From smart refrigerators to food delivery apps, technology is transforming the food industry.
The Innovation Group attended Food Loves Tech, a new event created by Edible Manhattan and VaynerLive in partnership with Audi, for a preview of the tech-connected food of the future. “Technology is transforming every aspect of how we eat, from how food is produced to how food is experienced,” says Dr. Irwin Adam Eydelnant, Creative Director for Food Loves Tech. “We wanted to create a platform that let all of the innovators in the industry to come together, share their stories and show technology as a partner in our food story.” The exhibition was divided into different sectors representing parts of the food chain: In the Field, In the Home, In the City, and On the Horizon.
In the Field
The future of food production includes indoor farms, lab-grown meat, and drones that look after farmland.
Indoor urban farming
To eliminate unpredictable weather, companies have been investing in indoor, controlled farming environments. The New Jersey company Aerofarms builds, owns and operates indoor vertical farms, and is set to transform a former steel factory into the world’s largest indoor vertical farm in Newark this year. Brooklyn-based Edenworks is an indoor farm that uses aquaponics to farm both fish and plants.
The meat of the future could be grown in a laboratory. American-based research institute New Harvest is developing new ways to produce agricultural products such as meat, milk and eggs using “cellular agriculture.” Still in the research stage, the company aims to “re-think the supply chain of animal products” and provide an alternative meat option that offers consistent quantity and quality, while also reducing the negative environmental effects of traditional agriculture.
See our Food + Drink trend report for more on The New Omnivores—the key companies and consumers rethinking our relationship with meat.
New York-based technology company Marvel Vision is introducing drones for farmers. “UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) have dramatically changed the farming industry by affording operators an unprecedented range in remote sensing and deployment,” says Pablo Marvel, CEO of Marvel Vision. “A major advantage is the ability to automate these systems for a number of processes, such as spraying fertilizers and pesticides. On the analytical side, UAVs can map out farmland and, with sensors that gauge the health of crops, pinpoint areas of both concern or potentially higher yield.”
In the Home
The next generation kitchen will empower consumers with app-operated microfarms and smart appliances that track the nutritional content of home-cooked meals.
The future kitchen may offer the ultimate hyperlocal agriculture if it includes SproutsIO—a connected microfarm system that allows consumers to grow anything from chili peppers to tomatoes. According to SproutsIO, the system only consumes 2% of water and 40% of the nutrients required by traditional soil-based farming. In addition, a connected app allows users to water their produce remotely.
In our Food + Drink trend report we discuss the world’s first robotic kitchen, Moley, set to launch in 2017. At Food Loves Tech, futuristic appliances were smaller and more manageable. San Francisco–based company June showcased the Intelligent Oven—an oven with “precision sensors” that allow for controlled cooking. Oliso introduced the Smart Hub, a portable cooker that “brings the capabilities of the professional kitchen to the home,” according to the company. Silicon Valley-born SmartyPans creates cooking vessels that track the nutrition of their contents.
In the City
Chicago-based Farmer’s Fridge has de-junked the vending machine and filled it with locally grown and freshly assembled salads. The menu offers a variety of options and each salad is carefully crafted to offer optimum nutrition in a jar. Juicebot offers cold-pressed juice from a vending machine, which the company says retains the nutrition better than pre-packaged bottled raw juice.
On the Horizon
This part of the exhibition offered a longer view of the future of food, from virtual reality to 3D printed food. While 3D printed food is not necessarily new, it has advanced from an experimental novelty (for example, pasta printed at Google’s headquarters four years ago) to a more practical way to customize a range of foods. Austin, Texas company BeeHex, launched in 2015, prints “healthier customized food.” At the moment the company only prints pizzas, but it plans to expand into more food categories in the near future.
See our Food + Drink trend report for more on the future of food.