higher costs of sustainable aquaculture, and discuss how aquaculture can contribute to a more circular agriculture system.
11:45
Lunch and Keynote: Redefining the Conversation about Waste
13:00
Breaking Down Food Packaging
With recent debates focused on preserving freshness to decrease food waste at the expense of increasing synthetic packaging waste, this panel will focus on an important part in revising the food system. To decrease total waste, we will be looking at a range of potential packaging options, including edible packaging, and compostable and bio-derived polymers.
13:00
New Ventures in the Circular Economy
The panel's focus will be to highlight start-ups that are breaking ground in this field. We will hear from food and agriculture-related start-ups that are operating across the value chain and learn about their successes and challenges, and how small players are changing the status quo and uprooting more established entities.
13:00
Potential MIT Tour
14:15
Financing the Transition to Circular Agriculture
Achieving a more circular system at scale will require private sector involvement in the form of venture capital, private equity and impact investing.  This panel brings together experts in sustainable agriculture investing to discuss the unique challenges of funding new ventures in agriculture, as well as the financial innovations that are being used to invest in real assets such as farmland.
14:15
Big Data for Farm to Table
This panel will focus on the tracking of data along the consumption value chain to reduce spoilage and track products from the perspective of food safety. Everyone from distributors to the consumers play an important role in increasing the resiliency of food consumption systems, meaning that the solutions discussed as a part of this panel will focus on circular economy principles from the moment that the food leaves the farm until it arrives on our plates.
14:15
Potential MIT Tour
15:30
Keynote
Friday 24 April 2015
09:00
Opening Remarks: MIT's Food and Agriculture Focus
09:15
Introduction: What is the Circular Economy?
09:30
Keynote
10:00
READ MORE »
The Role of Retail in the Circular Economy
11:00
Coffee Break
11:30
READ MORE »
Scaling Resilience Across Production Systems
12:30
Lunch
13:30
READ MORE »
Technology, Agriculture and Circularity
14:45
READ MORE »
Creating Consumption Cascades
16:00
Coffee Break
16:30
READ MORE »
Agriculture and Food Waste in Urban Settings
17:15
Keynote
18:00
Networking Happy Hour
Saturday 25 April 2015
09:30
Opening Remarks and Keynote
10:30
READ MORE »
Closing the Big Loop: Energy and Nutrient Recovery from Waste
READ MORE »
Aquaculture: Transitioning to Sustainable and Diversified Products
11:45
Lunch and Keynote: Redefining the Conversation about Waste
13:00
READ MORE »
Breaking Down Food Packaging
READ MORE »
New Ventures in the Circular Economy
Potential MIT Tour
14:15
READ MORE »
Financing the Transition to Circular Agriculture
READ MORE »
Big Data for Farm to Table
Potential MIT Tour
15:30
Keynote


Session descriptions


The Role of Retail in the Circular Economy

Retailers play an important role in connecting production and consumption of goods. This series of speakers will focus on how retail stakeholders, such as grocery markets, restaurants, food producers, and more, can collectively and individually create a more circular economy. Potential topics for discussion include business models for recycling, successful reverse supply chains, improved production systems, and facilitating beneficial consumer choices.

Scaling Resilience Across Production Systems

Resilience is essential for the sustainability of our agricultural system. Crops must endure climatic variation, farms must remain viable businesses, and communities must remain empowered. Biodiverse farming can build this resilience across all production systems, including forestry, farming, grasslands, and aquaculture. This panel will demonstrate how farming techniques such as integrated pest management develop robust farming ecosystems that can yield bountiful harvests and hedge investment risks and how access to genetically diverse crops maintains social systems and food security.

Technology, Agriculture and Circularity

Transitioning to a more circular agriculture system will require a complete re-thinking of how food is produced, with a focus on making this production more sustainable without sacrificing yield. In recent years there has been a surge of technology and data use on the farm that provides a glimpse of how the agriculture system of the future can be more productive as well as environmentally sound. This panel explores the latest developments in crop modeling, precision agriculture and farm robotics to determine the role that technology can play in changing the shape of our agriculture system.

Creating Consumption Cascades

Biological materials can be "cascaded" through multiple beneficial uses before ultimately returning to the earth for conversion back into raw nutrients. Identifying creative and profitable cascades from food and biomaterials waste is essential to the circular economy. This panel highlights some innovative companies, technologies, and materials that are creating circularity through consumption cascades.

Agriculture and Food Waste in Urban Settings

This panel will potentially focus on two elements of food systems in cities – how to manage organic waste on a city-wide level, as well as how to produce food in an urban setting. How can we design systems via urban planning or technological advances to help facilitate this loop? How can we educate and incentivize city-dwellers about these opportunities?

Closing the Big Loop: Energy and Nutrient Recovery from Waste

In a circular economy, outputs become inputs. Technological advancements and changes in the perception of waste, however, can help connect waste streams to new processes. Manure can power farms or be transformed into a commodity fuel that flows through pipelines. Human urine, if diverted from traditional wastewater systems, can function as a fertilizer. This panel covers the technologies and infrastructural changes necessary to turn these wastes into resources.

Aquaculture: Transitioning to Sustainable and Diversified Products

The technical processes for culturing fish using environmentally friendly methods have existed for many years, but historically the costs have made them economically unfeasible. However, over the past several years the market has seen more and more companies incorporate these processes into their operations. Some companies are even pioneering new ways to convert what were once waste streams into marketable products, which is making aquaculture a more circular system of food production.  This panel explores the conditions and processes that have allowed companies to offset the higher costs of sustainable aquaculture, and discuss how aquaculture can contribute to a more circular agriculture system.

Breaking Down Food Packaging

With recent debates focused on preserving freshness to decrease food waste at the expense of increasing synthetic packaging waste, this panel will focus on an important part in revising the food system. To decrease total waste, we will be looking at a range of potential packaging options, including edible packaging, and compostable and bio-derived polymers.

New Ventures in the Circular Economy

The panel's focus will be to highlight start-ups that are breaking ground in this field. We will hear from food and agriculture-related start-ups that are operating across the value chain and learn about their successes and challenges, and how small players are changing the status quo and uprooting more established entities.

Financing the Transition to Circular Agriculture

Achieving a more circular system at scale will require private sector involvement in the form of venture capital, private equity and impact investing.  This panel brings together experts in sustainable agriculture investing to discuss the unique challenges of funding new ventures in agriculture, as well as the financial innovations that are being used to invest in real assets such as farmland.

Big Data for Farm to Table

This panel will focus on the tracking of data along the consumption value chain to reduce spoilage and track products from the perspective of food safety. Everyone from distributors to the consumers play an important role in increasing the resiliency of food consumption systems, meaning that the solutions discussed as a part of this panel will focus on circular economy principles from the moment that the food leaves the farm until it arrives on our plates.