The Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems develops innovative ideas and solutions to the many challenges of current food systems. Taking a holistic and transdisciplinary approach, the Center’s work encompasses water and energy use, carbon footprint and nutrition, innovations in agtech, and the well-being and livelihood of farmers and others working in food systems.
Swette Center (pronounced “swee-tee”) faculty recognize that one-dimensional metrics, like yield per hectare, are important but blind us to many opportunities if not considered within a broader food systems approach. Increasingly, food system analysis is recognized for its power to provide greater understanding of complex interactions and real world dynamics than other kinds of lens, frameworks, or models. Food system analysis can help policymakers and others understand potential trade-offs of proposed interventions, technologies, and policies by taking into account the many aspects of food and agriculture typically studied — agricultural land, inputs, fisheries, infrastructure, labor, and the like — and placing these component parts within an integrated social and environmental context.
At the Swette Center, faculty are reinventing research processes, and by doing so, the Center is producing policy-relevant knowledge to make the consequences of our food choices explicit in quantitative and qualitative terms.
A world where all communities enjoy nutritious food produced from thriving, equitable and environmentally sustainable food systems.
Together we drive social progress, economic productivity and ecosystem resilience through food systems transformation.
- Cultivating the future: Empowering the next generations through leading edge research, education and policy.
- Facilitating and accelerating innovation through cross-pollination: ASU sustainability scientists and scholars connect and collaborate with global food producers, distributors and consumers to solve pressing food systems challenges through holistic systems thinking and design.
- Commitment to our community: We’re more than scholars and policymakers — we’re friends, change agents and embedded partners working with all who shape food systems.
- Accessible Expertise: We are perpetual students that cultivate an inviting environment of curiosity, critical thinking, and networking.
Kelly and Brian Swette
The Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems was established thanks to a major gift from Kelly and Brian Swette.
“We choose to invest in ASU because of its agility, speed, and focus on innovation. The Swette Center engages in cross-disciplinary research and collaborates with many partners, including private sector leaders, to create food system change.”
~ Kelly Swette
Kelly Swette is CEO of Sweet Earth Natural Foods, a company that sells plant-based, natural and organic foods based in Moss Landing, California. Prior to founding Sweet Earth, Kelly was global vice president of Marketing at Calvin Klein and held several significant leadership roles during her 10+ years at PepsiCo. Kelly describes herself as engineer by training, marketer by trade, and foodie by love.
Brian Swette is an ASU alumnus, ASU trustee, and board director for the ASU Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. He is President of Sweet Earth Natural Foods. Former positions include chief operating officer of eBay, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for PepsiCo, and Proctor & Gamble brand manager. Board experience includes service for Burger King, Jamba Juice, FRS Company, and Endeavor.org.
The breadth and reach of ASU research in food and agriculture is significant and growing. Often mistaken as a land-grant university because of its commitment to the sector, ASU’s food and agriculture efforts span its many schools and occurs in local communities, at the national level, and includes outstanding global initiatives recognized for enduring impact.
In 2015, the Food Systems Transformation Initiative was established (FSTI) as a hub for cross-disciplinary faculty research as well as a home for students interested in food systems. Led by Professor Christopher Wharton, now Faculty Coordinator at the Swette Center, FSTI morphed into the larger Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems in 2018. Today the Swette Center maintains a food and agriculture incubator fund as tribute to FSTI’s many contributions.