As molecular biologist Nina Fedoroff wrote in a New York Times opinion piece, “Civilization depends on our expanding ability to produce food efficiently, which has markedly accelerated thanks to science and technology.”
She wasn’t wrong. Food tech is a field that’s developing and expanding at pace – and it’s having a major impact on the F&B industry. And by extension, it’s transforming the potential for F&B to support the world’s population with high quality food products.
New inventions are transforming the way we produce, prepare, and consume food, from plant-based meat substitutes to high-tech kitchen gadgets.
And now that the global population has crept to over 8 billion people, food businesses and government bodies around the world are investing in the potential of food tech to help us feed the world.
Here are just three ways in which food tech is transforming the F&B industry.
Robots and automated systems have been common for some time in the food industry – according to the International Federation of Robots, 240,000 units were sold worldwide in 2015. But robots are rapidly becoming more advanced, with the addition of AI and machine learning capabilities.
They’re improving efficiency and cutting costs in F&B, to enable high production volumes with good quality control.
Intelligent robotics are becoming easier to operate, highly efficient, and they’re minimising production errors – which is incredibly important in an industry where errors can be costly.
Collaborative robots, or ‘cobots’, are specifically designed to enable humans and robots to work safely together – with features that limit force and speed to prevent human injuries. This means repetitive or dangerous tasks can be automated, while more complex and skilled tasks can be undertaken by humans; all in the same working environment.
Food technology is enabling changes in the way we cultivate and manufacture food. Hydroponic and aeroponic farming techniques, for example, allow for the growing of plants in a controlled environment utilising water and fertiliser solutions rather than soil.
Techniques like this are creating the possibility of faster crop growth, larger crop yields, and more sustainable and efficient agricultural operations – utilising the resources that are abundant in any given geographical location, rather than depleting over-consumed resources.
And farmers are increasingly deploying precision agriculture solutions to improve the efficiency of farming practices. Tools including IoTs, drones, and GPS mapping can give farmers accurate, real-time data about land, soil, and crop conditions. And variable-rate input application technologies (VRT) allows farmers to apply inputs such as fertiliser, seed, and pesticides at variable rates across a piece of land – based on the specific needs of each area of land.
Now in 2023, it’s estimated that there are 15.14 connected IoTs around the world. IoTs are ‘Internet of Things’ objects, that are embedded with software or sensors, and are connected to a digital network so they can transmit the information they record. A network of IoTs is the basis for smart technology – systems of tech that record accurate data, analyse it, and provide insights to enable the management of anything from a smart city to an industrial refrigerator.
Smart tech is being used to improve food safety. For example, temperature sensors can monitor food storage and transportation, to ensure that food is kept in optimum conditions.
It can also track and analyse ingredients at each stage of a food supply chain, and alert supply chain managers when a batch of ingredients might be contaminated with a pathogen. Managers can also use smart tech to cross-reference contaminations like this, identify the cause, and minimise the need for widespread product recall – because they can pinpoint exactly where the contamination started and how far it travelled.
The conversation about food tech transformation is an endless one – and at InFlavour, you’ll learn directly from the top innovators in the industry and get an insider look at some of the most influential technologies available right now (and even some that aren’t available yet).
Food tech is having an impact on every area of our industry. From production to distribution to food service (and everything in between), technology is changing our relationship with food; and it’s absolutely central to the development of a resilient industry that can thrive in a changing world.
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