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Target Launches Collaboration with MIT Media Lab, IDEO to Explore the Future of Food

Today, Target announced a new collaboration with MIT’s Media Lab and global design firm IDEO that will explore the future of food. The work will focus on areas such as urban farming, food transparency and authenticity, supply chain and health. Target says the goal of the multi-year collaboration is to push the edges of science, technology and design to give people better control over their food choices and help them to eat healthier.

“By combining the boundless curiosity and discovery of MIT’s Media Lab and IDEO’s human-centered approach to design with Target’s knowledge of retail, we can reimagine the future of food,” said Greg Shewmaker, one of Target’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, who is leading the Food + Future coLAB. “We know more about what’s in our smartphones than we do in the last meal we ate. And that’s something we want to change. This collaboration will help to unlock more options and create more transparency not just for Target’s guests, but consumers everywhere.”

“The challenges around the future of food are so broad, systemic and complex that no one entity can solve for them alone. We have to work together,” added IDEO coLAB Director Matt Weiss.

The project will have several phases:

  • AI Cultivators: Transforming Food and Agriculture

    Join us as HowGood, Journey Foods and Mineral — AI-powered solution providers tailored for the food and ag industry — share their perspectives on the transformative potential of AI in addressing the sector's most pressing challenges, at SB'23 San Diego.

    This month, Target will kick-off a major project with MIT Media Lab’s Laboratory for Social Machines. Through this initiative, the retailer will collect and analyze billions of public data points – spanning brand communications, traditional and social media messages and supply chain information – in an effort to map the global conversations related to food.

  • Later this year, Target will launch a website with IDEO to identify trends and ultimately explore how food will be grown, sold and consumed in the next 15 years.

  • Then in January, Target and IDEO will launch the Food + Future coLAB in Cambridge, Mass. The coLAB, which will draw on research being conducted at the MIT Media Lab, will house multidisciplinary teams from these three organizations, as well as others, tasking them with solving some of the toughest challenges related to food.

  • Target and MIT’s Open Agriculture initiative will also begin a multi-year collaboration to explore city farming across multiple scales of an open platform.

“Our work with Target is a collaboration in the truest sense of the word. The MIT team will bring our expertise in research and technology, while Target brings their ability to scale and reach the world,” said Caleb Harper, Director of the Open Agriculture initiative at MIT’s Media Lab, who will work with Target and IDEO on the city farming initiative. “People like to say things like, ‘the best strawberries come from Mexico.’ But really, the best strawberries come from the climate in Mexico that creates expressions like sweetness and color that we like. We think there is tremendous opportunity to democratize climate through control-environment agriculture and we look forward to kicking off this work with Target.”

Students interested in joining the Food + Future coLAB are encouraged to visit the website to learn more and apply.

More and more organizations are crowdsourcing innovations around global food challenges – in the past few months alone, food solutions were the focus of the Biomimicry Institute’s 2015 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge and the latest challenge issued by the Unilever Foundry.


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