Future of Food
Harvest Public Media has been exploring the Farmer of the Future over the last few weeks. Now here comes Slate with a series on the Future of Food. For the month of June, Future Tense — a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University — will look at the future of food in both the developed and developing world.
Among the early revelations:
* Food packaging can be “active” and “smart,” acting on whatever’s inside it without needing to be directly added to the product. Many innovations involve assessing or protecting the freshness of products (like seafood). But here’s an amazing peek into the potential of this technology from Slate’s story (“Waiting for the Wrap-ture”):
A team of scientists led by Dr. Joseph Hotchkiss, director of the School of Packaging at Michigan State University, has been trying to use intelligent boxing to improve the taste of grapefruit juice. They’ve “impregnated” the polymers on the inside of grapefruit juice cartons with enzymes that unravel bitter citrus compounds. Basically, these enzymes saw sugar molecules off of the compounds, allowing them to float freely (and sweetly) in the liquid. But the enzymes themselves remain embedded in the carton’s inner lining, so they can’t end up in the newly sugary juice. Hotchkiss notes, however, that not all gee-whiz agents on films and wrappers are so easily contained. The “holy grail” of his research, he explains, is antimicrobial packaging: a material that attacks microorganisms on fresh produce. Finding such a substance—one that kills organisms, causes no harm to the food, proves cost-effective, and poses low legal and health risks—has so far stumped not just his team, but the whole packaging vanguard.
Slate also explores automation in farming, noting that “there’s no doubt that big bots are the future of big ag. The question is whether autonomous technologies will ever penetrate the rest of the market—smaller-scale, diversified, labor-intensive operations popping up across the country.” The rather formidable obstacles come in the form of expense and efficiency. (“Big Bots in Little Agriculture”)
And don’t miss the article on climate change, posted Monday, which argues that the entire agriculture system must change. Definitely future food for thought.