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Foodology—Foodovation— Foodotech- secret trails

Food is an ideology, food has undergone implausible innovations and its production or creation involves a bountiful technicality in terms of science (eg: bio tech) and technology!!!!

Apparently, the fruits and vegetables consumed by individuals isn’t actually ‘natural’- found in nature’ but a byproduct of mutations over centuries (Farrimond, Science Focus, 2019). Interesting facts not to miss: aubergines where synonymous to an egg in appearance (awkward!), carrots were white in colour and peaches looked like cherries and very salty in taste! (Farrimond, Science Focus, 2019). Produce tends to lose it’s nutritious value due to utilization of fertilizers and pesticides. Hence it is believed that food will be infused with the lost mineral and vitamins thanks to DNA editing technique CRISPR-Cas9. A byproduct—- availability of allergy free peanuts soon!!

Nobody (at least a lay man) could seldom imagine the intricacies of science and technology involved in the arena of food production. Cafes and restaurants offer plentiful combinations of smoothies, yoghurts, ice creams and so forth by using almond or soy milk as their base ingredients. However, an interesting revelation to note is, it takes excessive amount of water to produce almond milk! Hence other plant-based alternative of dairy products (milk, cheese, ice creams, yoghurts) are being explored in labs. This sound incredible!

Interesting fact: Experiments are underway to extend the time it takes for ice cream and chocolate to melt. Junk food maybe be reengineered to reduce calories for junk food enthusiasts, a healthy alternative.

Well SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGY played an integral role in the production of food and will continue to do so in the coming centuries.

Just a symbol of social class?

Food is the essence of life, a means of survival, a stimulus to work tirelessly 365 days in order to feed ourselves and loved ones. Unfortunately, food is ascribed a monetary value leaving millions famished around the globe.

Food acts as a status symbol for individuals in society as the saying goes ‘You are what you eat’. Be it from christening themselves vegans, vegetarians or flexitarians to consuming organic and locale produce. (Sometimes considered fads or a topic of controversy (ethics)). Individuals devour international delicacies (fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, poultry items and so forth) from around the world that have travelled immeasurable air miles unaware of its dire consequences on the environment. Individuals who consumed organic items were espoused high class and advocates of the environment. However, a prerequisite for organic farming demands a large area of land for cultivating and is a culprit of greenhouse gas emissions.

Whilst food is celebrated for its innate gifts of nutrients, vitamins and minerals its production is energy/resource intensive and exploitative, resulting in environmental degradation and leaving billions malnourished.

One’s food other’s starvation

Air travel as a means of transportation of fresh food emits a vast amount of CO2 in the atmosphere v/s its transport counterparts. The unprecedented demand for food has led to environmental degradation (soil erosion and loss of soil fertility) of large areas of land due to excessive utilization of fertilizers and pesticides. These fertilizers and pesticides flow into the nearby rivers leading to growth of algal blooms that trap oxygen, hence threatening marine life. Animals at poultry farms are gruesomely illtreated and slaughtered for the satiation of one’s taste buds around the world. Leading to imbalance in biodiversity and food chain. Human beings are exploited across the agricultural and fishery value chains in the form of slave trade or mere negligence.

‘So learning from these realities of life, individuals around the world are racing with time to identify new ways of food production to save our environment and create a sustainable future for generations to come”

Social class replaced by responsible citizens?

Consumption of meat was once a symbol of luxury or opulence across history in all cultures. Over times we witnessed changes in the consumer eating habits in the West spreading across the globe. It showcases a sense of revelation as individuals switch to a vegans, vegetarians or flexitarians. Haling the belief that bolstering these causes would help to save the environment for future generations and meet the accelerating demand for food in the future.

The adoption of alternative meats offered by the likes of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods has gained immense traction in the West, diminishing the need of animal slaughter. Plant based meat production requires 15 times less water consumption than normal production. In addition there is a massive reduction in the emission of methane gases in the atmosphere. Food technologists/ technicians/ scientists seek to understand the composition of animal meat under the lens and replace them with equally nutritious plants (eg: Beyond meat is a mélange of peas and soybean + a few more added natural ingredients). The owner of Impossible Foods baptizes this new wave of alterative meat as a ‘tech product’ that is produced in the labs. An incredible statement. And a milestone for the food industry!

In 2013 a Dutch prof named Mark Post cultivated a hamburger in the lab via the process of cultured or cell-based meat at the Maastricht University. Once again, a procedure that inhibits the need of animal slaughter. According to a study by the University of Amesterdam and Oxford in 2011 it was anticipated that the emission of greenhouse gasses would taper by 96% by the consumption of cultured meat. There are innumerable incredible innovative startups and companies working on this concept, as it lays a foundation for the food of the future.

Not only eating habits but crop production is evolving with time!

Vertical farming seldom requires huge acres of land, soil and extensive labour whilst multiplying crop yield. The secret lies in the way vertical farms are structured i.e. the produce is grown on top of each other (in the form of shelves) within the shield of a controlled environment where variables such as light, temperature, water usage and humidity can be manipulated for efficient yield. These farms can be created anywhere, from exteriors of residential building to office spaces or even shopping malls. The employment of AI in this process is miraculous as it produces massive data helping experts ascertain how much water or light a particular area may demand. Vertical farms possess the ability to produce as much yield that can be obtained from a 2-3-acre farm using merely 340 square feet space. A startling achievement by Square root.

Square Root insists that indoor vertical farms are a ‘living biosystem’, that is absolutely true as mankind can garner its biodiversity again if vertical farms gain scale across the world. Not only Square Root but many other like them inhabit crops in shipping containers near cities to serve the local communities thus reducing the need for transportation costs and miles traveled (depreciating pollution). Square Root owns 10 farms within Brooklyn supplying their produce to over 100 retailers.

The magic formula of indoor farms evades the need of pesticides, fertilizer and wait for it! soil itself! This sounds unbelievable but it is the reality. Theses crops can bud in hydroponic solution or merely an aeroponic atmosphere where they are sprayed with water and nutrients. Vertical farms have pioneered to utilize 70% less water compared to its traditional counterpart.

Aero farms based in NY grows baby kale and arugula using 95% less water and LED lighting. (though employing LED lights is itself contradictory in nature, as it wastes energy- but alternatives are being considered eg: energy created from solar power or wind power near farms). Their produce is ready to eat which seldom requires rinsing hence saving incredible amounts of water. (How on earth is this possible?) They have embedded sensor systems that guide them through the whole process of managing and maintaining variables for each particular plant. The rest of the extra water is recycled in a closed loop irrigation system.

An outstanding technology by Moleaer employs nanobubble tech enabling over 100 indoor farms to connect their irrigation systems to the company’s generator that offers rich oxygen and chemical free water to plant roots. They are venturing into a space farming project with NASA, exploring the mindboggling ideas of how astronauts can grow their own food during space excursion using nanobubble tech.

Vertical farming in the UAE is gaining traction as they intend to attain self-sufficiency via innovative food production, a novel initiative. They believe the process is scalable which barely demands soil, water or acres of land. They are in the process of working out methods for installing or creating cold chain warehouses, a temperature-controlled supply chain and refrigerated storage and distribution systems.

Greenhouses are believed to be high viable commercially than vertical farming according to Puri form Gotham Greens. As witnessed by the weakening prices of lighting. They have gained popularity and relevance being created at a massive scale. Whilst vertical farming establishes itself for mainstream crop production

Blockchain: not for finance only!

Blockchain’s role in agriculture propels the notion of food transparency and traceability, a consumer demand. In addition, blockchain acts as a savior solving countless issues such as food fraud, inefficient supply chains, safety recalls, aiding framers in getting fair prices for their produce, traceability and transparency within the whole supply chain.

What the future bestows?

In the future food may become personalized to our genetic makeup, known as personalized nutrition. 3-D printers and robochefs will establish a place for themselves in the food producing labs, restaurants or our homes. There is a whole world of scope for inventing and reinventing food, playing with tastes, flavors, cellular structures of plants and natural organisms, nutrients, vitamins, minerals and the possibilities are infinite.


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