Food and sustainability

Ten trends in food sustainability

The Sustainable Development Goals in terms of food, directly mentioned four main objectives: ending hunger, achieving food security, improving food nutrition and promoting sustainable production. Seeds&Chips - an the International Summit dedicated to food innovation from farm to fork – heped to spot ten trends that are driving the food-tech industry towards this aimed more sustainable foodscape.

Until now, labels were giving information about original ingredients, ignoring the result of cooking processes. Massive public and private structured-data infrastructures has been built around medicinal value of drugs, while the role of food, diet, and lifestyle has been largely undervalued. The scene is quickly changing. The democratization of nutritional information is here to stay. The final goal is to achieve food security and knowledge through traceability, at the largest scale possible, leveraging on sensors, analysis system and applications, specific nutrients presence and building data infrastructures to create a world common food-print. This is increasingly associated to health world. From probiotic beverages to functional food, edible solutions that help preventing or curing various pathologies are quickly emerging. It is called bio-informatics and the goal is to unlock food sources, providing natural, sustainable and scientifically proven health solutions. The design of a new food system plays a crucial role in minimising food consumption while maximising its nutrient injection, using existing or new products through food fabrication. Different from robotics-based food manufacturing technologies (which are designed to automate manual processes for mass production), 3D food printing integrates technology and digital gastronomy technique to manufacture completely customised food products.
Ingredients can now be matched working with aromas (80% of what we call taste is actually aroma) to empower everyone to make the best food choices in terms of taste and nutritional value. This is just an example of how data analysis and machine learning are now applied to the food space.
The power of technology in helping our food system to become increasingly more sustainable is huge. Food production can be retooled to accommodate high-density urban living and maintain food security despite a future of increasing climate instabilities and vulnerabilities. It is called nerd farming.

Cheaper and healthier choices
Another big branch of change concerns opening new choices. Trends towards 9 billion people population are forcing food industry to find out new, environmentally friendly food solutions. Edible insects are ones of them: they contain high quality protein, vitamins and aminoacids for humans, having a small impact on environment. Another example comes from algae: every bite of Spirulina contains more protein and more iron than 20% fat ground beef.
Shortening the food supply chain is another approach, involving very few intermediaries, boosting the rural economy, creating new ways of selling local products and attracting new types of customers. Finally, reusing waste is one of the top issues when talking about food sustainability. In the European Union only, nearly 90m tonnes of food are spoiled annually. Business opportunities in this area are huge and several companies are appearing to contribute solving this problem. From connecting food producers with charities to minimise waste; to providing retailers the opportunity to offer expiring products to customers which can save money; to recycling waste coffee grounds into advanced biofuels and biochemicals, until monitoring waste along the chain in order to minimise it. The scene is vibrant and the potential in sustainability impact massive.
The common point behind all these trends is anyway to make healthy choices the easiest ones combining this empowerment with food education and food communities: more and more organisations are getting the importance of creating “Food hubs and online communities” all around the world, which are eventually connected.“It’s essential that we arm future generations with the life skills they urgently need in order to lead healthier, happier, more productive lives.” - says Jamie Oliver in BCFN publication “Eating Planet”.
Knowledge is showing to be one of the most impactful weapon to shape a sustainable system.

Chiara Cecchini

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