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Cathy Hackl
Cathy Hackl
Futurist and Chief Metaverse Officer
Futures Intelligence Group

Cathy Hackl is an Emmy-nominated communicator turned virtual reality & augmented reality global speaker, producer, and futurist. Linkedin recently named her the #4 Top Voice in Technology globally on the platform in 2018. She's a Lead Futurist at You Are Here Immersive Labs, one of the Southeast's most prominent XR labs. Prior to that, Hackl worked as an HTC VIVE VR Evangelist during the launch of their latest headset, the VIVE Pro, and during the company’s partnership with Warner Brothers’ blockbuster, Ready Player One. She's the author of Marketing New Realities: An Introduction to VR & AR Marketing, Branding & Communications.

This article is by Featured Blogger Cathy Hackl from her Blog Page. Republished with the author’s permission.  

Among the major industries throughout the world, the food and agriculture industry is the largest. But the Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused a sudden decline in customer and consumer demands, has led to adverse impacts on the food and agriculture industry. 

Because of this decline, consumer traffic within the restaurant industry has also decreased. That has led to many restaurants losing revenue or going out of business, thus causing a ripple effect on food and beverage shipping, wine and liquor production, fishing, farming, and other related industries. 

The Rise of Food Technology 

Throughout the past several months, the inability of the food and agriculture industry to adapt to this crisis has led to new food technologies. New food technologies (food-tech) improves efficiency and sustainability by innovating agriculture, bioenergy, plant-based meat, and e-commerce (food and grocery delivery). 

In recent years, food technology was more of a convenience, but it is now often a necessity to meet health requirements and to provide good customer service. The rising necessity of food-tech has also led to digital innovators developing technologies that enhance the world’s food industry. 

For instance, food technologies like artificial intelligence, bio-innovations and gene editing often remodel the way the food industry manages consumers. Food-tech has also led to changes in how companies often produce and promote food. 

Over the last decade, a surge of food-tech startups have arisen promoting healthy eating by introducing digitized food appliances. This has led to the digitization of many kitchen appliances, as well as the introduction of various ways to decrease and manage waste, and more. 

Because of this, food-tech companies strive to meet the needs of the food and agriculture industry in more sustainable ways. These demands to promote environmental sustainability thus lead to innovations that make farming more efficient. 

While many food-tech companies promote environmental sustainability by developing technologies that make farming more efficient, other food-tech companies develop technologies that help consumers make healthier dietary choices. Such innovations are advantageous to health conscious people who often look for ways to prepare quick and healthy meals while promoting sustainability. 

Chopsticks that Make Smart Food Decisions 

For some people, their dietary habits are not by choice, rather because of medical reasons. A poor diet for some people may not only lead to possible weight gain but also gastric reflux and other digestive problems. 

Whether by choice or for medical reasons, one such innovation that helps people to make better dietary choices are smart chopsticks. This innovative product, recently unveiled by Chinese company Baidu at a conference in Beijing

By connecting to an app, these smart chopsticks then detect food that is unhealthy or unsafe for people. Based on data collected by the app, they then suggest dietary changes or provide other healthy recommendations. 

A Fork that Digitizes Your Diet 

Sometimes, because of people’s busy schedules, they neglect to monitor what they consider insignificant dietary habits. But neglecting those insignificant dietary habits on a daily basis can lead to adverse effects on a person’s health. 

Because of this, another way food tech helps people to eat healthier is through a smart utensil called Happi Fork. Using indicator lights and gentle vibrations to notify a person of when they are eating too fast or too slow, this electronic fork monitors a person’s eating habits thus encouraging healthy eating. 

Smart Kitchens Simplify Food Prep 

Along with utensils, some food-tech companies are simplifying food prep by developing the kitchen of the future. Smart kitchens will change the future of food prep by introducing interactive kitchen appliances, smart refrigerators and ovens, and green waste disposal methods. 

Over the last decade, a surge of food-tech startups have digitized kitchen appliances, thus promoting healthy eating in an effort to lead to a more sustainable environment in an urbanized world. This has led to the digitization of many kitchen appliances, as well as the new ways to decrease and manage waste. 

One such company, Millo Appliances, focuses on promoting healthier lifestyles by enhancing the capabilities of existing kitchen appliances. One of their first appliances, a smart blender that uses cordless and touch sensitive technology, features an app that allows people to control the blender remotely. 

Restaurant Digitize Disposable Waste 

In the past, global awareness of the impact of food waste within the restaurant industry has been low. But because of the increased number of food waste startups, many restaurants are making conscious efforts to reduce waste by finding more responsible ways to dispose of their waste. 

To help restaurants analyze and eliminate waste, Winnow, a U.K.-based startup, developed a digital scale that weighs waste bins. This smart waste bin informs restaurants of their food waste in terms of cost and environmental impact. 

Using data analytics, this smart bin makes recommendations to help kitchens run more efficiently and sustainably. According to some estimates, Winnow’s technology will enable restaurants to reduce their waste by 40-70%. 

In a future post, we will look at the ways tech is being used in the restaurant industry, from robot waiters to Miso Robotics' Flippy the burger-flipping robot, to an automated dosa machine, and more. 

The Ultimate Appliance for Home Cooks 

Another interesting food tech company to watch for is Brava. Cathy saw this company at CES 2020 where it debut and now there are ads all over TV and on social media. It’s a home cook’s dream come true as it does all the “thinking” for you.  

According to their website. Brava pairs revolutionary cooking technology with a chef-powered service to bring out the best in your ingredients and make cooking at home easier, faster and tastier than ever before. With Brava, you are cooking with light. Cooking with light allows Brava to achieve a blend of speed and consistency. By pairing this technology with Brava’s chef developed recipe programs, the company says that meals turn out perfectly every time. By rapidly adjusting temperature, Brava’s powerful lamps can roast vegetables in half the time, poach eggs with ease, and sear steaks without overcooking them. I know for one, I can’t wait to demo this tech!  

The Future of Food-Tech and Globalization 

As technologies become more advanced, consumers become more aware of the effects of their dietary habits on the environment. This has led to many consumers becoming more conscious of the impact of the food and agriculture industry on global climate change, thus leading to people adopting more health-conscious dietary habits. 

While people’s shopping and eating habits often put immense stress on our planet, food-tech is changing the global food industry. Globalization can sometimes make it difficult and expensive for a person to focus on their health, as well as to consider the impact of their dietary choices on the planet, but food-tech makes it easier and more affordable for people to make healthier and more environmentally sustainable dietary choices. 

In a future post, we will talk about the future of the food we consume, but for now, we hope this post gave you some food for thought!  

Post written by Cathy Hackl and Lily Snyder and originally ran in the Futuresville newsletter.