Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Technology

The role of technology in food production and preparation dates back to the neolithic discovery of controlled fire. These days new technologies in, for example, agricultural production, processing and food preservation are key to achieving a sufficient supply of food for a growing population. Controversies and disagreements exist around many technologies and their enabling infrastructure, most notably genetic modification, confined animal feeding operations and chemical crop protection.

13 January 2020

In the documentary Apocalypse Cow, environmentalist and writer George Monbiot argues that much of the current farming system (except for fruit and vegetable production) will be replaced by food from microbes, freeing up large areas of land for rewilding and carbon sequestration. He also calls for fruit and vegetable farming to be reformed, e.g. by using deep-rooted cover crops to build soil fertility.

13 January 2020

This report from the UK’s Internet of Food Things Network Plus discusses how digital technologies can help food system actors to collaborate on addressing food system challenges such as traceability, food safety, efficiency, sustainability, health and waste.

7 January 2020

FCRN member Ken Giller, professor of Plant Production Systems at Wageningen University & Research, has contributed to the online magazine “The Story of N2Africa”, which tells stories from the last ten years of the project N2Africa: Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa.

7 January 2020

This paper from the UK’s Institute of Development Studies analyses how the project N2Africa: Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa has contributed to development outcomes in Ghana and Ethiopia. 

29 October 2019

This book discusses how networks of wireless sensors could be used in African agriculture, e.g. to minimise conflicts between wildlife, people and livestock, or to monitor livestock health.

Image: USDA NRCS Montana, Soil moisture meter is used to measure soil moisture, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
2 October 2019

FCRN member Susanne Freidberg of Dartmouth College has written this paper about the difficulties that companies such as food manufacturers face in gathering data about their food supply chains and using that data to promote sustainability. The paper is based on over fifty semi-structured interviews with companies and analysis of their data collection tools.

Image: IF Half Burger, Impossible Foods Press Kit
16 July 2019

This paper argues that animal product alternatives (including both plant-based products and cellular agriculture) are likely to be implemented within the current “corporate food regime” and may not be compatible with a food sovereignty perspective. However, it suggests that using a “food tech justice” lens could guide animal product alternatives towards a role in a food system that considers health, equity and sustainability.

Image: Berkshire Community College Bioscience Image Library, cross section: smooth muscle magnification: 400x, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication
16 July 2019

This paper, co-authored by FCRN member Alexandra Sexton (who is part of Oxford’s Livestock, Environment and People project), identifies key moments in the field of cellular agriculture from the past two decades. The first wave of largely university-based research lasted until the 2013 presentation of the cultured burger created at Maastricht University, while the second wave has seen the emergence of a start-up culture.

25 June 2019

This report from UK supermarket Sainsbury’s sets out predictions for how the food system might be in the years 2025, 2050 and 2169. Near-term predictions include milk made from algae, and increased numbers of flexitarian eaters, while long-term predictions include farming in inhospitable landscapes such as deserts or Mars, and personal microchip implants that tell us exactly what nutrition we need.

Image: Michael, Green Plants Field, Pexels, Pexels license
25 June 2019

This paper presents a newly developed open-source system for precision agriculture in lettuce production. The system, known as AirSurf, uses a lightweight manned aircraft to gather images of lettuce fields, then a deep learning algorithm assesses the state of the lettuce crops on a number of characteristics, including lettuce size and number per field.

17 June 2019

This report from US management consultancy AT Kearney identifies trends in the cultured meat and meat replacement sectors. It estimates that, by 2040, cultured meat and novel vegan meat replacements will together account for a greater market share than conventional meat.

3 June 2019

The US-based Good Food Institute, which promotes plant-based foods and lab-cultured meat, has produced two State of the Industry Reports on plant-based and cell-based foods. The report outline industry developments during 2018, list the main industry actors, discuss regulatory updates in the United States, and analyse investment trends.

Image: Naïo Technologies press kit, Robot DINO
29 May 2019

This feature in the New Food Economy explores how autonomous weed-picking robots could replace herbicides and tackle weeds that have become resistant to some herbicides. The robots use both GPS tracking and cameras to navigate fields and remove weeds.

29 May 2019

This report from US charity The Nature Conservancy explores how private investors can help to meet the demand for sustainable seafood by investing in new forms of aquaculture that have lower negative environmental impacts than conventional aquaculture.

Image: CSIRO, Microalgae – Nannochloropsis sp., WIkimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
29 May 2019

This paper, produced by the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, outlines a system that could produce animal feed with lower environmental impacts than conventional soybean production. The system combines LED lighting, indoor photobioreactors, atmospheric carbon capture and geothermal energy to produce an algae-based feed product.

13 May 2019

This free e-book, by Ahmed Khan of CellAgri, gives an overview of the field of cellular agriculture, including the basics of the concept, key terms, challenges in scaling up the technology, cellular agriculture products and regulatory aspects.

Image: Daniel Schwen, Tobacco Hornworm, found in Urbana, Illinois, USA, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
29 April 2019

This paper explores the possibility of producing food by growing insect cells in the laboratory using cell culture techniques. It suggests that it may be easier to overcome certain technical challenges to cell culture by using insect cells rather than (say) beef, pork or chicken cells.

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