Weird, wonderful, inventive, eco-friendly, life-saving and technologically brilliant – these are just a few of the words used to describe the advances taking place in the food industry at the moment. Read on to learn more.
As people become more aware of how their bodies respond to certain foods, and diets such as the Paleo increase in popularity, so genetic tests are emerging that allow us to streamline a diet that’s best suited to our individual genetic make-up.
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SUGAR REDUCTION TECHNOLOGY
Scientists are coming up with healthy alternatives to sugar, which give food the same palatability, appearance and preserving power. Expect to hear more about lactase enzyme technology, trehalose and MycoSmooth, which utilizes mushrooms (such as shiitake, pictured) to reduce the natural bitterness of cocoa so chocolate can be made with very little sugar.
THE RISE OF VERTICAL FARMS
By 2050, 80% of the global population will live in urban environments, hence a growing movement in cultivating plants in skyscraper greenhouses. Once denounced as a fad, vertical farms are now springing up around the world as a logical response for growing crops as farmland becomes scarce.
HYDROPONIC AND AQUAPONIC FARMS
Several new farming methods don’t use soil. Hydroponic farming uses flowing, nutrient-rich water to grow plants while aquaponic farms are similar, but use a mixture of water and fish waste. The result is produce that grows quicker, and is less likely to succumb to disease. It’s not just farms – the Grove Ecosystem (pictured) is a domestic-sized indoor garden that grows organic plants on clay pebbles.
CROWDFUNDED FOOD INNOVATIONS
Crowdfunding – the practice of raising money for ventures by receiving online contributions – has been around for a decade, but is increasingly the go-to source for getting food-related products off the ground. And such products are popular too; the Coolest Cooler is one of the highest crowdfunded projects of all time.
In 2016, Australian technology company SwarmFarm Robotics plan to roll out the first of its small, lightweight robots that are programmed to weed 24/7. They will also be capable of planting, applying fertilizer, irrigating, harvesting and insect control.
Cloud seeding – the use of chemicals to stimulate rain or snowfall – has been around since the 1940s to help crops grow but is now being implemented to potentially combat droughts and, conversely, floods that are threatening the world’s food supply.
YOUR OWN NUTRITIONAL SCANNER
The Tellspec Food Sensor, a keychain-sized scanner that reads the nutritional composition of food, will enable consumers to know what’s in their food ‘beyond the nutritional label’ as well as read for allergens.
DISCOUNTED FOOD THAT WOULD OTHERWISE BE THROWN OUT
Another way to reduce waste is for outlets to sell food at the end of the day at a discounted price. Apps such as PareUp get this information to consumers. Currently covering New York only – but with plans to expand – the start-up enables customers to locate local deals, while retailers make money and food isn't wasted.
FOOD SAFETY CHECKER
As agricultural pesticides and antibiotics are blamed for causing ill health, so technology comes up with a way to protect consumers. The PENGUIN organic food safety checker from South Korea exposes harmful elements in food or drinks so it’s possible to avoid chemicals and toxic substances.
In an attempt to find an eco-friendly, self-sustainable way of commercial farming, the Ocean Reef Group is developing ways of growing plants in submerged greenhouses. Called Nemo’s Garden Project, the venture utilizes a form of hydroponics to feed plants in ‘biospheres’ that don’t need special temperature systems or LED lighting.