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← The future of good food in China

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Showing Revision 7 created 11/28/2017 by Brian Greene.

  1. I was six when I had the first chance
    to learn what patience means.

  2. My grandmother gave me a magic box
    as a birthday present,
  3. which neither of us knew
    would become a gift for life.
  4. I became obsessed with magic,
  5. and at 20, I became
    an amateur dove magician.
  6. This act of magic
    requires that I train my doves
  7. to sit and wait inside my clothing.
  8. As a young magician, I was always
    in a rush to make them appear,
  9. but my teacher told me
  10. the secret to the success
    of this magical act
  11. is to make my doves appear
    only after they've waited patiently
  12. in my tuxedo.
  13. It has to be a mindful kind of patience,
  14. the kind that took me
    some years to master.
  15. When life took me to Shanghai
    seven years ago,

  16. the mindful patience I learned
    became almost impossible to practice.
  17. In China, where everyone
    and everything is in a hurry,
  18. you need to outperform
    over 1.3 billion other people
  19. to build a better life.
  20. You hack the system, bend the rules,
  21. circumvent the boundaries.
  22. It is the same when it comes to food ...
  23. except that when it comes to food,
  24. impatience can have dire consequences.
  25. In the haste to grow more, sell more,
  26. 4,000 years of agriculture
    in a country of rich natural resources
  27. is spoiled by the overuse
    of chemicals and pesticides.
  28. In 2016, the Chinese government revealed
  29. half a million food safety violations
    in just nine months.
  30. Alarmingly, one in every four
    diabetics in the world
  31. now comes from China.
  32. The stories around food
  33. are scary and somewhat overwhelming,
  34. and I told myself it's time to bring
    a mindful patience into the impatience.
  35. When I say mindful patience,

  36. I don't mean the ability to wait.
  37. I mean knowing how to act while waiting.
  38. And so, while I wait for the day
  39. when a sustainable food system
    becomes a reality in China,
  40. I launched one of China's first
    online farmers market
  41. to bring local, organically grown
    produce to families.
  42. When we went live, 18 months ago,
  43. the food we could sell then
    was somewhat dismal.
  44. We had no fruit
    and hardly any meat to sell,
  45. as none that was sent to the lab
    passed our zero tolerance test
  46. towards pesticides, chemicals,
    antibiotics and hormones.
  47. I told our very anxious employees
  48. that we would not give up until we've met
    every local farmer in China.
  49. Today, we supply 240 types of produce

  50. from 57 local farmers.
  51. After almost one year of searching,
  52. we finally found chemical-free bananas
  53. grown in the backyards
    of villagers on Hainan Island.
  54. And only two hours away from Shanghai,
  55. on an island that even Google Maps
    does not have coordinates for,
  56. we found a place where cows eat grass
  57. and roam free under the blue sky.
  58. We also work hard on logistics.
  59. We deliver our customers' orders
    in as fast as three hours
  60. on electric vehicles,
  61. and we use biodegradable, reusable boxes
  62. to minimize our environmental footprint.
  63. I have no doubt that our offerings
    will continue to grow,

  64. but it will take time,
  65. and I know a lot more people are needed
    to shape the future of good food.
  66. So last year, I founded China's first
    food tech accelerator and VC platform
  67. to help start-ups to shape
    the future of good food
  68. the way they want,
  69. be that through using edible insects
    as a more sustainable source of protein
  70. or using essential oils
    to keep food fresh for longer.
  71. So, you may still ask:

  72. Why are you trying to build
    a sustainable food system
  73. by driving a patient movement
  74. in a country where it's almost
    a crime to take it slow?
  75. Because, for me,
  76. the real secret to success is patience --
  77. a mindful kind of patience
  78. that requires knowing
    how to act while waiting,
  79. the kind of patience I learned
    with my grandmother's magic box.
  80. After all, we do not inherit
    the earth from our ancestors.
  81. We borrow it from our children.
  82. Thank you.

  83. (Applause)