For redefining the future of food with a focus on sustainable solutions
Japan has a meat problem. The national appetite for beef, chicken and other animal products is on the rise. At the same time, an aging population and limited land make meat hard to produce locally. The result? The country’s food self-sufficiency rating is only 38 percent, a far cry from the government’s goal of 45 percent by 2030.
Enter Megumi Avigail Yoshitomi and the team she works with at Tama University’s Japan Association for Cellular Agriculture (JACA).
Organized by the Center for Rule-making Strategies, the government-supported group of academics and major food brands has set out to define the policies and regulations around lab-based meat, milk and egg products in Japan. “Because cultured meat is a new food, there are almost no rules for marketing or quality control in the world,” she says.
Yoshitomi is no stranger to navigating new terrain. She studied quantum physics before pivoting to the world of global startups and eventually became an analyst at a global investment bank. Still, the potential impact of her current work with cellular agriculture isn’t lost on her.
“This is the biggest project of my life,” she says. And it’s one that will require all the tools in the project manager toolkit.
“We want to contribute to the world’s promotion of sustainable foods, but having a good idea isn’t enough to survive,” Yoshitomi says. “You also need to look at the finances and logistics. You have to be able to understand stakeholder motivations and how to get people on board.”
Q&A: Megumi Avigail Yoshitomi on skeptical stakeholders and curiosity
How do you win over skeptical stakeholders?
Avoid communications that will turn people off. Instead, I talk about social issues, which almost everyone can understand the importance of. And I stress the collaborative nature of solving social issues, because I want to collaborate with as many companies as possible. If the rules we’re trying to create only benefit a small part of the industry, no one will deploy them.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to your (even) younger self?
Be curious and have at least one topic of interest that isn’t part of your day job. It’s also useful to get to know the leading people in the industry through events. In my experience, in emerging areas people tend to be active and frank, so it’s easy to get involved.