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Back to the future: learning from the past, food diversity and sensory engagement

In the second in our series of interviews with future-thinking innovators, Zurich talks to a Michelin-starred chef and two product and experience designers about industry innovation and how they plan for the future of their industries

Chef and restaurateur JP McMahon is the owner of Michelin-starred restaurant, Aniar, and also Cava Bodega and Tartare in Galway. His contemporary and innovative approach to food and his support for local food producers is exemplary. But more than that, his passion and ability to continually move with the times is what sets him apart.

“For me, diversity is key when thinking about the future of food,” he says. “The future of food is also about connectivity. We have enough food in the world to feed everyone, yet 50 per cent is wasted or not utilised, so we need better networks of distribution.”

According to McMahon, it is important to continue to look at new ways of doing things in business. “I follow my own vision of being self-employed,” he says. With Aniar, McMahon is constantly looking at new ways to explore food and that drives him to try to create a better food movement in Ireland.

When asked to what extent he thinks the future of food will be influenced by the past, he says we can learn a lot from the past and use that information to project into the future. “At Aniar, we're very interested in wild food and foraging, and while we can't go back to a time where people only foraged, we can learn from it and bring that into the future.”

McMahon adds: “My work allows me to improve continually, and to modify the ways in which I think about Irish food. Aniar is not a fixed state ... it is a continual process that changes along with my own vision. I always want to better myself and learn more, and through Aniar I can do that.”

Future technologies

Sara Urasini and Brian Stephens, product and experience designers at Design Partners, talk to Zurich about wearable technology and why the future is closer than we think.

Wearables are essentially fashion with integrated technology, and they are going to be a big deal in the future, according to Sara Urasini from Design Partners. “It started out as small wearable technology, such as earplugs or watches, but in the future technology will get smaller and will be integrated into our clothes and our daily lives,” she says.

Brian Stephens is founder and CEO of Design Partners. He says: “Design is very much about practical things we can do soon, and we are very much about actionable, applicable design that's real and which can impact on peoples' lives.”

There is lots of talk about the future and what it will look like, but we don’t often hear what the future is going to feel like. According to Urasini, this is where things get very exciting. “The future will get completely into sensory engagement and will see us using our senses much more for visual, voice and touch engagement.”

When we think about the future we often think about robots and artificial intelligence, but Urasini says technology is becoming much more personal and integrated into our everyday lives. She believes that while robots will feature in our daily lives, in the future, technology will be constructed around the human body.

Initially starting out in fashion, Urasini moved into industrial design because she says she was inspired to make products for the future. “Fashion at the moment looks just towards seasons and it continues to repeat the seasons rather than looking at what the future vision is. And technology can really bring that into the fashion world,” she enthuses.

Predicting the products of the future is like venturing into the unknown and there is a lot more research and development to be done before the technology is fully integrated into our lives. “The tools that we are designing today are going to make a big difference to what people can do in the future,” Stephens says.

Urasini agrees that it is not easy to look 20 years into the futur,e but, through research, experimentation, forecasting and tracking trends and behaviour, we can go some way to predicting products of the future.

It's important to plan for the future. The choices you make now could make a real difference. Starting a pension is a smart decision. At Zurich we are here to help you every step of the way. Speak to a financial advisor or contact Zurich directly to find out how you can be Future Ready.

Zurich Life Assurance plc is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.