Feeding the World of Tomorrow: The Key Challenge of the Milan World’s Fair

Summary

The Universal Expo has just opened in Italy. The theme? Feeding the planet. A real challenge for today but also for the future.

02Juin.
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Over the course of six months, Milan will be able to boast the honorary, unofficial title of “biggest restaurant in the world.” Here, in a space covering more than 10 million square yards in the city’s western suburbs (in Rho), some 80 Expo 2015 pavilions have been setting up since May 1. “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” is the official theme of this major global event. The common goal of the national delegations is to respond to the food challenge posed by a growing population, expected to exceed the 9 billion mark in 2050.

Both local and global

On this sunny May morning, neighbors from Italy, tourists from the furthest reaches of the globe and excited school groups stroll along the mile-long central walkway, on the lookout for new taste experiences and a sort of “world tour” of discoveries as they go door-to-door to the different pavilions. 360° films, 3D immersions, and do-it-yourself experiences: all of the pavilions – each with architecture more innovative than the next – display their own visions of food, emphasizing their unique national features, know-how and possible solutions for both local and global issues.

The Expo’s true richness lies in this multitude of national perspectives. Although no particular magic formula stands out for feeding the planet’s expected 9 billion inhabitants in 2050, each pavilion contributes its own ideas – in short, its “ingredients.” Some of the key trends include saving water, including by means of aquaponics, notably presented in the basement of the Belgian Pavilion (whose “drip-fed” lettuces are served at the restaurant one story up). The American “vegetable farm,” growing some 40 different plants, also heralds a new form of urban agriculture. Meanwhile, nanotechnologies can be found in both the design of new, more resistant varieties of rice (in the Bangladeshi Pavilion) and the development of food capable of growing under extreme conditions, like Italian tomatoes tested in space!

The French Pavilion is one of the most popular with visitors.

Nestling between the Dutch “prairie,” with its fairground tents, and the Israeli building set off by an impressive “vertical farm” on one of its walls, the French Pavilion is one of the most popular with visitors. It is a vast hall made of Jura wood, whose food provisions and “Made in France” symbols hanging from the ceiling give it the appearance of a local farmers’ market, both friendly and prestigious. France’s pavilion – with its budget of more than €23 million – was financed by the State, a number of regional authorities and a handful of companies, including Danone. Visitors can taste local treats there, and also learn about the challenges and innovations in France’s agricultural and agrifood sector.

Six worlds

A dome for each of six worlds: quality products, Michelin-starred chefs, atypical geography, wine-making, the cultivation of herbs and medicinal plants, and an exploration of Evian’s water.

One of the most visible partners is the Rhône-Alpes Region, which installed six domes measuring 20 feet in diameter at the back of the hall, offering visitors a tasty, sensory tour. A dome for each of six worlds: quality products, Michelin-starred chefs, atypical geography, wine-making, the cultivation of herbs and medicinal plants, and an exploration of Evian’s water. Presenting the last world is a cool, peaceful shelter that has become a favorite among visitors, some of whom use it as a backdrop to immortalize the moment in a selfie or a group photo… More souvenirs are available in the form of “Made in France” products in the pavilion gift shop, and guests can also create new memories with a “chef’s meal” served on-site. Food for the mind and palate alike!

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Photos: © CMC / XTU / STUDIO A. RISPAL /SIMONIN Frères/ALN