Visions for a regenerative food system in Europe

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At the end of August I had a unique opportunity to attend the European Alpbach Forum in Austria, as I was invited by organizers at Nestlé to moderate an event they were organizing. This was a unique session that included a guided hike in the Alps around the town and a discussion centered on the core themes of which structures, innovation, incentives, models, and mindsets are necessary to enable the transition to regenerative food systems. 

As listeners of this show already know, I’ve explored these concepts a lot in the past but mainly from a farmer and land steward perspective, only a few times exploring the wider industry that processes, distributes, and markets the end products that most people buy. So I was curious to understand how some of the biggest food companies globally and in Europe see the concept of regenerative food systems and their roles and responsibilities within them. 

The event included three speakers, Katja Seidenschnur (the sustainability director at Nestle), Ulrike Middelhoff (Group sustainability manager at Agrana which is a large processor of food ingredients like sugar and starch), and Hans Gnauer (farmer and deputy chairman at Boden Leben, which roughly translates to Living Soil, a conservation ag consulting and education company).

Together they represent perspectives from different sized food processing companies and the supply chain from field to final product. 

Since we knew we wouldn’t be able to record the event itself, The night before, we got together for dinner in the little town of Reith in Tirol and recorded this conversation in a cozy little restaurant. In this case cozy also means that the old wooden benches were quite creaky and that’s the sound in the background which I’m not enough of a sound engineer to have removed completely. Oh well.

In this conversation with the three of them we started by talking about each of their visions for a regenerative food system and what actions and resources they think are needed to make them a reality. I picked apart a few of the answers to get beyond the easy proposals and challenge a few of the assumptions beyond them.

We also go into the roadblocks and challenges that are holding these ideas back and the responsibilities that each of them and their representative companies or communities have in transforming the current food system to one that goes even beyond sustainability.

I’m really glad to have had the chance to get to know each of the speakers during our event and it gave me some valuable insights into the paradigm and thought process behind each of these representative members of the food system that has changed so much of how we eat and experience food in recent decades.

I really hope to continue to participate in conversations like this and help to shape the dialogue and priorities that these companies base their policies and practices on.

If any of you out there would like to hear me explore any particular topic or perspective from other aspects of the food industry, you can join the conversation and make requests on our Discord community which you can sign up for for free on our website at

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