Currently, dietary intake globally is inconsistent with the dietary guidelines due to limited production, unsustainable agriculture such as GMO-oriented practices, climate change, etc. While many solutions have been researched to help consumers eat a balanced diet and reduce the risk of health complications, some challenges still hinder such progress.
However, the world and the food industry are making some noticeable progress through programs such as an innovative multilevel approach that includes the technology and agricultural sectors. Innovation is key to developing a food system that is both healthy and sustainable. Additionally, developing new products may address personal values while offering convenience, variety, and potential health benefits. Here are some advantages and impacts of food innovation.
Impacts on indoor agriculture
Agriculture industries face challenges from the rising cost of supplies and changes in consumer preferences. Therefore, innovation in modern agriculture is more critical than before. Over the years, significant technology innovations have focused on indoor farming, automation, and robotics.
Indoor vertical farming can be defined as growing crops stacked above one another in a closed environment. Indoor vertical farming increases crop yields, overcoming limited land area and reducing the farming impact on the environment. Additionally, using vertical shelves minimizes the space needed to grow plants compared to traditional farming methods.
Indoor vertical farming is often associated with urban and cities with limited or no farming spacing. Indoor agriculture is also unique because some setups don’t require soil for growing plants. They are either hydroponic, where vegetables are produced in a nutrient-dense bowl of water, or aeroponic, where plants’ roots are sprayed with water and nutrients. The shift to indoor agriculture is also innovative food and energy conservation practices, such as relying on AI instead of manual labor and heavy machines that cause pollution.
Reduced foodborne diseases
The technology advancements focus on dealing with foodborne infections through detection, prevention, and monitoring strategies to prevent outbreaks. One primary tool applied is microbial technology to reduce, control or eliminate foodborne pathogens from food and contact surfaces.
In the recent past, significant advances have been made in improving the existing technology and developing new microbial inactivation technologies. Multiple technologies have been combined to inactivate pathogens, a process is known as the hurdle approach. Also, technologies like thermal and nonthermal have been used as a kill step to improve food safety.
Additionally, interventions like high-pressure processing that kills microorganisms by interrupting their cellular functions improve food safety. For instance, agencies like FSIT have also conducted research in food chemistry and microbiology to improve food safety while retaining desired quality.
Boost on the war against malnutrition
Malnutrition is a primary concern worldwide, particularly in low and middle-income countries. Food insecurity is a significant contributor to malnutrition. For instance, it’s been reported that the number of malnourished African children increased from 50.4 million to 58.5 million.
Therefore, innovations in food systems are needed to reduce malnutrition to provide consumers with various options to obtain a healthy diet.
Scientists and innovators have developed technologies like Artificial Intelligence based nutrition management systems. For instance, techniques such as Nutrition Early Warning utilizes satellite images to forecast natural disasters like famine that could lead to malnutrition.
Based on the data collected, appropriate measures can be implemented to address malnutrition. Furthermore, AI-enabled precision agriculture is increasingly improving food security by providing farmers with proper agricultural diagnostic tools.
Increasing food shelf life
Consumers demand food products of high quality, which are easy to handle and with an extended shelf life. However, due to various processing operations that reduce shelf life, most fruits and vegetables don’t reach the market or reach spoilt. The increase in demand for fresh fruits and vegetables over recent years has resulted in more significant research and developments.
Research on ways to improve shelf life has increased with several ongoing analyses with various promising technology available but yet t be implemented on a large scale. Scientists and innovators have developed technologies like nonthermal, sensory-milder thermal methodologies.
Methods such as packaging, application of antimicrobials, pasteurization, high-pressure processing, or a combination of these technologies have also been extensively explored. Recently, UV light and ultrasound have been used on meat and dairy products. Combining these technologies positively impacts inactivating microorganisms, enzymes, and fermentation rate, increasing shelf life.
Consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the composition of their food and how it is produced. Therefore, the need to shift to more sustainable diets and food systems is increasingly evident. However, achieving this may not be easy.
Given the above concern, various recommendations, research, and innovations are needed to address these concerns. Systems that produce, process, and package, constantly undergo modifications and upgrades intending to boost sustainability.
Some majorly explored approaches include; the substitution of food components and the development of new production technology. For instance, starches and other hydrocolloids have increased the use and substitution of many ingredients.
New production methods used include, for example, use ultrasound-assisted extraction and microwave-assisted extraction. Additionally, researchers have focused on consumers’ attitudes toward organic products, gluten-free products, and various innovations that produce more natural and sustainable foods.
Combating forces to achieve healthy behaviors for extended lifestyle and quality of life will require change, including adopting new food innovations. Food and food components need to be well understood. Therefore, technology can be used to promote healthy eating behavior and formulate a successful plan that factors in interests and lifestyle. Food innovation has various benefits like a sustainable diet and indoor agriculture, increasing shelf life, reducing diseases, and addressing food shortages.