Monthly Archives: December 2015

From Vertical Farms to Edible Insects, Lily Shen on the Future of Food

On December 3, I attended Columbia Entrepreneurship Night: The Future of Food Sustainability. Dean Mary Boyce of SEAS moderated a panel of experts who are leading the way in providing solutions to the challenges of food sustainability.  Here are some highlights from their presentations.


Presenters (L-R): Dickson Despommier, Sonny Wu, David Rosenberg, Adrian Durrani, and SEAS Dean Mary Boyce

Dickson Despommier, emeritus professor in microbiology and public health. With increasing urbanization around the world, cities must produce more of their own food by growing it indoors and on rooftops, in skyscrapers—essentially vertical farming. With vertical farming, we can reduce and control food contamination and GMOs, pesticides, and agricultural runoff—a major source of pollution.

Adrian Durrani ’81SEAS, CEO of American Halal/Saffron Foods and president of Condor Ventures, a firm devoted to strategic investing in natural food companies. There is a crisis in the agricultural industry, which mistreats animals and exploits farmworkers. Overuse of hormones in animals, and toxic, polluted farmland all pose health risks. Sustainable organic farming is part of the solution and it can also provide decent wages to farmworkers.

David Rosenberg  ’02BUS, founder of AeroFarms, a clean technology company that builds and operates advanced vertical farms in urban environments. Vertical farming uses 95 percent less water and is 70 times more productive than land farms. Scientists are figuring out ways to optimize taste and nutrition density in food grown in vertical farms. Eating insects can be an alternative protein source requiring fewer resources to produce.

Sonny Wu, managing director of GSR Ventures, which focuses on investments in the new materials and new energy sectors.  In China, Wu’s home country, he has invested in a home modular system to grow food on balconies. GSR Ventures has also invested in Rosenberg’s company, AeroFarms.


Eat Offbeat team

After the panel discussion, I enjoyed touring demo team tables staffed by food startups founded by Columbia alumni, students, and faculty, including Sharebite, a food ordering platform that allows you to make a social impact; Eat Offbeat, offers home-style ethnic meals conceived, prepared, and delivered by refugees resettled in NYC; and Untamed Sandwiches, an eatery offering food produced locally and sustainably.

I left thinking that maybe one day balcony farms and a dinner of munchable bugs won’t seem that farfetched. Clearly Columbians are at the forefront of food sustainability thinking!

Jerry’s Picks 15.35

Welcome to the 2015 finale. This year we inaugurated Your Event Stories  written by our colleagues. We hope they inspire your New Year’s resolution to (1) attend at least one Columbia event a season; (2) invite  a friend, prospect or alum along; and (3) share your stories here.

Thanks, Carolina Castro, Brian Chapman, Linda Ury Greenberg, Ryan Hart, JoAnn Huether, and Lily Shen for your stories. You can read them all here

See you next year!

Tonight: An Evening with Jules Feiffer
December 8: Learning to March: Selma 1965 and its Legacy with Congressman John Lewis and
Death and Dying in West Africa
December 9: Justice Poetry Featuring the BreakBeat Poets and Global Exposure
December 11: Women, Music, Power: A Concert by the International Contemporary Ensemble
December 12: Rudresh Mahanthappa: Bird Calls


December 10
7 p.m.
School of the Arts
Mat Johnson – Creative Writing Lecture Series
A conversation with Mat Johnson, professor at the University of Houston creative writing program and author of the novels Loving Day, Pym, Drop, and Hunting in Harlem; the nonfiction novella The Great Negro Plot; and the comic books Incognegro and Dark Rain. Dodge Hall, Room 501. (Public Square)

December 11
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
European Institute | Harriman Institute
Cold War Public Diplomacy: The Power of Culture
A student conference with Adam Tooze, Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of History and director of the European Institute; Victoria Phillips, lecturer in history; Richard R. John, professor of history and communications; and Lynn Garafola, professor of dance at Barnard. Panel topics include “World Leaders and Propaganda,” “Soft Power,” “The Performance of Cultural Exchange,” and “Broadcasting ‘Truth’”. Full list of speakers and program here. RSVP here. Hamilton Hall, Room 302. (Global, Just Societies)

December 14
4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Presidential Scholars in Society and Neuroscience
The Complexities of Choice in the Real World
Panelists will discuss individual mechanisms that underlie decision-making in social environments. Including Michael Platt, the Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor at the University of Pennsylvania; L. A. Paul, professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Alessandra Casella, professor of economics. Moderated by David Barack, 2015 Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience. Reception to follow. Maison Française, Buell Hall. (Zuckerman Institute and the Future of Neuroscience)

8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Maison Française | Heyman Center for the Humanities | Center for Contemporary Critical Thought | Film and Media Studies Program
Radical Grace
Philosopher, playwright, novelist, and political activist Alain Badiou will be in conversation with filmmakers and James Schamus about the role of art in response to present tragic circumstances, including the recent attacks in Paris and around the world. Columbia Law School, Jerome Greene Hall, Room 101. (Just Societies, Public Square, Global)

December 19
1 p.m.
CAA Arts Access | Columbia Alumni Association | Miller Theatre
The Carnival of the Animals
Miller Theatre inaugurates a new holiday tradition with a playful production that brings to life the 19th century French composer Camille Saint-Saëns’ musical The Carnival of the Animals. Camille Saint-Saëns’ zoological fantasy comes to life on stage with a modern twist on the Victorian toy theater combining music, scenic elements, puppetry, and movement, along with the poetry of Ogden Nash. Join the CAA for a pre-performance pizza party and art making activities at the Columbia Alumni Center at 1 p.m. The performance starts at 3 p.m. at Miller Theatre. Purchase tickets here.

For RSVP, ticket availability, and other details, follow the links. We always appreciate hearing from you about future events!

Jerry’s Other Picks 15.34

This week, a special Jerry’s Picks round two. So many happenings, so little December! Check out our event stories from colleagues around the University. And be sure to submit your story here!

Tonight: World AIDS Day – Launch Party and Panel Discussion for Dying Words
December 2: Narrative Medicine Rounds: Rick Guidotti
December 3: The Science and Art of Confidence: What Women Need to Know
December 3 – 5: The Politics of Memory: Victimization, Violence, and Contested Memories of the Past
December 9: Justice Poetry Featuring the BreakBeat Poets – Public Humanities Initiative and Global Exposure

December 3
6 p.m.
Department of Art History and Archaeology | Middle East Institute
Modernities: Discontent and Alliances
Part of a series of lectures entitled ‘Islamic’ Art: Disrupting Unity and Discerning Ruptures addressing the historiography of the field Islamic art by scoring the particular moments of ruptures that fractured its foundations. Nada Shabout, director of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute at the University of North Texas, and Zainab Bahrani, Edith Porada Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology, will be in discussion. Schermerhorn Hall, Room 612. (Global)

7 p.m.
Columbia Engineering | Columbia Entrepreneurship
The Future of Food Sustainability
Discussants will look at how startups can address famine, drought, mass relocations, climate change, and more. Speakers include Dickson Despommier, emeritus professor of microbiology and public health; Adnan Durrani ’81SEAS, CEO of American Halal/Saffron Roads; David Rosenberg ’02BUS, founder or AeroFarms; and Sonny Wu, managing director of GSR Ventures. Moderated by Dean Mary C. Boyce (engineering). Reception to follow. Purchase tickets here. Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street. (Global, Climate Change)

December 8
12 p.m.
Center for American Studies
Learning to March: Selma 1965 and its Legacy with Congressman John Lewis
Civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis will discuss his award-winning, New York Times bestselling graphic novel series March, and his campaign to use graphic novels to revolutionize civil rights and nonviolence education. Lewis will be joined in conversation by Andrew Aydin, co-author, digital director, and policy advisor to the congressman. Registration required here. Italian Academy. (Just Societies, Public Square)
4:30 p.m.
Columbia Medical Center
Death and Dying in West Africa: Understanding Cultural Traditions and Conflicting Biomedical Imperatives During the Ebola Epidemic
An Alexander Ming Fisher Dean’s Lecture by Craig Spencer ’13PH, director of global health in emergency medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian, has worked in Africa and Southeast Asia as a field epidemiologist on numerous projects examining access to medical care and human rights. Most recently, Spencer provided medical care to West Africa during the Ebola epidemic. He was also one of the first people in New York to be diagnosed with the disease and be successfully treated. Alumni Auditorium, 650 West, 168th Street. (Global, Just Societies)

6 p.m.
Miller Theatre
Pop-Up Concerts: TILT Brass – Wild Ones
Brooklyn’s TILT Brass ensemble takes the stage for the final pop-up of the fall. TILT presents new works by contemporary composers Anthony Coleman, Chris McIntyre, and Catherine Lamb. TILT will also provide their interpretations of existing works, such as an all-brass version of James Tenney’s Swell Piece and Australian composer Liza Lim’s Wild Winged One. The event will be first come, first seated. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Miller Theatre.

December 12
8 p.m.
Miller Theatre
Rudresh Mahanthappa: Bird Calls
Miller isn’t just classical! Mahanthappa, composer and alto sax, is best known for his blend of jazz and Southern Indian music. His latest project, Bird Calls, is a multi-cultural ensemble that weaves in modernist electronic music with Charlie Parker’s style. Performance includes Adam O’Farrill (trumpet), Matt Mitchell (piano), Thomson Kneeland (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). Purchase tickets here. Miller Theatre.

For RSVP, ticket availability, and other details, follow the links. We always appreciate hearing from you about future events!