One look at the top food tech trends in 2018 and you’ll think your dinner came straight out of the Jetsons or the Flintstones. On one end the of the spectrum, you have the get-back-to-the-cave movement with simple paleo diets. And on the other end of the spectrum, you might feel that you took a time machine to the future where robots prepare your meal. It’s like the mad scientists and artists got together to cook dinner in a petri dish. It’s no longer just an art. It’s also a science.
Check out 5 of the weirdest foods you should expect to see on your plate.
Watch out chefs. Robot cooks are coming. We don’t exactly have Rosie from the Jetsons cleaning our kitchen yet, but a close cousin can make your dinner. Moley Robotics has designed a robot chef in their London headquarters complete with 2 robot arms that can emulate human movement and cook gourmet meals from scratch. It includes a stovetop, kitchen utensils, and a sink alongside a 3D camera and a computer. Once the robot learns how to make a recipe after the 3D camera captures a real-life chef preparing a meal. The actions are uploaded to the computer system and the robot replicates the actions. Right now, the robot can only cook crab bisque, however, the company plans to equip the digital library with 2,000 recipes before the robot reaches the market. They plan to sell it for around $15,000. So it won’t exactly be in everyone’s home at first. But who knows. Maybe we’ll have our dinner waiting for us when we get home from a day’s work in the near future. That is if the robots don’t take our jobs.
When I was a child, I would ask what was for dinner and my parents would reply “chocolate covered ants.” And I’d of course giggle and screech “Ewwww.”
But it’s not a joke. The statement might even be downright offensive to other cultures. The practice of entomophagy or insects as food is common in parts of Central America, South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. If you’ve had any desserts dyed red, you’ve probably eaten bugs in the West too. The cochineal insect has long-since been used to dye foods and cosmetics in the West. Now Western entrepreneurs are exploring insect protein options for nutrition.
Israeli entrepreneur Eran Gronich founded FlyingSpArk in order to address impending food shortages and other environmental concerns. He has come up with an alternative protein by grinding down fruit fly larva. Gronich attests that the powder is healthy, sustainable, and has a long shelf life. You can add it to your shake, fry it up, or bake bread. You’ll just have to get over the ick factor. But not everyone is grossed out. IKEA is completely onboard. Soon, they’ll be serving up the bugs around the world. As they say on the website, “if you can’t beat them, eat them!”.
If you are still feeling adventurous, how about adding a little grasshopper protein to your shake? Another Israeli company is also out to take a potential food crisis head-on. Hargol FoodTech supplies an earthy powder made from sustainably harvested ground grasshoppers. The company advertises that it has a 70% protein content and other mega nutrients. It’s also deemed kosher and halal, but that’s up for debate. You know the saying, “2 Jews, 3 opinions.” They have won 10 innovation competitions since their inception in 2014. Moreover, they have received $5M in orders from notable companies like Whole Foods, IKEA, Guinness Stout–among others. They are well on their way to be the next superfood craze if you can get past the whole eatings bugs thing.
If you love burgers, but you want to give it up for your health or due to environmental or ethical concerns, you don’t have to feel like you are missing out. Impossible Foods has made the impossible possible in Silicon Valley. Stanford biochemistry professor Patrick O. Brown, vegan Israeli chef Tal Ronnen, and Boston cheese maker Monte Casino put their heads together to make a meatier plant-based burger. It can even sizzle, crackle, and “bleed” thanks to the addition of heme, an iron-containing molecule that is found in plants and animals. Go ahead and slap the patties on the grill at your next barbeque. No one will know the difference.
Do you want to eat meat without slaughtering an animal? Well, science has a solution. They are now growing “cultured meat” or “clean meat” from animal cells in vitro. Industrialized livestock has reportedly wreaked havoc on the environment, including excessive gas emissions, water overconsumption, and land use. However “clean meat” innovators such as Israeli startup Future Meat Technologies believe that they have a sustainable solution. A few meat cells can theoretically produce an endless supply of meat. It’s like Amish friendship bread (made from a sourdough starter) for meat lovers.
I don’t know about you, but I hate grocery shopping. I don’t like the lines. I don’t like the neon lights in the stores. I don’t like the overwhelming amount of choices right in front of me on an empty stomach that makes me buy out the candy aisle. But there is hope for anti-shoppers. Thanks to AI technology and Internet of things (IOT), we can order food on Alexa, Google Home, and other home-based assistants. And soon, these assistants will be able to keep our shelves stocked automatically with an endless supply our preferred staples. It’s like the grocery fairy finally arrived.
3D printing has come a long way since they were printing little plastic objects in the late 1980’s. You can print your clothing, musical instrument parts, jewelry, or a custom-made toy from plastic, metal, or other raw materials. More astonishing, scientists can now save lives with 3D printed organs. So it comes as no surprise that 3D printed food is now on the table.
Welcome to the future of fine cuisine. A spinning plastic and metal device filled with sugar, chocolate, and other delicate powders spin out savory and sweet sculptures. Fresh ingredients can be loaded into the Foodini to make pizza, pasta, quiche, brownies. You name it, it can make it. Two Hebrew University professors are working on a technology for personalized calorie-free food made from nano-cellulose fiber. They are targeting the gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan market now, however, they insist that the technology will improve the lives of people with living with diabetes and celiac disease as well. The possibilities are endless.
If you want to try it out, you can always head to London and check out Food Ink’s pop up 3D restaurant. Everything is printed from the cutlery to the serving trays to the food you eat. It’s not quite for the mainstream yet, but it’s getting there.
What do you think? What’s the weirdest food tech trend that’s crossed your radar?
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