*This blog post was originally posted as part of the Food+Tech Connect Internet of Food Series on May 9, 2016.
The food industry is one of the slowest industries to adapt to and incorporate new technologies. The principle cause of this slow adaptation is the acceptance of an age-old system, parts of which work and, ultimately, get the job done, albeit maybe not in the most healthful, sustainable or safe ways.
For many years the drivers of food production have been based solely on increasing food quantity whilst maintaining low costs. This emphasis on cost has progressively deteriorated the health and safety of our food over time, having a detrimental impact on consumers. Importantly, the blind acceptance of the current food system comes in part from the huge lack of understanding of food in general, both by the industry and the consumer. It is the industry’s role to educate consumers, but their focus is more on marketing their products than educated consumers. Thus, we have minimal knowledge about the food we eat, let alone how these foods interact with our bodies.
The era of the Internet, however, has started to change this. Consumers are now more aware of heath and food safety and, as information is more readily available online, they actively seek out healthier products. This shift in consumer preferences is putting increasing pressure on an outdated food industry to adapt and respond to the growing public awareness and demand for healthier, safer foods.
Artificial Intelligence & Big Data Increase Utilization of Food Co-Products & Reduce Waste
Thankfully, some important technologies have been developed in the last 5 years to disrupt the current system. These technologies include new ways of creating healthy foods, such as locating protein from novel sources (i.e. insects), which can be suitably harvested to feed a growing global population. Other technologies are looking at novel means of making foods safer, for example antimicrobial techniques within meat, which in turn is reducing the downstream disposal of such products.
An advancement that is particularly close to our hearts here at Nuritas is the identification of innovative ways for dealing with food co-products, or by-products from food production, by discovering new uses for them within the human food chain. Whey, for example, is a co-product of yogurt production. Today whey is a multibillion dollar industry, but in 2000 it had zero value. This is incredibly significant as an estimated 25-50 percent of food is discarded at the production level. Indeed, this number doesn’t include the further percentage that is thrown away downstream.
The best way to increase the sustainability, safety and health of food is to use technologies like artificial intelligence to examine food and its co-products at the molecular level. Such an approach has never been undertaken in food before.
So what does this mean exactly?
There are billions of molecules, called peptides, found within food and food co-products, which contain functional health benefits for the food industry and consumers alike. Some of the molecules we have found have antimicrobial capabilities which can thus be used as natural food preservatives to enhance food safety and extend shelf life. Another of our peptide discoveries aids in moving glucose into the muscle. This is important because diabetes is associated with a depletion in sugar movement into skeletal muscle cells.
Using a revolutionary technology that combines artificial intelligence and DNA analysis, we are able to extract these and many other molecules from within food and food co-products. This technology is able to not only add value to a seemingly valueless sidestream, but it is able to unlock unforeseen, health-promoting ingredients in such sidestreams, enhancing the safety and health of food products.
At Nuritas™, we have discovered that we can use revolutionary technologies to guarantee safety and sustainability, but also to ensure future food products are life-changing in their capabilities. We believe the way forward is to integrate new technologies to ensure we get the most out of our foods by sustainably using the co-products of food production to unlock their molecular potential. This integration of science and technology will ultimately help the food industry become a healthier, safer and more sustainable industry.
Internet of Food is an editorial series exploring how we might use technology, new business models and design to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone.