The most innovative solutions focused on combatting food waste and developing new types of sustainably made products
While the majority of 2020 has been dedicated to responding to the global COVID-19 pandemic, this doesn’t mean that environmental and sustainability efforts have tailed off. In fact, these efforts are as robust as ever.
In the food sector, this was abundantly apparent, as illustrated by a surge in innovations focused on combatting food waste and developing new types of sustainably made products. Food waste is a particular problem this time of year, with an estimated 270,000 tonnes of food expected to expire necessarily in the UK alone over Christmas.
See for yourself by exploring our top seven sustainable food innovations from this past year.
1. FRENCH APP COMBATS FOOD WASTE THROUGH COMMUNITY AND INFORMATION
The aim of the Meal Canteen app is to reduce food waste. Through the app, users are able to book meals in advance of attendance. This allows catering staff at restaurants and schools to plan the amount of food they need in advance, ensuring a reduction in their food waste.
The app also provides information on where products originate, how they were made and what allergies they may contain. The long-term thinking with this approach is that by giving consumers more information about the food they eat, their eating habits can be redesigned to choose only the food they will finish, thus reducing food waste.
2. JAPANESE STUDENTS USE FLIES TO RECYCLE FOOD
A group of University of Tokyo students have developed a new method for recycling food waste. The students were inspired by a trip to Phenom Penh, where they noticed a large amount of garbage rotting by the roadside. This waste is not only unsightly but also poses health risks. To solve this, the students came up with the idea of Grubin, a waste bin filled with larvae that will eat such organic waste.
The students developed a plastic bin filled with larvae of the black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens. The idea is that the larvae will eat any organic waste thrown into the bin. Once the larvae are fully grown, they are collected from a special compartment inside the bin and then dried and ground into pellets, to be used as a sustainable source of animal feed for fish or chicken.
3. CARBON DIOXIDE USED TO CREATE SUSTAINABLE FOODS
Air Protein uses carbon transformation technology to develop air-based meat from elements found in the air we breathe. It is made completely free from any pesticides, herbicides, hormones or antibiotics.
Air Protein claims to be significantly more sustainable than any land-based production, as no arable land is required and natural habitats remain untouched. Fermentation vessels have been developed that can combine gases found in the air with water and mineral nutrients, which efficiently convert it into a protein-rich flour. The vessels use renewable energy and a probiotic production process, and what is produced has a neutral flavour, packed with all the essential amino acids and B vitamins.
4. SOLAR-POWERED REFRIGERATORS TO CUT FOOD SPOILAGE IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Almost 20 per cent of food harvested in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America spoils due to a lack of cold storage. However, with 840 million people lacking access to electricity, it’s not as simple as plugging in a fridge.
Nigerian invention NColdHubs is the first refrigeration system designed specifically for off-grid areas. The design employs rooftop solar panels that can generate enough electricity to power the units in all weather conditions while providing reliable 24/7 autonomous refrigeration.
ColdHubs currently serves 3,517 farmers and fishermen, with a rental cost of about €0.85 a day on a pay-as-you-go subscription model. The company has so far installed 24 Hubs in Africa and employed 48 women to service the refrigerators.
5. A FOOD LABEL THAT CHANGES COLOUR AND PRICE AS EXPIRATION DATE NEARS
As groceries reach their expiration date, supermarkets often relabel them with discount stickers – 20 per cent off, 40 per cent off, etc. The closer to the expiration date, generally, the greater the discount. But this relabelling can be time-consuming for staff and often leads to mistakes. To prevent this, three grad students at the National Taipei University of Technology have designed a better system.
The Taipei Tech students were awarded national runner-up in this year’s Dyson Awards for their idea, Barcodiscount. The concept consists of colour-changing stickers, which display different discounts based on the timing of the expiration date. For example, when a packet of meat is 48 hours from expiration, the words 20 per cent off appear on the label, and when the meat is 24 hours from expiration, this is automatically replaced with the words 40 per cent off.
6. MODULAR FRIDGE DESIGN HELPS PREVENT FOOD WASTE
Refrigerator user experience is probably a fairly rare area of interest. Thank goodness for Thalis Nicolaou. His PRESENTA fridge design completely reimagines the appliance, with the specific goal of improving user experience, and reducing food waste. Having identified the depth of refrigerators as the cause of most foods being forgotten and so thrown away, Nicolaou has created a folding, modular storage system that easily reveals the contents.
The door of the new design completely folds aside, thus eliminating the need to awkwardly hold it open with a shoulder, while searching for something in the back. The storage racks pull out and rotate, allowing users to see what is on the shelves at a glance. Each shelf is itself a removable, modular storage unit that can be moved up and down or taken out entirely. This design flexibility makes it much easier to accommodate cumbersome items, as well as alter the layout as contents change.
7. PLATFORM ALLOWS MASS PRODUCTION OF CULTURED STEAKS
Up to now, cultured meat – meat produced from cell cultures instead of slaughtering animals – has had several major drawbacks. One is that it was primarily available only as a mass of cells, resembling ground beef. The other is that it was very expensive to mass-produce. Now, Israeli-based Aleph Farms has announced a platform to allow the mass production of cultivated steaks, grown directly from the non-GMO cells of a living cow.
Aleph claims that its platform is capable of mass-producing thin-cut beef steaks in a controlled, automated bioprocess that is suited to economical large-scale production. The company says that its platform mirrors the process of tissue regeneration that occurs naturally in the animal’s body.
Written By: Holly Hamilton
23rd December 2020