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In 2016, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, listed plant-based food technology as one of the top tech trends to watch.
A man who built an enormously successful career predicting what the next game-changing technologies are, foresaw that plant-based food tech is one of the next revolutionary industries.
The vegans and vegetarians of the world are rightfully psyched to hear that their food options might increase, now that the giant world of technology stands behind their cause.
However, vegan food demand is not the only reason for this niche growth.
What Schmidt’s prediction shrewdly captures is the emergence of a hyper intelligent industry backed by data, artificial intelligence, biochemistry, and the entrepreneurial drive to solve some of the world’s largest social and environmental crises.
As (tech startup) Hampton Creek Founder, Josh Tetrick, said: “[This] is not about reaching out to health-conscious consumers.
“Our whole philosophy is that if you crave something that tastes really freakin’ good and is less expensive, even if you don’t give a damn, you end up choosing it.”
He is among this new group of entrepreneurs leading a sustainable food movement in tech.
How is plant-based food considered a tech trend?
Plant-based, or vegan, food options have been available for decades, so what’s the catch?
Technology trends – like artificial intelligence [AI] – have changed the game for plant-based foods. AI makes it possible to create cheaper, tastier, and more ethically-produced options for consumers.
The most popular case of AI being used in plant-based food production is Chilean-based startup NotCo. The startup uses AI (or machine-based learning) to identify vegetables that will most closely resemble the molecular structure of the dairy or meat it will replace.
The company calls its software ‘Giuseppe’.
The idea is that each plant-based alternative will look, taste, and feel like the popular the products it replaces.
Mayonnaise made from plant-based foods and oils will have a similar taste and texture to dairy-based mayo. In other words, Giuseppe (the AI software) makes it easy to give up meat and dairy products, if cost, taste, and texture are the excuse.
Why bother using AI technology for plant-based food?
This direct translation from the company’s website describes why its technology is important for more than vegan food variety or animal rights alone.
It says: “Until today, maintaining a system based on animal husbandry and production, using a third of land uninhabitable by humans and emitting more Co2 than all means of transport combined, are killing our planet.
“And as if that were not enough, obesity, heart problems, cholesterol levels, and all that entails this Western diet is brought about by the simple fact that healthy food is not accessible.
“If we continue the same, by the year 2030 we will have a 15 percent probability of being able to feed our population. How does it change if we change the animal production by vegetal production?
“We would have a 100 per cent chance of doing it. That’s why NotCo is born.”
Social entrepreneurs are leveraging AI and other forms of technology to transform the food industry to solve the world’s largest social problems; climate change, world hunger, animal exploitation, and poor health.
With the latest technology trends accelerating plant-based food solutions, there will be no excuses left for consumers who currently support animal agriculture in their dietary choices.
For the first time in decades – and long overdue – the food industry is experiencing a slow, but significant transformation empowered by a rise in social entrepreneurship and modern technological advancements.
Can we really transform the food industry from its destructive state to an agent of good that simultaneously promotes healthier living, feeds more people, and preserves the environment?
With the help of machine-learning and new technology, the future looks hopeful.