Call For Abstracts: Food, the City, and Innovation – The University of Texas at Austin, USA

The University of Texas at Austin and Boston University is pleased to
announce the second annual Food and the City Conference, to be held on *February 1st and 2nd, 2013*. The theme of the conference is food innovation and
provisioning cities in the past, present, and future. 

We invite scholars, industry professionals, architects, policy makers, urban planners, farmers, and innovators to contribute ideas about the re-invention of food systems to feed urban centers.

This conference brings together a community
of expertise to explore the
relationship between food systems and cities
throughout history. We will
investigate the historical context of urban
provisioning and new
opportunities for innovations. The conference
seeks to facilitate
solutions to the problems facing the global
food system currently and in
the future.

Conference themes include: How have
innovators responded to the global
market? Does food system technology improve
sustainability, increase
nutrition, reduce cost, and promote
accessibility? How should technology
and innovations work to reconnect consumers
to the food system?

Our keynote speaker is David Edwards,
innovator, engineer, and founder of
Le Laboratoire. Edwards recently designed
Wikicells, an edible packaging
for food and drink delivery. He also has
developed several variations of
inhalable food, including Aeroshot and Le

The conference is organized around panels
that represent various components
of the food system. The panels are as

1) The Food System

This panel will explore the nature of the
current food system, including
its problems and potential solutions. It will
delineate fundamental
barriers – political, social, technological,
economic – that prevent significant
improvement. This panel will investigate how
current food trends contribute
or detract from meaningful advancements in
food production. Importantly, it
will also pose potential solutions to these
issues. How did innovators in
the past view their improvements within the
context of their specific food
systems? How can technology better account
for climate changes, natural
disasters, and other variables affecting food
production? What role can
technology play in improving supply chains?

2) Sowing the Seeds: Food at its Genesis

How has the history of agricultural
technology changed the way farmers
cultivate crops and raise animals for food?
How did transportation
technology transform the food system? What
are the social benefits to the
application of technology to food and food
systems? Can food be grown
inside a city with a great enough yield to
sustain an entire urban

3) Harvesting

Eli Whitney’s cotton gin revolutionized the
way cotton was harvested and
saved thousands of laborers from the tedious,
backbreaking work of
separating cotton fiber from its seed. What
other inventions have or will
revolutionize the way we gather crops or
process animals? How will these
inventions affect other areas of food

4) Food Miles

What is the meaning of space, distance, time,
and identity in the context
of the food system? Why did society reject
food production from the city
and why is urban agriculture making a
comeback? How do we move food from
its harvesting and processing locations to
consumers? How did the food hub
model develop throughout history? What new
models might emerge to
challenge the food hub model?

5) Processing & Packaging

Michael Pollan recommends consumers shop on
the outskirts of the grocery
store to avoid “processed” foods. But what
does “processed” mean in
relationship to food production and is it
inherently bad? How has the
processing of food evolved historically and
what is its future? From
Clarence Birdseye’s frozen food innovation to
Ferran Adrià’s molecular
gastronomy, how does technology transform our
conception of food?

6) Water and Energy

As the essential elements of the food system,
water and energy are
inextricably linked to food production and
its success. Irrigation, solar
energy, biofuel, and energy loss from food
waste are possible topics of
discussion for this panel.

7) Storage and Preservation

Developments from salt to walk-in freezers
are essential parts of the food
storage process. What former preservation
techniques were popular in the
past and how has food preservation evolved?
How can we improve the shelf
life of packaged food, while maintaining
quality and nutrition? Edible
packaging is one emerging solution. What are

8) Markets/Retail

This panel will discuss the sale of food – in
markets, grocery stores and
farm stands – and the consumer culture
surrounding these places of
exchange. How does the modern day supermarket
compare to the increasingly
popular outdoor farmer’s market? What will
food retail in cities look like
in twenty years? How did the location and
marketing methods affect consumer
behavior historically? How might future
technologies alter these

While we expect many scholarly papers, we
also welcome demonstrations,
video lectures, and other nontraditional
presentations. Please submit your
proposal as a 300-500 word abstract. All
submissions should include a CV.
Please send all materials to James
McWilliams,, by *September
1, 2012.* Proposals will be evaluated based
on their adherence to the above
listed panels, their content, originality,
and relevance.


Dr. Robyn Metcalfe, University of Texas at
Austin, Conference Chair

Dr. James McWilliams, Texas State University
at San Marcos,

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Pasquale Scaramozzino

Professor of Economics
Department of Financial and Management Studies
SOAS, University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square
London WC1H 0XG

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About Craig Verzone

Craig P. Verzone is a principal at Verzone Woods Architectes and team leader of the Food Urbanism Initiative.

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