From the world’s largest indoor vertical farm to chicken-free egg whites, here are this year’s top innovations making food more sustainable
Awareness of the carbon footprint of food has grown significantly over the past few years. With good reason. Food production is responsible for around one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, experts estimate that the world will need to sustainably grow 70 per cent more food by 2050 to keep up with population growth. It is therefore clear that major change needs to take place to feed more people with less environmental impact.
A lot of the popular focus on food innovation has been on meat alternatives, and – true to form – one of our most-read food innovations this year was a bacon alternative made from mycelium. And when it comes to cell-cultured meat, we have continued to see progress. Ivy farm Technologies, who we featured in our look ahead to 2022 back in January, opened a new research facility in September, and we also spotted new innovations such as cell-cultured seafood.
But there is more to building a sustainable food system than finding new ways to produce meat – although this is, of course, important. And when it comes to cell-cultured meat, regulatory barriers remain despite the breakthroughs we have seen. Only Singapore has made it legal to sell cell-cultured meat to consumers to date.
We have therefore seen other innovators working on different types of food-based innovation, from vertical farming and food preservation to zero-carbon food delivery.
It only takes MyForest Foods 12 days to grow an entire crop of mycelium, with the harvesting taking only a single day. Such rapid growth is made possible by the simulated forest inside Swersey Silos, the company’s newly expanded growing facilities in New York. The vertical farm contains seven growing rooms with just under two acres of total farm space. The new silos allow the company to expand significantly its production of plant-based MyBacon. In one year, the facility will grow more than three million pounds of mycelium, which MyForest Foods grows in sheets. The sheets are sliced into bacon-sized pieces before being seasoned and smoked. Read more
New York-based Upward Farms has announced the addition of the world’s largest vertical farm to its network. The new facility, located in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania will be 250,000 square foot. By early 2023 it plans to be providing fresh, locally-sourced microgreens and sustainably-raised hybrid striped bass to consumers throughout the Northeast United States. By repurposing waste from fish and transforming it into organic fertiliser for leafy greens, Upward Farms’ aquaponics platform is combining the scalability of indoor farming with the benefits of regenerative agriculture. Read more
A team of scientists working on sustainable nanotechnology has created a smart packaging solution that keeps meat and fruit fresh for longer. Made from starch, corn protein, thyme, and citric acid, among other materials, the packaging responds to the presence of additional humidity or enzymes that indicate that produce is ripening. When the fibres in the packaging sense harmful bacteria such as E.Coli and Listeria forming, they release microscopic amounts of antimicrobial compounds that help prevent the contamination of the produce. In lab tests, strawberries wrapped in the new packaging stayed mould-free for seven days, while fruit kept in the traditional plastic boxes stayed fresh for only four days. Read more
Egg whites are an important ingredient in the food industry, where they supply protein in a huge number of products. Uses for egg whites range from clarifying wine to helping breading adhere better to fish fingers. In 2020, around 1.6 million tonnes of egg whites were used commercially, often in the form of powder. But using all these eggs has a significant environmental impact. Now, researchers at the University of Helsinki have used ‘cellular agriculture’ to produce ovalbumin – the protein in egg whites – without using any animals. The researchers inserted the gene carrying the blueprints for ovalbumin into the fungus Trichoderma reesei. The fungus then produced and secreted the protein, which was separated out, concentrated, and dried to create the final product. Read more
Lowering emissions from last-mile deliveries is an important part of reducing overall carbon footprint of transportation – one reason why many delivery companies are converting to electric vehicles. Delivery network URB-E has taken this one step further by replacing trucks with small electric vehicles – perfect for navigating heavily congested urban areas. Now, the company has teamed up with Brooklyn-based indoor farm Square Roots to develop zero-emissions produce delivery. Square Roots uses smart technology and software-controlled hydroponic growing systems to grow food indoors with fewer resources. Square Roots’ approach reduces food miles by growing food within cities. It therefore made sense to ensure that the delivery of the company’s fresh produce was also as sustainable as possible. Read more
Curated by: Matthew Hempstead
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21st December 2022