Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tech + Food is Hot!

While sitting at your local Chipotle eating guacamole, you are completely focused on its wonderful green color, smooth texture, and how well it complements the salsa. It is so good, in fact, it may never occur to you to start thinking about the global impact of food production on your life.

This may sound too philosophical for lunchtime. But trust me, such deep philosophical questions can come up, especially if you read in the news that sooner or later you might not be able to eat your guacamole anymore. One pressing question that pops up is how can we produce food more efficiently and sustainably while combatting the negative impacts of climate change?

The opportunities for innovation in the food sector are huge, especially in the context of changing climate conditions, greater awareness of customers about sustainability issues, and increasing demand for high quality food. Not surprisingly, tech start-ups are at the forefront of this quest for greater productivity and healthier food. Here are some of the most interesting startups on the market today: 

Image via Bright Farms
BrightFarms tries to address the problem of land and water conservation, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, and agricultural runoff by launching state-of the-art tech farms in your neighborhood. Some examples of their recent hi-tech greenhouses include the rooftop greenhouse at The Manhattan School for Children, and the rooftop greenhouse at Forest Houses, an affordable housing project in the Bronx.

Blue River Technology uses computer vision and robotics to precisely measure each salad you would consume in the future in order to avoid agricultural waste and reduce the amount of fertilizers used. They developed the LettuceBot, a precision thinning system delivered by cutting-edge robotics and machine-learning algorithms that make plant-by-plant decisions to increase yield with a goal to earn more value from the exact same acre.

Granular designs business software and analysis platforms that allow producers to improve efficiency, yields and profits in their fields. Their goal is critical–to address the growing demand for food, especially proteins, to support the increasing global population, which will reach 3 billion by 2050. Pressure will be on the farmers who will need to double their production, manage their environmental footprint, and adapt to changing climate in order to feed this growing population. 

Hampton Creek Foods is an egg replacing start-up with a very interesting business preposition. They try to disrupt the egg market by using highly tech and data-driven processes to produce egg-free food alternatives for products like mayonnaise and cookie dough, which, according to them, provide a cheaper, healthier and more humane alternative to using eggs.

Technology’s entrance into the food sector gives us hope that in the future we can not only produce more effectively and pollute less, but also be more healthy and have a less severe impact on our environment.

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