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Mentor Experiences - Christel

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

Author: Christel Caliwara

Hello everyone, I am Christel Marianne - a food technology student in the Philippines with a background in culinary arts and agriculture.

Mentoring in Feeding the Future hackathon has been a remarkable experience. Being from Asia, it’s quite a riveting episode to research about the Finnish food scene to prepare me for this event. The hackathon aimed to solve four challenges: sustainable farm2fork solutions, reducing carbon “food” print, making a new and tasty fish product, and increasing the Finnish-African food trade. Some of the questions that I’ve initially asked myself were regarding microbiological interactions, chemical and enzymatic reactions, and the appropriate packaging for the Baltic herring. I’ve also started reading up on the circular economy. In gearing up, one has to go beyond the local landscape to incorporate tailor-made insights for a country that’s her uncharted territory. You’ve also got to configure and construct a vantage point that can capture the needs and address the demands of the world.

Meeting individuals from eclectic backgrounds was an invigorating occasion. While jumping from table to table on the Remo platform talking to people, I stumbled upon this talented team from California and they were engrossed in a dynamically educational talk with one of the mentors about carbon footprint. I got reminded of my ruminant methane gas emissions research paper in business school and started to chip in. Then I said, “Wait, how can my formula to calculate global cow farts sound sensible?” As lighthearted as that might sound, everybody has a specific role and veritably an extensive professional history in their craft whether in IT, sustainability, marketing, business, management, innovation, sciences - you name it. It shifts you into an analytical articulation where you try to figure out what the others are thinking as well. Barriers between diverse trades were broken down and everyone was brought together in congruence with pursuing a common goal. A collaboration like this brings about brilliant perspectives from myriad locations. There will always be salient topics that you’ll be able to deliberate about. At times like these, it is positively practical to be not wearing someone else’s shoes.

Amidst the time zone difference, I had no dilemma with staying awake until 3 AM as I was pumped and hyped to be presenting feedback to the team submissions after each deadline. It’s truly compelling to witness the boundless ideas that competitors around the world were pelting out within the short time frame of a weekend, particularly those with defined clarity. The event schedule actually proved to be an asset as I could participate during my evenings without grazing my daily work. It’s also hard to miss anything because all the workshops and hackathon video recordings were posted on Discord which has proven to be a super active communication hub throughout the competition.

After days of vibrant consultations and mentorship meetings about food product innovation, value-adding through transparency, agriculture, trade, carbon footprint, food safety, processing, and packaging, among others – the heat suddenly turned up! Just when I thought that the excitement couldn’t get any higher, my phone started pinging for emergency feedback and last-minute inquiries. It was a moment of tranquillity after that with the adrenaline spewing its last fizzles. While gripping my seat watching the hackathon finals, it’s such a rewarding experience to discover that the team that I’ve closely mentored actually won in their category. The results were also an all-encompassing victory since the start-ups and brewed ideas are going to be implemented for the benefit of many. How do we decipher the ecosystem and sustainability? Food is a basic need that all of us can relate to but can we comprehend food in the same manner that it understands us? This adventure has ingrained in me that strategy of challenging our mindsets, daily patterns, and lifestyles so that we can be thinkers who are actually doers in society.

Congratulations to the winners and also to everyone who got involved in this project. Huge thanks to all the participants, volunteers, my co-mentors, the sponsors: Suomen Pientuottajatukku, Forum Virium Helsinki, SärkiFood Oy, and Ambitious Africa + FinestNinja, especially to FoodTechies Finland for making this event such a huge success. I do appreciate how they’ve been so prepared and quickly responsive to the complexities of running a hackathon.

Remo was quite an adept simulation of face-to-face interactions. I could hear the smiling exhaustion from the voices of people that have turned into familiar colleagues who were, by the way, still alive and kicking during the afterparty!

In between e-tequilas at the Remo bar, while discussing augmented reality with some of the mentors, I’ve been pondering that this Feeding the Future Hackathon was truly worth the time and effort. I’m looking forward to supporting and joining upcoming events that FoodTechies has in store. : )

Christel -

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