On November 3 and 4, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn gave the world a glimpse at the future of food through their Food Loves Tech event. While the expo did feature tasty treats from a lineup of featured chefs and restaurants, it was far more than a simple food fair.
The "education-by-entertainment" event also included panels addressing issues such as the role genetic modification might play in the future of food, how automation might impact restaurants, and the best ways to use technology to avoid food waste.
It also featured a slew of innovative companies all hoping to carve out a place for themselves at the dining tables of the future.
Selffee is a New York City-based startup that uses technology to combine two of the hottest spots at any event: the dessert table and the photo booth.
Traditionally, to put a photo on a cake, cookie, or other treat, a baker first prints the image onto a sheet of edible paper and then places the sheet onto the baked good. This process changes the taste of the dessert, and due to the technology involved, it can't be completed at a live event.
Selffee uses FDA-certified edible food ink to print high-quality images directly onto cookies, cupcakes, iced coffees, and more. Thanks to the software the company uses, the process is fast, making it perfect for live events. Guests simply snap a selfie on the spot, or send the company a favorite one from their photo album. Within minutes they can take a bite out of their own face.
Selffee booths have already turned up at soirees for Twitter, Google, and other big-name brands, and the company hopes to soon open a storefront in New York.
Round pizzas are so passé. Wouldn't you rather eat one that's shaped like, well, anything you can think of? BeeHex wants to make that possible.
Back in 2013, BeeHex's CEO Anjan Contractor invented NASA’s 3D food printer system. Now, instead of trying to work out ways to make it easier for astronauts to stay full during deep space missions, he's focused on using 3D printing technology to make food more personal here on Earth.
BeeHex's Chef 3D is a robot that 3D prints pizzas in the shape of the user's choice. Using pressurized air, it pumps the ingredients onto the cooking surface in about a minute's time, then after a quick five minute bake, the pizza is ready to eat.
In March, the company raised $1 million in seed funding to launch Chef 3D, and eventually, BeeHex hopes to create other printers capable of dishing out customized meals, snacks, and desserts on demand.
SproutsIO is another tech company looking to make food more personal. The compact smart microgarden system lives in your home and includes everything you need to grow fresh produce year round without the mess of soil.
The SproutsIO device features a high efficiency LED lamp head, a basin that combines hydroponic and aeroponic technologies, and sensors that monitor both the environment and the plant's health. The type of light and its duration is automatically determined by the type of produce you are growing, as is the irrigation schedule, and the data from the sensors is used to continuously update the system as needed.
The seeds themselves are contained in easy-to-switch-out sIO refills, and users can order from amongst the 16 types available on the company's website. The SproutsIO app gives the grower the opportunity to personalized the flavor of their produce through tweaks to its growing environment, too, so not only are they growing produce in their home, they're growing produce they know they'll enjoy eating.
The Good Spoon
From giving cold cut sandwiches a bit of tang to serving as the base for your favorite picnic salad, mayonnaise is certainly a versatile food, but a healthy one it is not. The Good Spoon is looking to change that by using mayo to bridge the gap between mainstream consumers and microalgae, a "superfood" currently relegated to the role of dietary supplement.
The Good Spoon replaces the eggs found in traditional mayonnaises with the microalgae Chlorella, which is not only good for your health but also the environment. According to Algama, the Good Spoon's parent company, Chlorella has twice the protein of beef and 15 times the iron content of spinach, and because microalgaes require far less farmland, water, and energy to produce than animal-based proteins, they place less of a strain on the environment.
Finding ways to provide the planet's population with the nutrients they need without further burdening our environment is important now and will be even more essential in the future as that population continues to grow. Being able to do so using something that actually tastes good is just a really great bonus.
Beer may have been able to "save the world," but the ancient beverage still can't travel from one part of it to another without taking a hit in terms of flavor, aroma, and freshness. To avoid these issues, a growing number of people have taken to brewing their own beer right at home, but the process can be messy, time-consuming, and complicated to learn.
PicoBrew changes that. Users simply insert a cartridge containing all of the ingredients — grains, hops, etc. — into the device, which takes care of the rest. It's sort of like a Keurig but instead of a cup of coffee, you get a gallon or so of beer. The cartridge itself is made of sugar cane pulp fiber, so it can be composted after the process is completed to avoid any waste.
With recipes from roughly 200 craft breweries to choose from, even the pickiest beer drinker is likely to find one that they'd want to have on tap at home.