Emma Gill, Marketing Advisor USA, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board
Automation, food surplus and hydroponics were just some of the topics discussed at the recent Food Loves Tech Conference in Brooklyn.
Visitors to the conference were introduced to Sally the Robot. Creator Chowbotics claims that Sally is the world’s first fresh food making robot. Sally serves customizable, made-to-order salads, snacks, breakfast bowls, and grain bowls. There are 22 ingredients canisters and the machine can serve 50-100 meals before replenishing. The technology could work well in workplaces, institutions and convenience stores.
Barsys, aka the Robot Bartender, is an automated cocktail maker, with versions available for both home and commercial use. Add your favourite spirits and mixers to get recommendations. Chose from over 200 recipes or your own mix, your drink will be ready within 35 seconds. The commercial version allows users to track cocktail consumption and analyse trends and patterns.
Food Waste/Food Surplus
Several panellists advocated re-naming the issue, from “food waste” to “surplus” or “excess”, in order to make it sound more appealing to consumers. There were also a number of companies with unique initiatives to combat surplus food being wasted. The Food for All app enables consumers to order meals right before restaurants close, saving them 50% off the initial price and allowing the restaurant to avoid having to throw the food away. Spare Food Co aim to use excess food to inspire culinary innovation in chefs, for example turning squash pulp and seeds into granola instead a more obvious application like soup.
Hydroponic agriculture refers to the practice of growing food in water, rather than soil. Companies are using currently these methods to produce a range of salad greens and herbs to restaurants, retailers and institutions throughout NYC. Gotham Greens are produced in state-of-the-art rooftop greenhouses in Chicago and New York, while Bowery grow indoors under LED lights.
Farm One and Aero Farm grow greens in an indoor, vertical farm, allowing them to grow a large amount in a small area, and making them ideal for urban locations. Farmshelf take things a step further, building smart indoor farms for restaurants and hotels, so that they can grow their own greens on-site for optimal flavour and freshness. Smallhold provide a network of climate-controlled mini-farms, remotely operated to allow you to farm mushrooms in your store or restaurant.
These new technologies may present new opportunities for the Irish food and drink industry, in agriculture, food service and hospitality, and as another potential route to market for Irish products.