Scenario workshop in Indianapolis

I spent two days in Indianapolis helping Andy Hines (Social Technologies) with a business strategy workshop in Indianapolis. The client was a high tech agriculture science company, who is looking at new opportunities. Part of the process Andy is leading for them included developing scenarios, and Andy brought me in as an outside provocateur.

It was very interesting learning about ag science and food. Coincidently, I’m reading Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Delimma, about how four different meals–industrial, pastoral, and foraged (not sure what the fourth is yet). I’ve also read Nestle’s What to Eat earlier, which is about how to shop for food, and how food is sold to us. So food has been on my mind. There are a lot of similarities between agriculture and energy. Both are high tech, have huge environmental implications, and a re wrought with public policy issues and involvement. There were about 20 people from the ag sciences company, and I was very impressed with their knowledge (not surprising) and also with their concern about the public health implications with food and diet. One of Pollan’s comments is that we are being stuffed with corn and soy products that aren’t good for us, which is an issue much on the mind of this company as well–more as an issue of personal responsibility than profitability. Maybe a “triple bottom line” issue.

The event was held at the Indiana University Emerging Technology Center, about 1 mile north of downtown Indianapolis. Very nice facility, but it was kind of strange that virtually every room was “sponsored” by a local company. But I guess that’s a practical way to raise funds.

This event was also a nice complement to a workshop I attend last month at UC Davis’ Agricultural Sustainability Institute on life cycle analysis of food. They brought together about 12 people from universities in the US and Europe to talk about how to analyze the carbon emissions (and other pollutants) involved in growing and processing food. One of the good news items to come out of this was the instances of companies learning about their carbon footprint, and finding ways to save energy costs, and reduce pollution, at the same time.

IUETC (on left) looking down (south) what had been an old canal, toward downtown Indianapolis. This whole area was nicely redeveloped. The IU/Purdue campus is to the right. State Capitol building barely visible at end of canal:

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Looking north from the center. The old brick building was a church remodeled as a restaurant.

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One of the startling sights was a large coal plant in downtown Indianapolis. About five block from the state capitol…

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