Technology and making food go hand in hand, from gadgets and utensils for the home chef to factory-level industrial food production.

But where FoodTech may once have been all about making the process quicker and easier and developing new techniques, the innovations at the frontier of food technology are increasingly tackling environmental challenges and creating a more sustainable food system.

In a recent interview with Martin Davalos, partner at FoodTech-focused Czech investment firm McWin, he pointed to three key tech trends that have the potential to transform the food sector: waste reduction technology (WasteTech), alternative protein and plastic-free packaging.

Watch Davalos’ interview: How Technology Is Addressing Europe’s Food Security Challenge

These innovations, he further said, can help build more sustainable food production and distribution models to tackle inflation and mounting food and energy prices across Europe.

WasteTech

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a charity based in the U.K., estimated that in 2018, the country produced around 9.5 million tons of food waste — and as much as 70% of that could have been avoided.

The good news is that the volume of food waste that year was almost 480,000 tons lower than in 2015, helped by coordinated efforts across the industry to reduce supply chain inefficiencies and tackle high-waste practices by leveraging technologies such as software systems that monitor and analyze food waste data across restaurant branches.

With these tools and the right information available, smarter procurement decisions can ensure that restaurants aren’t overbuying ingredients or cooking too much food.

Another example is the method employed by U.K.-based WasteTech firm Winnow, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor and track food waste through a connected camera and weighing scale system. The system can be hooked up in one or multiple kitchens to analyze which foods are being thrown away and inform chefs’ future decisions to help them reduce waste.

Alternative Protein

With the negative environmental impact of the meat industry now well-documented, consumer demand for meat-free alternatives is on the rise. For example, a 2021 Bloomberg Intelligence report projected that the alternative meat market will increase from $4.2 billion to $74 billion in the next decade.

Related: Alternative Proteins Take New Shapes Amid Growing VC, Consumer Interest

As plant-based proteins have exploded onto the global food scene, in recent years the range of options has proliferated far beyond the soy- and mycoprotein-based meat substitutes that traditionally dominated the food market.

One of the emerging innovations gaining traction is cultured meat, which uses lab-grown animal cells to recreate a meat-like tissue structure with the intention of making a meatier texture without slaughtering any animals.

And globally, startups are bringing new cultured meat products to market at an accelerating pace.

Learn more: Lumachain Raises $19.5M for Global Rollout of Meat Industry Platform

Last month, German company Bluu Seafood debuted lab-grown fish sticks and fish balls which are set to hit supermarket freezers soon, while Dutch startup Meatable is looking to start selling its cultured meat sausages to consumers by 2025. Another Dutch firm, Mosa Meat, was one of the first in the world to develop a lab-grown burger.

Plastic-Free Packaging

As Davalos told PYMNTS, “Single-use plastics will disappear pretty soon in Europe,” and plastic-free food packaging will be instrumental to that change.

Against that backdrop, researchers at the cutting-edge of materials science are helping the food industry create more sustainable food packaging by experimenting with a range of biodegradable alternatives made from renewable resources.

Some of the firms spearheading that shift include Berlin-based startup Arekapak, which has developed a line of natural packaging solutions made from sun-dried palm leaves, and London’s NotPla, which is using seaweed, plant and mineral extracts to create plastic-like films that can be used for food packaging but can dissolve in water thereafter.

NotPla has even developed flavored films that can be used as food packaging and will simply dissolve into the food itself, leaving no waste behind.

A final alternative to plastic worth mentioning is mycelium packaging. As well as being a plastic-free, fully-biodegradable solution, companies like Netherlands-based Grown Bio can grow packaging using fungal strands into any shape needed.

Even better, Biohm, a London biomaterials startup, is pioneering a means of growing mycelium from the organic waste products of other industries. Biohm’s mycelium technology means that one day, not only might mushrooms eventually replace single-use plastics, but they could also help to reduce the amount of other waste going to landfills.

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https://www.pymnts.com/connectedeconomy/2022/tech-investments-usher-in-post-oil-future-in-emerging-markets/partial/

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