How Technology Will Revolutionise Food in the Next 5 Years

Cristina Fernández Esteban and Ruqayyah Moynihan wrote . . . . . . . . .

Since the turn of the last century, Earth has experienced a substantial demographic explosion — and the number of people on the planet is only increasing.

This rise in the number of the world’s inhabitants is raising a lot of concerns about economics, resources like food and how we simply living side by side.

In five years time, the Earth’s population is expected to reach eight billion inhabitants and according to the estimates from the United Nations, the world population is set to increase by more than one billion people in just 15 years.

Feeding this number of mouths — and not destroying the planet in the process — will require a number of changes in food policy to make food safer, to reduce waste, and also to ensure proper waste management. With these new demands come the need to start developing new tech and innovative ways of thinking.

IBM researchers from around the world have looked at different ways of addressing the challenges the food industry is set to face, producing the “5 in 5” initiative. It outlines five predicted challenges the food supply chain is set to face in the next five years and five possible technological solutions IBM is working on.

1. ‘Digital twin’ virtual farms to improve crop yields

Digital twins are virtual models of farms and they should, in theory, help us to feed a growing world population while using fewer resources.

According to IBM, digital twins will enable us to accurately forecast crop yields, in turn giving banks and financial institutions the data they need to give farmers credit to expand.

In essence, they’ll allow us to simulate farming processes in a virtual environment so we can analyze how they would work before taking them to a real physical environment.

In this way, virtual farm models can be set up to allow farmers to share data, information, or results — as well as to achieve the maximum yield from their crops.

2. Blockchain as a tool to reduce food waste

IBM’s predictions suggest that, in five years time, everyone in the supply chain from farmers to grocery suppliers will be able to use blockchain technology to change the way we grow, process, and distribute food.

Blockchain, within the next half a decade, should allow us to figure out in a clear and fully comprehensive way when to plant, order, or distribute a product, with the aim of significantly reducing food waste.

3. Food safety analysis systems to identify microbes

Nearly 0ne in 10 people get sick each year from food poisoning food, while 420,000 people die from contaminated foodstuffs, according to WHO estimates.

Having a better understanding of microbes and how they work will greatly assist food safety inspectors in upping food safety across farms, factories, and grocery stores.

IBM researchers are currently working on new food safety analysis systems that will “map microbiomes,” giving greater accuracy when trying to identify dangerous microorganisms present in food.

4. Pathogen-detecting AI on mobile devices

In five years, new technology will enable consumers around the world to easily detect anything that may be contaminating their food products.

AI sensors installed in mobile phones and other portable devices will allow the detection of foodborne pathogens wherever they may appear.

With this sort of tech, we’ll easily be able, for example, to detect the presence of E. coli or Salmonella in food and to prevent outbreaks. According to IBM: “Mobile bacteria sensors could dramatically increase the speed of a pathogen test from days to second.”

5. New recycling methods to give a new lease of life to plastics

From milk cartons to cookie packaging and water bottles, we should eventually be able to recycle pretty much any kind of plastic in the next five years, according to IBM.

Polyester manufacturers can take comfort from the knowledge that, rather than product packaging ending up on a landfill, we’ll one day be able to turn any trash we produce into something useful.

One process that IBM is now getting involved with, according to Fast Company, is the VolCat solution.

The chemical process allows materials like polyester plastics that have, until now, been difficult to degrade not only to be broken down; VolCat also allows them to be made and converted into new substances that can be used directly in plastic manufacturing machines to make new products.

In the next decade or so, countries across the globe will be adopting innovative recycling alternatives like VolCat.

These solutions mean we can encourage a much more circular approach to recycling and can massively reduce the waste produced as a result of plastic.

Source: Business Insider


Amazon Unveils Its New Drone for Goods Deliveries

Chris Albrecht wrote . . . . . . . . .

The battle to deliver your goods as fast as possible is taking to the skies. Amazon unveiled its new delivery drone today at its re:Mars conference in Las Vegas and said it would start delivering packages to people “within months.”

The first thing you notice about the fully electric drone is its unique design that combines elements of both a helicopter and an airplane. From the blog post announcing the drone:

It can do vertical takeoffs and landings – like a helicopter. And it’s efficient and aerodynamic – like an airplane. It also easily transitions between these two modes – from vertical-mode to airplane mode, and back to vertical mode.

Amazon’s drone can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages that are less than five pounds (like a latte!) in less than 30 minutes.

The company is also touting the device’s numerous safety features. The propellers are completely shrouded and those shrouds acts as wings during flight. There are also numerous sensors, cameras and artificial intelligence on board so it can navigate unexpected obstacles or weather conditions during flight, as well as land safely in someone’s yard without running into wires or curious/agitated pets.

Amazon’s drone unveiling comes more than five years after Jeff Bezos first dropped the idea that Amazon was exploring drone delivery. It also comes just over a month since Google’s Wing Aviation got Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation approvals to make commercial drone deliveries. Part of the reason they were able to do so was because Google basically went through the process of becoming a small airline. Amazon didn’t say where it was in the regulatory process, or where in the world it would be making deliveries, but the company does already know a thing about delivery by air with its fleet of 50 cargo planes.

In addition to Amazon and Google duking it out over drone dominance, look for an ecosystem of startups to spring up to help facilitate drone delivery. Already companies like AirSpace Link are providing services like route mapping for companies that want to do drone delivery.

Source: The Spoon

Watch video at You Tube (1:18 minutes) . . . . .

Video: 3D Printed Plant-based Steak

NOVAMEAT is a startup aiming to provide new solutions to feed the planet’s growing population with plant-based meat products, overcoming the current unsustainable and inefficient livestock system by creating a healthy, efficient, humane and sustainable food supply.

To achieve this vision, NOVAMEAT’s main mission is to develop cutting-edge technology to produce and commercialize plant-based micro-extruded fibrous meat products that are accessible, safe, scalable, and of high quality, thanks to its proprietary technology.

Watch video at You Tube (2:45 minutes) . . . . .

Read also at Plant Based News:

Harvesting The Long-Term Power Of Plant-Based Meat Alternatives . . . . .

Restaurant Robot with Swappable Tray System

Chris Albrecht wrote . . . . . . . . .

Bear Robotics has officially launched the second-generation version of its Penny restaurant robot. The autonomous robot, which shuttles food and dishes between the front and back of house, now features a versatile tray system for carrying more and different types of items.

With its new design, Penny has lost its bowling pin shape and single carrying surface. Instead, Penny 2.0 is more cylindrical in shape, and can sport up to three tiers of carrying surface. Not only can Penny carry more, a new swappable tray system means it can be configured to carry any combination of food, drinks or bus tub.

On the inside, Bear updated the smarts of Penny, giving the robot enhanced obstacle-avoidance technology, and while the company didn’t go into specifics, a tablet can now be attached to Penny for expanded customer interaction capabilities.

Penny 2.0 is being shown at the National Restaurant Association trade show this weekend and is available now. While Bear doesn’t disclose actual pricing, Penny is offered on a monthly subscription, which includes the robot, setup and mapping of a restaurant and technical support.

Penny is among a wave of robots coming to restaurants in the near future: Flippy makes burgers and fries up chicken tenders, Dishcraft is still stealthily working on automating tasks in the kitchen, and there are entire establishments like Creator and Spyce built around robotic cooking systems.

Any discussion of automation always involves the loss of human jobs. John Ha, CEO of Bear Robotics, actually owned a restaurant and built Penny after noticing how hard servers work, often for little pay. By automating the expediting of food and bussing, Bear aims to free up humans to provide higher levels of customer service (ideally earning those humans higher tips).

Source: The Spoon

How a Chinese Firm Is Using Artificial Intelligence to Zero In on Liver Cancer

Zhuang Pinghui wrote . . . . . . . . .

A Chinese genomics firm says it has found a way to detect liver cancer linked to hepatitis B months before it can be picked up by other methods.

The conclusion was based on a study by Genetron Health and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences Cancer Hospital using a method called HCCscreen, which applies artificial intelligence to look for tumour-related mutations in DNA in blood.

The researchers found that the new method could pick up early signs of the cancer in people who had tested negative based on traditional alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) and ultrasound examinations.

Genetron Health chief executive Wang Sizhen said early detection was important because it significantly increased the chances of survival.

“The study is a breakthrough in genomics technology and it’s likely to help hepatitis B virus carriers, whose risk of liver cancer is much higher,” Wang said.

The researchers first used AI technology to identify biomarkers common in known cases of a type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC.

The team then developed the HCCscreen technique to look for those markers and used it on 331 people with hepatitis B who had tested negative for liver cancer in AFP and ultrasound exams.

Twenty-four people tested positive with HCCscreen and were tracked over eight months, with four eventually being diagnosed with early-stage liver cancer.

The four patients had surgery to remove the tumours and the other 20 in the positive group had a second HCCscreen test, with mixed results. Wang said all participants in the group of 20 would continue to be monitored.

“This is the first large-scale prospective study on early diagnosis [of liver cancer],” he said.

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this month.

There are about 93 million people with hepatitis B in China and carriers of the virus have a much higher risk of developing liver cancer.

Liver cancer is generally difficult to detect in its early stages, and twice-yearly ultrasounds and AFP tests for the disease are recommended for high-risk groups such as people with hepatitis B virus infections, or cirrhosis – scarring of liver tissue.

But in China, most HCC cases were detected at advanced stage, the authors of the study wrote.

According to the National Cancer Centre, 466,000 people were diagnosed with liver cancer and 422,000 died from the disease in China in 2015.

Wang said the company aimed to commercialise the technology but even then it would take time to ensure it was affordable.

“[High-risk] people need to have regular screening. This is important for public health but the technology must be affordable enough to be widespread,” Wang said. “The ultimate goal of this study is to develop a product that people in China can afford.”

Source : SCMP