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What does the food chain of the future look like?

Innovation in food logistics

Container farms, robot chefs preparing salads, and ready-made meals from a 3D printer. You think all that sounds like pie in the sky? A whole range of creative ideas has sprung up like mushrooms over the past few years about how to meet future food logistics challenges head on. We have taken a closer look at some of these ideas and come to the conclusion: there is plenty to chew on.

The global population will pass the eight billion mark for the first time within the next five years. This makes it more important than ever to find intelligent solutions for global food logistics. The global food chain is currently facing a range of complex challenges that will intensify in the coming years: from climate change and dwindling natural resources to the mass death of bees and deforestation. But a great number of innovative ideas and initiatives already exist to help manage these challenges. We have examined some of the most significant trends that could make a substantial contribution toward optimizing food logistics.

Improving Transparency: Like in Farmville

It sounds simple but it’s much more difficult to put into action: food producers cannot make the right decisions to increase their productivity unless the food chain is made more transparent. The Croatian start-up Agrivi has taken on this task with its cloud-based farm management software. Put in more concrete terms, the company provides a platform for farmers to manage all their activities and resources and optimize these using detailed reports. Advanced weather and pest forecasts are expected to improve planning and increase harvests by up to 40%. And it does all this by providing a playfully easy overview – like in Farmville.

There is potential for optimization in the retail and restaurant sectors too. With the Food Loop app, supermarkets can scan products that are nearing their best-before dates to offer customers a discounted price of their own choosing. Customers can see in real time which food products are close to their best-before date and available at a lower price. The customer saves money and supermarkets reduce their waste. The Winnow platform helps restaurants reduce their costs by tracking all the food that is thrown away and providing real-time reporting to optimize purchasing decisions. This can reduce food waste by up to 50% and help restaurants reduce not only their costs, but their environmental footprint too.

Eliminating the Middle Man: The Container Farm

Some more daring ideas for optimizing food logistics focus on skipping over the middle man – the supermarket or the restaurant – and delivering food directly to consumers. This is especially crucial for those people who live in so-called food deserts. “Food deserts” are defined as geographical areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food. The start-up Freight Farms from Boston has come up with one potential solution for this problem: a vertical hydroponic farm housed in a shipping container that can travel to wherever it is needed. Thanks to the container’s self-contained ecosystem, the quality of the harvest is entirely independent of the weather, and transportation costs are saved since the food is grown locally. 

Fresh vegetables from a container? Freight Farms makes it possible:

Salads by Robot Chefs and Candy from the 3D Printer

Transportation costs can even be saved during lunch breaks. Who wouldn’t like their very own chef in their office? That will soon be possible thanks to Chowbotic’s “Robot Chef.” “Sally,” the debut model, can prepare individual salads from 22 different ingredients for up to 100 servings. The fully automated salad making robot takes up only 77x77 cm of space. It is operated by touchscreen and needs less than one minute to put together a lunchtime snack made of eight ingredients. Those looking for something even more playful can try printing cheese with a 3D printer. Scientists at University College in Cork, Ireland, experimented with this idea in 2017. The preliminary results were a disappointing sticky lump – it will be several more years before this technology is perfected. But 3D printing is already within realistic reach for a number of foods. The German company Biozoon is looking to put 3D printers in nursing homes to provide attractive alternatives to pureed foods for people who have difficulty chewing. When it comes to the possibilities for making candy, the sky is the limit. The Magic Candy Factory, a British subsidiary of Katjes, has been using a 3D printer since 2016 to allow customers with a sweet tooth to design their very own candy.

The Magic Candy Factory makes your sweetest dreams come true

Reducing Waste: Edible Water Bottles?

We have already reported on the importance of temperature control in preventing food spoilage and waste. But there are a number of other innovative approaches that may help limit the amount of waste in the food chain. Such as the edible water bottle. The “Oohoo” is essentially a bubble-like container. The water bubble, developed by the London start-up Skipping Rocks Lab, is made out of algae and is 100% edible and biodegradable. Meanwhile, the company has already added other edible containers for liquids, such as edible ketchup packets. Transportable portion sizes are currently limited because the material is not yet sufficiently robust, but it is definitely a step in the right direction and possibly a desperately needed solution for reducing the worrying flood of plastic trash. For now we should avoid the use of those types of bottles as much as we can.

Upcycling is another possibility for reducing food waste. Render Food makes trendy vegetable-based cocktails from leftover pickle brine. Snack manufacturer Forager is taking the fruit pulp left after juicing and turning it into vegetable chips. Toast Ale is transforming leftover bread from bakeries into craft beer. And Regrained takes used grains from breweries and turns them into protein bars. It’s wonderful when production cycles can harmoniously close the circle.

Rethinking Meat: Cricket Bread instead of Steak

Any discussion of visions of the future can’t avoid confronting the problem posed by global meat consumption, which continues to rise and poses a significant burden on the world’s natural resources. Global meat production has increased four- to five-fold since 1961 and has demonstrably negative effects in deforestation, water consumption, biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions. This assessment does not even begin to look at the moral considerations. Sooner or later the world’s population will not be able to avoid reducing the production of animal-based foods, whether by moving to a more plant-based diet or through the production of synthetic substitutes.

The consumption of insects  might provide one temporary solution, as cultivating them requires significantly less feed, water, and medicines and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional livestock production – and with a significantly impressive protein yield. Edible insects are already being raised by specialized agricultural producers in North America and Europe and produced for human consumption under strict hygienic conditions stipulated by food safety standards. They can be eaten whole or processed into flour, burgers, sports bars, noodles, or bread.

Have you ever had a crusty cricket bread or juicy burger made out of lesser mealworms? Don’t be shy! One thing is for sure: the future of the food industry depends on us being courageous enough to innovate. The most important thing is that it’s delicious and filling!

cargo-partner at the Fancy Food Show

cargo-partner will be represented at the Fancy Food Show 2019 in New York as part of the group booth of the Austrian Economic Chambers (WKO).

 We provide specialized cold chain logistics services for sea, air and road transport, including cold storage facilities and a variety of active and passive cooling options. Our dedicated teams around the world are ready to support you with tailor-made solutions for your business.

Want to find out more? Visit us at our booth!

Fancy Food Show 2019
June 23-25 | Booth 3221

Our experts are there to talk about any topics you might be interested in. Get in touch with your cargo-partner contact person to make an appointment right away!