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From food delivery to online markets to leftover swapping — food startups run the gamut and they are only growing in popularity. Check out the ways technology is changing the food game.
Using hydroponic systems and the most advanced LED technology, a company in London has transformed an abandoned train tunnel, which was formerly a WWII air-raid shelter, into an underground farm. Local restaurants can purchase from the farm. The company has net zero energy usage, uses 70% less water than traditional farming, and is currently growing nine types of greens and four herbs.
3D printed candy
The 3D printing industry leader, 3D Systems, sells a printer specifically made to print candy made from sugar. They make all kinds of cake toppers and other concoctions to show the use for the candy, and the ChefJet is available through The Sugar Lab for $5,000 (for one color) and $10,000 (for multiple colors).
The Foodini is a 3D printer made for the kitchen, and the designers want you to get creative. Here, it makes cheese for a burger. The machine has also made the burgers themselves, as well as a variety of desserts. It’s the first type of 3D printer that uses natural, fresh ingredients as the “ink.”
Love Food Hate Waste
Started in the UK by a non-profit, Love Food Hate Waste is a website, iOS and Android app designed to help you reduce food waste at home and save money in the process. It allows users to plug what they have as leftovers to make use of them, download recipes, and plan and shop more healthfully and frugally. Samsung also recently partnered with the campaign to raise awareness about reducing food waste.
Bitponics is a personal gardening assistant to help monitor, analyze, and service a hydroponic garden. It has sensors that monitor the garden’s health and environment. The Bitponics Cloud runs a personal Grow Plan, which runs crowdsourced blueprints for garden care, as well as sensor readings and shared tips from the community.
It’s an online, open source forum for farmers and people in the food industry to chat and get their questions about changing technology answered. Farm Hack, which is in partnership by the National Young Farmers Coalition, also hosts events like hackathons to create innovations in agriculture. Some products have been greenhouse monitors, electric tractors, mobile biotech labs, and a pedal-powered rootwasher.
The non-profit Imagine H2O hosts an annual startup competition and an accelerator program to solve big water challenges for the billion people that live without access to clean drinking water. The winners of the competition have an opportunity to create a business with connections from the industry. Some of the topics for the competition include water efficiency, wastewater, and consumer innovations for water.
One of Imagine H2O’s most recent winners was TerrAvion, which offers real-time aerial imagery services for agriculture to optimize irrigation practices and reduce water use. The aircraft flies over each week to take photos and farmers can view, download, and share the data the next morning on their smartphone or computer. The service is through a subscription fee for $30 per acre and the user receives 30 sets of color, infrared, NDVI, and thermal imagery.
The sharing economy is gaining momentum, and the food industry isn’t being left behind. With LeftoverSwap, search in your area to find someone that doesn’t want to contribute to food waste, but has no use for the leftovers in their refrigerator.
The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 GPS Edition, shown above, uses a GPS to track the journey and flies autonomously. The FAA is working on regulations for all types of drones, including civilian ones like these, Drones will have a huge effect on farming, as they can go farther out in the fields and monitor crops, as well as pinpoint exact locations of diseased plants easier and take photos for farmers. They can also release smaller, more directed amounts of pesticides so as not to waste them.
Sensors and precision agriculture
Ag Leader, one of the leading precision technology hardware developers, created a device called OPTRX crop sensors, which measure and record data about crops using the reflectance of light shined on plants. The devices can attach to the machine to collect information while going through the field. It helps farmers apply chemicals, like nitrogen, on plants. It’s an example of how technology is changing work on the farm and in turn, changing productivity levels and the amount of crops harvested.
A growing population means more people in urban centers. It means less space. And often, the only place to go is up. The same case can be made for farms. Ideally, each floor would be a different “field,” according to Dr. Dickson Despommier, a professor at Columbia University, who is a well-known champion of vertical farming. The skyscraper is basically greenhouse on top of greenhouse, using artificial light and hydroponic technology. It’s a perfect use for abandoned warehouses or other high-rises. The rendering above is an example of what an urban farm could look like.