Plant-based meat, new processing, big data changing the food industry


By Allan Maurer, NCBiotech Writer

via WRAL TechWire (NC) - Nov. 10, 2017


Research Triangle Park, N.C. — Are you ready for chicken tenders that taste and chew like the real thing, even though they’re made from plant protein without a bit of chicken? A Triangle-based company, Improved Nature, already has them and other plant-based meat-like products on the market.


That was only one of the advanced food technologies discussed by a panel of innovators at the North Carolina Professional Ag Biotech forum Wednesday at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.


Others included:


Advanced microwave food processing technology developed by Raleigh-based SinnovaTek that makes shelf stable products that do not suffer the loss of freshness and nutrients common to older processing methods.


Big data analysis of the entire food chain from “farm to fork” that provides greater safety, transparency, and incident and recall management from Durham’s FoodLogiQ.


And vertical farming indoors, which uses no soil and less water, increases food safety and minimizes pest control problems. Other panelists weighed in on the advantages of vertical farming, noting it change the agriculture equation.


Andy Kennedy, co-founder FoodLogiQ, which says its mission is to “Map the world’s food chain, make it as safe as possible and empower people to make informed decisions about the food they eat,” said the next level of the job is like “a Four-dimensional chess challenge.”


Kennedy noted that “Food is really fashion,” to consumers, rather than something scientific. “They have a strong emotional response to what’s on the label,” he said.


His company is changing a process that used to take months of collecting information from a food supply chain to a “real-time activity.” A lot of the information is bar-coded by the growers and manufacturers then scanned in kitchens and delivered wirelessly to consumer cell phones.


Kennedy, who said FoodLogiQ chose to locate in Durham rather than in Atlanta or elsewhere because of its university system, tech corridor, and quality of life, suggested that North Carolina should “Think about branding NC around food and agriculture.”


Agriculture is the state’s largest business at $84 billion annually and “Has a lot of cool things, from Kannapolis (home of the NC Research Campus dedicated to food research); and resources in the RTP, the Triad, and the Research Triangle.” In addition, its location is a “Huge hub for distribution.”


“We should bring them all together with investors from out-of-state to see what we have in NC,” he said.


Kennedy also brought up vertical farming, a method of growing plants indoors with no soil and less water that “Is some 300 times more productive than standard acre farming of land. “Once you develop the technology, you can do it anywhere on the planet,” he said. “It can bring down the cost of high-quality nutrition and may be a better alternative for developing countries with water or resource scarcity.”


Kennedy also noted that replacing meat with plant protein “Is dramatically more efficient and we are on a glide-path to how we are going to produce more food with plants rather than animals.”


Lab Chops from Improved Nature ...