You’ll Be Eating Cannabis Cornflakes Soon, Like It Or Not
Almost every expert I spoke to researching this article had nothing but positive predictions for the future of our food. Of course, many of the ideas about which direction the food industry is going are possibilities. And the mass-manufactured global food industry, as it stands, not sustainable – so doom is on the horizon if changes aren’t made. A microwave meal of unidentifiable, brown, textured, meat-like bites -unsurprisingly – isn’t what great civilisations are built on.
Typically, technology – and its hero-complex stricken entrepreneurs – are on the case. But what will the future of food really look like?
Robot Bees and Underground Farms
Parts of the farming industry have already begun to rise to the challenge. A number of food producers have begun to use more sustainable methods. These include vertical farming, where plants are grown in water rather than soil, is already in limited use in some parts of the US. Other ideas include mechanising daily farming routines, to increase productivity whilst reducing labour costs. For example; driverless combine harvesters, land surveying-drones, and ‘smart’ tractors (that require a lot less manual control).
Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute and Northeastern University are currently developing RoboBees, (robots half the size of a paper clip) which could potentially pollinate a field of crops. This is in response to an increasing concern about the declining population of bees – down to pesticides, invasive species, habitat loss and climate change – which has serious implications for agricultural pollination.
Indeed Growing Underground is already spearheading urban farming: using hyroponic systems and LED tech, the company is able to grow sustainable and supposedly ‘mouth-wateringly fresh’ salad 33 metres below the streets of London.
The actual food produced will undergo some dramatic changes, too. Grisly, blood-splattered abattoirs will be replaced by nerds in white jackets and test tubes. Eggs, meat and cheese will come from labs whilst algae and insects will fill your pantry – and not because you haven’t cleaned in a while.
The Californian start-up, Impossible Foods, has already created a 100% plant-based but meat-tasting burger. New Wave Foods is in the process of making plant protein-based shrimp: thus eliminating the many problems with commercial shrimp fishing in one fell swoop. Meanwhile marijuana and algae are set to be the next culinary trend and superfood ingredient respectively.
But are people actually going to eat these weird and wonderful products? Experts are sceptical. One, it’s expensive: currently, at $20, it costs ten times more to make an Impossible Foods burger than it does your average patty. And two, it’s about changing people’s perceptions.
As Hemant Patel, nutritionist and food safety practitioner states, this will be difficult: ‘people gravitate towards things they know’. The food law enforcement consultant Stuart Musgrove meanwhile, as he told me, ‘can’t see a market for artificial food.’
The real question I know you’re asking is: who – or what – is going to cook this lab-grown burger? It’s here convenience rears its lazy head again as the kitchen switches from a passive workspace to a proactive semi-intelligent food hub.
Using a variety of sensors and algorithms smart ovens and pans will detect what the food is and then cook it to perfection. And if you don’t feel like cooking at all, why not download yourself a full meal via your 3D Food Printer? Paying more for the recipe than the ingredients, which raises the fascinating prospect of an illegally downloaded dinner.
Or, if you’ve got guests, wheel out your robotic chef, and let its flailing, awkward robotic arms whip up whatever you programme to.
The best bit….
The final piece of the puzzle is the best bit. Eating. It’s about to get a bit more complicated than just chewing and swallowing. Gorging yourself is antiquated and disrespectful to the effort that made whatever it is you can’t cram into your face fast enough.As Raithatha points out, food is now another form of entertainment.
Samsung has to push the integration of VR into the restaurant scene. Instead experiences will be an important part of consumption: stimulating multiple senses at once with VR headsets and holographic restaurants that transport you to Tokyo as you eat sushi, which will improve the taste of the food.
Ugly vegetables won’t be discarded by manufacturers any more because you won’t actually *see* how ugly they are as you eat them. Food that looks and smells different to what you’re actually eating could mean eating fatty, salty fried fast foods that are actually really healthy: you could lose weight eating pizza everyday, three times a day.
Project Nourished believes this concept will create a healthier and fun dining experience, for those with illness, those who dine alone, picky kids, and even astronauts. Meanwhile robot waiters, drone Deliveroo, nutritious food-replacement sludge and derma patches that deliver nutrients through the skin, like Nutriband, will be the ultimate in easy cuisine.
And, in the future, the dreaded C-word, convenience, might not be a byword for harmful environment unfriendly food factories. But instead, fast, sustainable and clever food production.