Perth NRM’s inaugural ‘Planning our Food Future Forum’ was opened by the Hon. Alannah MacTiernan MLC, on November 14th at the Parmelia Hilton to bring stakeholders from across the entire food chain together to talk about securing a sustainable and secure food future for all WA generations. The event saw over 100 stakeholders in attendance, including local and state government, producers, wholesalers, urban gardening groups, agricultural consultants, universities and consumers.

Keynote speaker Julian Cribb didn’t shy away from the hard realities of water scarcity, identifying confronting consumption figures along with further production constraints, demonstrating the need for global initiatives on urban food production to combat food scarcity.

Delegates were challenged to identify the issues of food security as producers are continually faced with diminishing resources with a growing demand for quality food. Speakers then questioned how we as stakeholders of the WA supply chain can ensure that we are living in a sustainable and secure food environment.

Tristan Kitchener of Kitchener Partners drew on his extensive retail experience to discuss the changing consumer and retail trends, using global examples relatable to WA. Tristan also discussed the inevitable introduction of the likes of Amazon into our everyday shopping habits. For many in the room who are avid farmers market shoppers it was a bizarre concept that people will be buying products delivered to their doorstep by drones.

The Food Future WA initiative is similar to the Melbourne Food Plan, where both Melbourne and Perth are expected to undergo major population growth and need a plan to create a resilient city food bowl. The initiatives are increasing food security for the city, creating a more resilient environment against climate impacts, whilst strengthening the regional economy.

Lead researcher for the Melbourne Food Plan is Dr Rachel Carey, who presented at the forum on Melbourne’s plans to build a resilient city food bowl. Melbourne has two main water treatment plants within their inner food bowl, 85% of the water produced in these plants is pumped out to sea and if just 10% was kept for agriculture, it would help grow half of the vegetables that Melbourne eats.

The forum captured topics from the retail world, on ground agricultural practices together with global initiatives in this space and concluding the event was Costa Georgiadis, the lovable bearded Greek from Gardening Australia. Costa drew on examples from the day during his talk, about the urban food agenda and how we all play a part in the future of our food, even if we live in a suburban landscape. His passion for food and growing food is so visible through his engagement with the audience, especially as he believes that every time we open our mouths for food, it is an intimate interchange with the world as food is about history, it is habitual, it is about family, and it’s about culture. These experiences of food and how we grow, prepare and eat food will be a driving force in securing our food future.

The event saw many engaging and locally focused speakers present and Perth NRM have made these presentations available for all to view on our YouTube channel.

Delegate feedback on the event was extremely positive with many seeing the event as a step in the right direction.  Attendees reported to Perth NRM they are now thinking about the actions which they can implement to help carry Perth and WA into a more food secure city. Pledges from the forum include, continuing the current work they do in this space, writing a blog to share the new knowledge to a larger group, staying connected to their regional bodies, further engagement with presenters, carrying out their own research and reading into this space, looking at improving current land management practices and much more.

The Forum was a great launching pad for the Food Future WA initiative and by engaging with such a diverse range of stakeholders it is safe to say, the future of food production in the Perth region and WA is in a really exciting transitional stage.

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