Let’s start this year with a couple of things I’ve been up to recently.
State of indoor farming for 2017. I worked on this report for agtech start-up Agrylist. It’s based on data from a questionnaire filled by 150+ indoor farmers worldwide. Inside you’ll find an in-depth analysis of yields, profit, costs, technology, goals and expectations of indoor growers.
Insect Meal Means Business: an Interview with Cricket One Co-Founder Bicky Nguyen. Cricket One is a Vietnamese start-up that farms and grinds crickets for pet and human consumption. This is an interview I did with co-founder Bicky.
Quality or quantity? Both, actually
As if climate changes were not enough, rising levels of CO₂ in the atmosphere are also increasing carbohydrates in crops. And because there’s only so much space in plants, their nutrient content is shrinking. The effects of this phenomenon on people’s health have hardly been studied so far, but now scientists are realising it may be worth a more in-depth look.
The great nutrient collapse
And it’s not only about quality, quantity is being affected too. According to a study published by the National Academy of Sciences in the US,
Technology against food waste: a recap
How many ways are there to use technology to reduce food waste? An inexhaustive list could be:
- improving the storage environment by reducing oxygen, ethylene or ethanol, which produce emit naturally and accelerate spoilage;
- wrapping produce in an edible tasteless peel;
- or keeping it hydrated in warm climates;
- real-time monitoring of storage conditions;
- redistributing surplus;
- monitoring what food is being thrown away in commercial kitchens.
Here are 12 start-ups doing exactly that: https://foodtank.com/news/2017/08/food-waste-technologies/
The $165 billion question
There’s no shortage of creativity and technology to reduce food waste. The problem is to measure how much is food is actually being wasted.
Six months ago, a study suggested that the often-quoted “40% of all food in the United States goes uneaten, which amounts to $165 billion” is inaccurate.
To get a better estimate, three US cities implemented field research. And by field, I mean garbage field.
Just how much food do cities squander?
How would you define food?
Once upon a time, when life was simple, that would have been a silly question. These days, the age of food innocence seems to be gone forever. The moment we try to attach a quality to food, the whole thing quickly becomes a mess. Here are a few examples.
The meaning of “safe”
GRAS, aka to the best of our current knowledge, that food is safe. If you think the definition is not conclusive, you’re right. Just like the science of nutrition. Indeed, the FDA recently revised and (supposedly) improved it.
The term “generally recognized as safe”? You can now generally recognize as sound.
The meaning of “natural”
In the meantime, the definition of “natural food” is keeping a lot of lawyers and judges busy: The raging legal battle over what makes a food ‘natural’
The meaning of “organic”
Hydroponic farms use water instead of soil to grow crops. Organic hydroponic certification has been allowed in the US since 2014. At the end of 2017, The National Organic Standards Board further extended the possibility for hydroponic farming to be certified organic. And a heated debate ensued.
It’s the end of “organic” as we know it
For a detailed history of how hydroponics came to be allowed to be certified organic, read this: The Hydroponic Invasion of USDA Organic
Made with love? The FDA doesn’t think so
Even putting an innocent phrase such as “made with love” on a food package has become unlawful. A small industrial bakery was reminded by the FDA in a warning letter that “Love is not an ingredient.”
I respectfully disagree.
Gluten-free wheat bread, anyone?
If you are a GMO opponent who’s also coeliac, brace yourself for a serious dilemma: would you eat genetically engineered gluten-free wheat bread?
Scientists are working on it, with encouraging results, they say.
A few for the founders
Corporations and food-tech start-ups: a match made in London
Large companies have finally started to notice all the work that food-tech start-ups are doing. And partnerships are growing. London-based Crowdfooding is a collaborative platform with the mission to foster exactly those collaborations. They recently soft-launched an interactive global food-tech map, also in partnership with yours truly. Check it out here.
This article is from last September, but it’s not too old to share it:
The State of AgriFood Tech Startups in Europe