The use of technology in the food industry has changed how we produce and find food, including the way we use applications, robotics, data and processing techniques. While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to food, technology has become an essential part of food production and processing.
According to a recent report from Dutch banking group, ING, the use of technology in the food industry helps manufacturers to produce food more efficiently for a growing world population. With a growing population, the demand for food is increasing each year. Technology improves the processing and packaging of food, resulting in increased shelf life and safety. It is important for foods that are mass produced to be the same. A reason why people today prefer unhealthy packaged foods over fresh foods from the farmer’s market is because when they open a bag of chips, they know what to expect. A fruit, for example, could be sweet, sour, soft, or firm. The use of technology helps eliminate this issue for packaged foods.
Robotic machines can eliminate safety issues in the food industry by performing the more dangerous tasks. In 2016, a tech company introduced a program for butchery, using robots to cut the more difficult meats and save workers from injury. Dangerous machinery cannot be coded to work symbioticly with humans. But working with other robots? They can do that just fine. It is more helpful to have a fully automated system than a partially automated system, which is why companies are decreasing their human workload while increasing their automated workload.
Surprisingly, 3D printing has become increasingly popular across the food industry. There have been several applications of 3D printing food, from NASA printing a pizza to creating soft foods for people who cannot consume hard food. It opens the door to innovation and helps with food sustainability, shaking up the industry in many ways. One alternative to eating the sodium and calorie high imitation meats is to eat 3D printed meat, which is almost a perfect copy of the actual thing!
Precision agriculture is a major player in the use of technology to improve food production. GPS tracking systems and satellite imagery are used to monitor crop yields, soil levels and weather patterns to increase efficiency on the farm. Drones are also used to locate and identify diseased or damaged crops and tend to them immediately, helping workers to be more efficient. With strict product requirements at large volumes and demand for lower pricing, robotic elements help create a faster environment to produce more goods than regular labor.
The use of technology in packaging has also become a concern for consumers, who pay attention to labels and harmful ingredients. Companies use technology to help them “go green,” finding alternatives to plastics and other harmful packaging for the environment. There are many different ways we are using technology in packaging, from edible packaging to micro packaging and even bacteria-fighting packaging. Consumers are also looking for where companies source their products and how they handle their waste. Currently, 40% of America’s food is thrown away each year. With the help of technology, strides are being taken to reduce that number and utilize extra food. For example, the app Copia uses its food waste reduction dashboard to connect businesses with surplus food to local shelters, after-school programs, and other nonprofit organizations.
With all these advancements in technology, there are so many different ways that it can really change how we produce food. Evolving technology could be the key to eliminating world hunger and solving our waste problem. The possibilities are endless, and we can only wait and see how technology will continue to revolutionize the food industry.