Food and Technology: What’s the Future?
For the past 30 years, technology has become an important, almost essential, part of our daily life. From the way we go around to the way we communicate, from how we watch, read and shop, and even the way we learn and travel. Could we really live a life without technology nowadays?
There are so many ways in which technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have come into our lives, even when we may not know and recognize that. And the food industry is the perfect example. The use of technology in the sector has indeed changed the way in which food is produced and consumed. Even though the future does not totally belong to technology-driven food production, these techniques do have a critical role to play: food technologies like bio-innovation, robotics, gene editing, and AI have redesigned the way in which we produce food, we meet the global demand and the way we present it. How? Let’s have a look.
A new approach to the production system
Since machines have appeared in the fields, they’ve become farmers’ closest allies. Recent technological developments have taken this alliance to a whole new level. Known as agribots, they are having a major impact on farming as they can increase productivity, increasing crop yields and addressing labor shortages. While agribots are gaining major attention through the agricultural sector, drones have actually been the game-changer. They can not only monitor crop yields, soil levels, and weather patterns to increase efficiency on the farm, but also use analysis from the findings to test the soil and the health of the crops. This rise of robotics in the food industry is a tangible example of food tech. According to the latest stats on the topiche number of robots in the European food industry is well over 30,000, while the number of robots per 10,000 employees rose from 62 in 2013 to 84 in 2017.
Are we running out of food?
There are 7.8 billion people in the world at the moment, but by 2030, per the UN, the global population is expected to number around 8.5 billion, which means 8.5 billion mouths to feed. Consequently, there is a need for focused action to increase food yield. According to a report published by ING in April 2019, technology helps food manufacturers produce more efficiently for a growing world population. How? Through food fabrication, nerd farming, and waste recycling, food technology is helping all the major stakeholders in the industry to meet the growing demand for food and to develop sustainable modes of production.
You should also please the eye
When it comes to food, 3d printing isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind. However, in the past few years, 3D printing has really taken off across the industry. It opens the door for innovation being able to create many things that we were unable to before. Chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut recently opened its first chocolate 3D printing studio through its subsidiary Mona Lisa, which specializes in the decoration of these sweets. It is the first structure of its kind, where top chefs will be able to test new ideas and imagine complex and original creations. This innovation revolutionizes the world of craftsmanship in chocolate, as it combines industry-leading production technology, bespoke design and Barry Callebaut’s know-how in the field of chocolate – allowing chefs to make unique creations and to reproduce them quickly and cheaply, regardless of complexity or specificity of the design. Spanish pastry chef Jordi Roca was able to test this workshop for one year. He explains: “This new way of working with chocolate will surprise consumers, with shapes previously unthinkable, made to scale and with impressive precision. I’m usually inspired by things I can’t do because they represent a creative challenge – but now, thanks to Mona Lisa’s 3D studio, I can take my chocolate know-how to the next level. I can imagine any new type of design and it will come to life.” It is thanks to the studio’s 3D printers that he was able to design “Flor de Cacao” which represents a cocoa bean that opens on contact with a hot chocolate sauce.
Credit featured photo: MONA LISA 3D STUDIO – print farm