Digifest Profile: Dana McCauley

Digifest x NOW Digital Residency

As part of this month’s Digifest x NOW Digital Residency, we’re profiling speakers and prominent thinkers associated with George Brown College’s Digifest festival (April 26-28, 2018). See all of the profiles here.

What do you do in your industry? 

In a nut shell, my job is to create jobs. Specifically, I help companies working on the farm to fork continuum – to identify the new product opportunities that will grow their businesses. I help them to apply food-trend insights to create new products that people not only want but will pay for. 

What are you looking forward to most at this year’s Digifest? 

As a child, I was a fan of The Jetsons cartoon series because I love thinking about how we’ll integrate technology into our future lives. I can’t wait to learn more about what other sector specialists envision for tomorrow with respect to transit, housing and socializing! (Fingers crossed for flying cars!)

What does it mean to “future-proof” a city?

That’s a huge question! I think there is great benefit in exploring the extreme borders of our options so that we can anticipate both the benefits and downsides of what happens if our wishes come true. 

For example: I recently heard an animal scientist speak at an alternative meats conference. She studied what would happen if we eliminated meat animal production on our planet. While she identified some real benefits such as lower CO2 impact, she also learned that there would be downsides to the planet becoming vegan such as lack of fertilizer for plants and some micro-nutrient shortages necessary for optimal childhood nutrition. Then there was the unappetizing need to euthanize millions of cute farm animals.

Ultimately, to future-proof cities, we need to study the implications of our new ideas so that we can have balanced expectations and make worst-case-scenario plans in advance. 

3D printing and virtual reality have captured the imagination of consumers and industry. What do you think the next big technological innovation will be? 

I’m seeing a lot of interesting work happening in the food fraud/food authenticity space. Using DNA and isotope maps to analyze our food will soon be common methods for validating country of origin and product ingredient claims. Likewise, blockchain – a buzzword in the food and crypto-banking spaces – is going to give us so much access to information about food that it boggles the mind. Currently using blockchain is quite energy-intensive but regardless, this technology has the potential to make our food supply 100 per cent transparent. 

Name one woman in the tech industry who inspires you.

I’m intrigued by Vicki Saunders of SheEO. She has not only used tech to support women-led companies, she’s done it by rallying women around a common cause and creating a dynamic community. 

If you had to take a break from technology for one day, how would you spend that time? 

Getting out into the forest. I find that a walk in the woods is the ultimate ‘reset’ and that once I get back to my gadgets, I have a lot of fresh new ideas that take my work into new directions. 

Visit the Digifest x NOW Digital Residency

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