The Internet of Food & Giving Back
Technology, it’s part of almost everything we do, including eating. Virtual Reality is starting a long journey to becoming a part of dining experiences through companies like Project Nourished. Restaurants can become overnight successes based on social media reviews. Digital companies like GrubHub, Eat24, and others dominate the food delivery space spawning “ghost restaurants” such as Green Summit Group’s 8 virtual restaurants that live in 2 kitchens supplying food only available for delivery. It’s overwhelming how technology has been able to interweave itself into all points of the industry, thus connecting each individual aspect with all the others creating the idea of the Internet of Food.
Consumers are more educated and want to know where their food is coming from and how it’s handled. Restaurants are held accountable to supply this information, and to connect the consumers with the farmers. The technological tools that measure and record various statistics of products along with media formats from documentaries to newspapers, and websites providing tailored lists of available take-out options or reservations, provide an open door for consumers to access information. Technology has removed many constraints for the food industry, altering not only how consumers get information on their food, but how they choose to eat.
More importantly, technology goes beyond bridging communication gaps between consumers, restaurants, and farmers. It also helps better our food system. Food Tank, an organization dedicated to improving the system, has recently published a list of 117 Organizations to Watch in 2017 dedicated to this cause. As I was perusing the list, I wasn’t surprised that many of them have created specific technologies that drive their individual causes.
Copia connects restaurants with local donation spots through a smartphone application. Restaurants post their surplus food that’s ready to be picked up and a driver retrieves it and delivers it to a donation facility in need. The donors can then receive profiles of the people fed and see the impact that they’ve had. A simplistic breakdown of this: an app as easy to use as Uber has fed 691,000 people to date. Technology and people who noticed a gap between restaurants with surplus food and those in need made this possible and easily accessible. Without the Internet of Food, this would still be a linear process of a restaurant going through a series of multiple points of contact, risking the food going bad in the process. Yet now, it’s something as easy as booking an Uber.
AeroFarms exemplifies how the Internet of Food works from the farming to consumer standpoint. What used to be a large paintball facility now houses the world’s largest indoor vertical farm. A controlled environment that utilizes a patented aeroponic technology to grow greens and herbs without sunlight, soil, or pesticides makes a minimal environmental impact and minimizes typical field farming risks. The lack of soil around the roots allows for maximum nutrient absorption and lesser chances of spreading plant infections than traditional crops. The system uses 95% less water than field farming. Furthermore, AeroFarms states that plant scientists monitor over 30,000 data points every harvest which allows for more predictive analytics and more consistent results. Technology has been incorporated to better the growing process but also, the website has references for what grocers sell their product for the basic consumer. The consumer is connected to, and educated by, the farmer then led to a distributor. Again, the idea is the same, technology combined with people that cared about something specific made a huge impact and they made it accessible.
These are only two of many examples of how companies and people are making a positive difference in our food system. Technology connects everything so the more positive differences we make, the more powerful and long lasting the ripple effects are. As I go through Food Tank’s list, I realize that it’s not so much about trying to fix the system, but rather to create responsible and sustainable practices.
By Sydney Kamp