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For some time now, food - an essential element of our lives -, has been at the center of a heated debate which concerns the enormous environmental impact related to its production, treatment and distribution. Although the situation doesn’t look too good, the modern technologies we have today can help us to reverse the route and restore balance with the most precious asset of our planet: its natural resources.
What is the Internet of Food?
Water consumption, CO2 emissions, pollution, energy consumption related to food production and the increasing demand for food resources - due to the constant growth of the world population – call for a rethink of the processes and activities involved in the agri-food chain.
This is the context of the Internet of Food concept: a set of digital innovations - such as technologies, applications, software and web services - which aim to improve the food sector in terms of sustainability, fight against waste, traceability, transparency and food security.
Let's take a closer look at some examples.
Future Food District, Expo Milano 2015, photo by Daniele Mascolo
Blockchain, Big Data and Augmented Reality for the food of the future
How to deal with these pressing requests from increasingly attentive consumers and from a planet so battered?
Luckily for us, technological innovation is always ready to provide effective solutions that only wait to be put into practice in an appropriate manner in order to bear fruit - in every way!
Let us take the example of the smart objects such as sensors - or drones - that in real time can record, analyze and return an enormous amount of data useful to identify trends, make forecasts and suggest actions to be implemented by companies.
The technologies just described - closely related to Big Data
- are part of what is called “precision agriculture” (you can read more in this article
), but they are not the only ones.
Another innovation that is revolutionizing the food industry to make it more transparent and safer is undoubtedly the application of the blockchain.
This system can be used, for example, to allow consumers - through a QR code printed on the product packaging -, to discover all the information about the supply chain - from the origin to the store -, setting itself as a reliable tool thanks to the authenticity of the information guaranteed by the blockchain system itself.
Another example - always linked to the concept of transparency and traceability - concerns the smart labels that take advantage of augmented reality to reveal in a unique and innovative way the additional information and multimedia content concerning the product
to be purchased.
It will be possible to visualize all the information on your smartphone, relating not only to composition and traceability, but also to the environmental impact, to the possible presence of allergens or other substances “at risk of intolerance”.
The importance of building a shared pathway
Innovation is certainly an important part of this essential process of transformation, but we also need a constant dialogue that stimulates reflection and allows us to provide solutions to act concretely.
The available data suggest that in 2050 the global urban population will grow by another 2.6 billion, and other data inform us of another scenario, at times frightening, concerning waste: every year, 1.3 billion tons of food are thrown across the planet, which equates to almost a third of world food production.
In this regard, there are many projects, events and initiatives that involve the various stakeholders to create a common plan to rethink, in a more responsible manner, the entire agri-food chain and the processes involved.
For example, events such as the “Seed and Chips - The Global Food Innovation Summit” - now in its fourth edition -, encourage the meeting of projects and proposals that bring forward this new vision.
This year, we also took part in the international summit dedicated to Food Innovation presenting “About Eat”, which - through technologies such as image recognition, mixed reality and augmented reality - wants to provide
large-scale distribution, retail outlets and restaurateurs with a new opportunity to dialogue with their customers through different types of content that can give additional information, promote products and services in a transparent way
you find the interview that our current vice CTO has released during the event).