3 food innovations to watch in 2019
BlockchainThe hype around blockchain of the past year is continuing in 2019. After the many introductory workshops, more detailed explanations and the first pilot cases, various productive applications of blockchain have been further developed. I expect that the knowledge and insights gained in the previous years will lead to clearer choices in 2019. Eighteen years ago – during my first job - I was already working on a way to set up chains more transparently. In the co-innovative program Agro Keten Kennis (Agricultural Chain Knowledge), many projects were carried out for this and a lot of insight was gained. At that time, we did it without the technology that is available today. The fact that blockchain is not the holy grail for all transparency and collaboration problems is made clear by trend-watcher Onno Hansen in this article. Tony Chocolonely also sees no future in blockchain after a pilot version. I am convinced that blockchain will gain a permanent place in the food industry. Examples are the ambitions towards transparency by IBM Food, Carrefour’s chicken and AH and Refresco’s orange juice. Blockchain also plays an important role in this ABN AMRO case about the request for data to realize a circular food chain.
Robotization and other tech developments
We need to look beyond blockchain as the only technology that is going to create big changes. Robotization, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the use of Big Data and the application of IoT also have a big impact on the way we treat food. The application of these technological developments will make food-processing companies more efficient, faster, more accurate and will ensure more certainty in the process.
Nadia Menkveld, Sector Economist at ABN AMRO, writes about the catching-up that is currently going on in the robotization in the food industry. Robotization helps with saving energy, handling raw materials more efficiently, decreasing waste and improving working conditions. Wageningen University & Research conducted research regarding application options of robots in the food chain. In the MatchX project, the possibilities of recognizing agricultural products without a bar code are being researched. This has a positive effect on decreasing plastic stickers on packaging. From my interview with Mike Poodt, business consultant innovations at Rijk Zwaan, during the 4th EU Forum, I realized that robotization is not easy. He said that Rijk Zwaan is in the process of developing seeds for a tomato that we, as consumers, will not eat until five years from now. They therefore take into account the position of technology that is possible in five years and collaborate with robot developers. What are the skills we need to develop in robots in the coming years? And how do we adapt the shape and growth of plants to this, so that a fully robotized harvest becomes feasible?
The impact of social media
have gotten used to the offer of perfectly shaped vegetables and fruits the last few years. Every cucumber in the supermarket is the same length, every tomato is equally round. That has a lot of advantages when it comes to automatic processing, but on the other hand, those machines are not flexible enough to process deviating vegetables and fruits for consumption and to prevent waste. As consumers, we have no idea how many deviating products didn’t make it to our plate. These types of issues about tomatoes and plums even led to Parliamentary questions last year. Partly due to social media, we keep gaining more insight into how the food system works: from soil to mouth. The food system of the future is being created by the sector and by the consumers. We, the consumers, can influence all the links in the chain and in this way ideas are quickly manifested, which results in less food waste. I expect that social media will be playing a bigger role in this.
Read my blog about the three main consumer trends in the food industry here. Don’t hesitate to contact for further discussions about the developments in this sector!