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October 2, 2018

Six Technologies That Could Shake the Food World

By Annie Gasparro & Jesse Newman
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Featured in the Wall Street Journal

A machine that prints chicken nuggets. Fake shrimp made out of algae. Edible coverings that keep fruit fresh.

These inventions—and many more—are part of a technological revolution that is poised to shake up the way we eat.treatment of animals. There is also a growing awareness of the harmful effect that food production can have on the environment.Now big food companies and entrepreneurs are taking advantage of advances in robotics and data science to meet those challenges—and the trend will likely continue as technology improves, and natural ingredients become easier to cultivate.It also helps that venture capitalists are flocking to the companies cooking up these innovations. This year is on pace to set a record for this decade for venture investment in food technology, according to the PitchBook Platform data provider. As of mid-September 2018, VC funds had invested more than $2 billion into the industry, compared with about $1.5 billion annually in 2016 and 2017.Investors say the food industry is playing catch-up now after historically lagging behind in technological advancements. U.S. food and agriculture sectors have historically been among the least digitized in the nation, says Sanjeev Krishnan, chief investing officer and managing director at S2G Ventures, a venture-capital firm that invests in food and agriculture companies.“But that is changing on a monthly, even weekly, basis,” he says.

Here’s a look at some of the breakthrough technologies that may have a big impact on what we eat, and how our food is made.Printing your food to orderA new technology promises to let people choose their own ingredients and create food the way they want it—by using a 3-D printer.The machine, called the Foodini, replaces the usual plastic ink to create food through essentially the same process that people now use to make toys and pencil holders. Restaurants and bakeries are using the Foodini to make intricate desserts and garnishes, and a home version will be available in a couple of years.Among other uses, says Lynette Kucsma, co-founder of Foodini maker Natural Machines, the home machine will allow parents to place ground chicken into one of its stainless-steel ingredient containers and breadcrumbs in the other. Then parents can let their children pick a shape like dinosaurs or stars, and the Foodini will print—and cook—chicken nuggets in that form. Natural Machines also plans to have inputs for fat and calorie content that will adjust the size of the nuggets or cookies that come out.The current commercial version costs $4,000, but Natural Machines expects that to come down over time.the oven. The inventors initially developed the device with a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Protein from algaeThere is a shallow blue-green pool of water in the New Mexican desert, and it isn’t a mirage: It is a site for growing algae, plants rich in protein and Omega 3.It is also a potential solution for a global food dilemma. The world is running out of land for raising animals for food, experts say. Algae grow well in brackish water and in the desert because of the abundant sunshine and the fact that they don’t need fresh water— potentially bringing more unused land into productive use.Now advances in algae farming are making it a popular ingredient in new foods like algae-based protein bars and vegan shrimp, as well as other products such as fish feed and food coloringRead as a PDF.