From vertical farming to edible food packaging, what and how will we eat in the future?
Breeding and rearing livestock for slaughter has always been a universal way of life.
But the meat on our plates has come at an enormous environmental cost - not to mention the surrounding ethical quandaries.
While vegetarian and vegan diets are at an all-time high, there’s a new crop of food tech startups working to convert even the most committed carnivores.
Their plan: produce quality 'meat', but without the climate impact and cruelty.
A key player driving the booming industry is Ethan Brown, founder of Beyond Meat.
Established in 2009, the company has developed the first-ever plant protein that looks, feels and tastes just like meat.
Brown learned first-hand about the ins-and-outs of agriculture at his father’s dairy farm.
While later in life he switched to a vegan diet, he recognised that simply cutting out meat wasn’t a priority for many, so he was determined to find a desirable alternative.
Brown eventually teamed up with University of Missouri Professor Fu-Hung Hsieh.
Together, they developed the process of creating a plant protein, made from a blend of soy, peas, flours and fibres, that mimics animal muscle or tissue.
The end result: 'meat' virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
Today, the company produces replica beef patties, chicken strips, turkey, eggs and much more.
In 50 to 100 years, Brown expects that animal slaughter for meat will be a thing of the past.
He believes the transition from animal to plant protein will be similar to how society moved from the horse-drawn carriage to the car.
The global demand for food is growing at a formidable rate.
However, traditional farming is highly taxing on the environment and a drain on our natural resources.
Worldwide, agriculture accounts for 70% of all water consumption.
Vertical farming, as a way to maximise yield with limited space, is not by any means a new idea.
It can be traced back as far as the indigenous people of South America and East Asia who originally used the technique to produce rice and other crops.
Although many have tried, very few have tapped into the true potential of vertical farming for modern society.
Singaporean company Sky Greens, however, have come up with an ingenious design can produce 10 times more than traditional farms.
Housed in outdoor greenhouses, each 38-shelf tower grows a range of tropical vegetables that can be grown all year round.
The towers rotate throughout the day, allowing each shelf to receive sunlight while at the top and water at the bottom.
Each rotating structure is powered using a hydraulic system that only requires half a litre of water per day.
Sky Greens currently produces popular Asian vegetables that can be harvested every 28 days.
The locally grown vegetables cost only a few cents more per kilogram than the imported varieties.
This revolutionary solution not only alleviates environmental impact but makes a bold move towards global food security.
And most importantly, it’s replicable in other cities around the world!
While some packaging may be essential for food hygiene, most of the time it’s just a plastic platform for advertising.
This fancy wrapping doesn’t only cost us money, it also takes an enormous toll on the environment.
In Germany alone, 16 million tons of unnecessary packaging is thrown away every year – with this shocking statistic in mind, Original Unverpackt was born.
After two years of research on how to successfully go packaging-free, the supermarket opened in Berlin in 2014 with a very simple yet effective concept.
Customers bring their own containers and buy as much as they need, measuring their own portions and paying by weight.
The supermarket stocks products predominantly from local producers who employ the same 100% zero-waste supply chains – allowing Original Unverpackt to lower its carbon footprint dramatically while supporting local business.
Original Unverpackt already has thousands of customers per week as well as curious visitors from all over the world.
The team, led by Milena Glimbovski (left), also facilitate workshops for any businesses interested in going packaging-free, sharing their research knowledge and experiences.
To raise awareness and advance the zero-waste movement, the supermarket hopes to inspire other chains in Europe, followed by the rest of the globe.
Single-use plastic is one of the greatest threats to our planet.
Since the 1950s, we’ve produced an enormous 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic.
Of that total, only about 9% has been recycled.
While biodegradable packaging is a great way to alleviate the problem, bioengineer David Edwards wanted to improve the concept.
Taking inspiration from fruit and vegetable skins, he teamed up with designer François Azambourg to develop the WikiCell, an innovative form of edible wrapping.
The film-like membrane of a WikiCell is made from fruit, nuts, grains and even chocolate.
Small extracts of algae and crustacean shell are used to solidify the skin.
Even though the wrapping is soft and malleable, it can hold most foods without breaking.
WikiCell “mono-bites” now serve juices, desserts, soups, and even coffee and cocktails.
Just like fruit and vegetables, you’re advised to wash the outside before consumption.
Since the WikiCell’s launch in 2012, the WikiFoods company have developed a series of membranes to best accommodate unique food types.
Other innovative edibles by Edwards include inhalable chocolate and a Tuberculosis vaccine in spray form.
Could this be the answer to a plastic-free food industry?
Supply chain transparency is a complex problem that reaches far beyond most of us know.
As a consumer, in particular, knowing if your goods are genuinely ethically and sustainably produced is near impossible.
Provenance is helping people all around the world to make more informed purchasing choices.
The platform can be used to track the lifecycle of almost anything - from coffee beans to a roll of fabric.
Blockchain and open source data are at the heart of the service.
Blockchain technology allows verified information to be securely entered and stored in the global database. This data can then be linked to any physical product through smart tags and labelling.
Launched in 2015, Provenance already works with over 200 global brands across a broad range of industries.
Provenance has the potential to usher in a trend of true conscious consumerism. It will also significantly help businesses clean up their supply chains and hopefully improve conditions for all involved.
Now we have the technology to "avoid compromising the health and morals of both people and the planet," explains Founder Jessi Baker.
Beyond Meat, Sky Greens, WikiFoods, Original Unverpackt, Provenance and INDEX: Design to Improve Life®