A Sustainable Future for Food in NYC

  • Speakers
  • Tim Berkelbach selfieTimothy Berkelbach, Ph.D.Co-Director, Initiative for Computational Catalysis, Flatiron Institute
  • Milagros de Hoz HeadshotMilagros de HozDeputy Director of Strategy and Policy, NYC Mayor's Office of Food Policy
  • Yemi Amu standing in front of a bushel of flowersYemi AmuFounder and Director, Oko Urban Farms
Date & Time

About Presents
Presents is a free events series exploring the connections between science, culture and society. Join our scientists and special guests as they discuss the intersections of their work, followed by an evening of conversation over drinks. It’s an opportunity to hear new perspectives that may challenge your assumptions and stoke your curiosity. Meet interesting people who share a passion for ideas and discovery. Come for the conversation, stay for the connections.

Our connection with the foods we eat has become increasingly distant over the last few decades, influenced largely by the complex systems that bring sustenance to our plates. This issue is especially apparent in large cities such as New York.

Such a disconnect raises challenges as we work to improve public health, combat climate change and protect the environment. What are we missing out on by not being more aware and involved in our food systems? And how can communities in metropolitan areas restore those connections?

Yemi Amu founded Oko Urban Farms, New York City’s first public outdoor aquaponics farm. The farm combines soil-free fish and plant cultivation and strives to familiarize local residents with the benefits of the ecological farming method.

Timothy Berkelbach, a computational quantum chemist at the Simons Foundation’s Flatiron Institute, is developing new techniques to enable more efficient and affordable methods of accelerating chemical reactions. Called catalysis, this process is critical to the food industry, and Berkelbach’s work has potential real-world applications in developing environmentally friendly practices in food production and farming.

As deputy director of strategy and policy at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, Milagros de Hoz works at the intersection of food, the environment and climate. She coordinates with local, state and regional leaders to advance sustainable and low-carbon-emission food initiatives.

Join them as they sit down with Kelsa Trom, the Simons Foundation’s community network manager, for a discussion that examines the food system challenges we face and sheds light on some of the innovative ways in which scientists, community members and local governments are planning for the future of food.


Amu is the founder and director of Oko Farms. In 2013, she established New York City’s first and only publicly accessible outdoor aquaponics farm, the Oko Farms Aquaponics Farm and Education Center. She directs all of Oko Farms’ programs, including education, community-related activities and design and build projects. Amu is one of the city’s leading aquaponics experts and promotes aquaponics as a tool for environmental awareness and stewardship. Over the last decade, she has facilitated the creation and maintenance of over 20 edible spaces throughout NYC and created various culinary, nutrition and gardening programs for youth and adults.

Berkelbach is an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at Columbia University and senior research scientist and co-director of the new Initiative for Computational Catalysis at the Flatiron Institute. He received his B.A. in physics and chemistry from New York University and his Ph.D. in chemical physics from Columbia University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science and an assistant professor at the University of Chicago before returning to New York City in 2019. He performs theoretical and computational chemistry research, seeking to accurately predict material properties and chemical reactions.

De Hoz is the deputy director of strategy and policy for the NYC Mayor’s Office of Food Policy. In her role, she works with local, state, and regional leaders, advocates and academics to develop sustainable and equitable food initiatives.

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