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The meat industry is one of the largest contributors in the world to carbon dioxide emissions, deforestation and massive consumption of water. But more and more companies offer tasty and ecological alternatives.
Impossible Foods, in Silicon Valley, USA, is one of them.
The startup founded by Patrick Brown in 2011 was one of the first to work to replace food from animals with “technologically produced food”. And he hopes to achieve it in 2035.
Your motivation? Take care of the environment.
Brown says that farm animals are like small factories and that the companies that produce food use “the most destructive technology on the planet.”
This technology, according to Brown, is more harmful than that used in oil production, transportation systems, mining and the wood industry.
“It is a huge source of greenhouse gases and are the biggest users and polluters of water.”
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Livestock production is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gases , according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, for its acronym in English).
And animal protein requires 11 times more fossil fuel than vegetable fuel, according to the International Center for Agriculture and Biosciences (CABI).
But more and more technological companies are working to change that.
The so-called “food technology” does not stop growing. There are even specialized university careers in which the physical, microbiological and chemical composition of food is studied and work is being done to develop new ways of creating, packing and storing them.
According to the World Economic Forum, “technology is an extraordinary promise to solve current food challenges.”
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“But this will not happen automatically, if we do not pay attention to it, that innovation could further divide a deeply unequal world.”
And he adds that cutting-edge technologies that are already being applied “could change the rules of the game forever and affect the work of farmers, consumer nutrition and climate change .”
Below, we explain some of the most advanced (and promise to continue doing so in the coming years) .
The additive manufacturing, also known as the bioimpresión in three dimensions (3D), uses a software specific to produce food through the computer.
And is that thanks to the three-dimensional printing can produce “personalized food.”
This week is celebrated in San Diego, California, USA, the Meeting of Experimental Biology 2018, organized by the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, where they discussed progress in this sector.
Jin-Kyu Rhee of the Ewha Women’s University in South Korea said they are investigating the potential of this new technology to “create food microstructures. “
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“Bio printing will produce products such as fillets, chicken … everything you can imagine, in terms of meat,” said Vitor Espirito Santo, a scientist specializing in cell agriculture , a method to create meat in laboratories.
When producing meat in the laboratory, it expects to reduce greenhouse gases by 90%.
But printing food in 3D is now possible.
One example is Food Ink, the first printed food restaurant that opened its doors in London in 2016 and which they define on their website as “the most futuristic gastronomic experience” .
It is an itinerant project that this year will also pass through Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and the United States, among other countries.
2. Food computers
Another of the most striking advances are computers that “grow” food.
Caleb Harper, director of CitiFARM at the MIT Media Lab, of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says he wants to change the food system by connecting producers with technology.
And for that he is creating some “food computers” that he hopes could be the future of agriculture.
Harper leads the Open Agriculture project (OpenAg) since 2015. And one of its objectives is to develop machines with artificial intelligence that allow it to create customized agricultural platforms.
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These computers are capable of making plants grow without the need for soil.
“The food crisis is on the news every day, there is very little food in some parts of the world, maybe too little, and in others, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) save the world,” Harper explained at a TED conference.
Through agricultural technologies such as hydroponics – the method of cultivation that does not require soil but nutrients – and aeroponics – in which the roots are periodically sprayed with water and nutrients – this type of computer is created, also known as vertical farms.
“Within the system, every day is a summer day without a single cloud in the sky,” Maarten Vandecruys, executive director of Urban Crops, one of the companies dedicated to it, told the BBC.
The hardware allows plants to feed on light and nutrients during their growth cycle.
In addition, these computers also make “weather recipes” that can be stored and downloaded.
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There is also another type of machine for personal use: food personal computers, which are the size of an office refrigerator and can be installed in homes, schools and laboratories.
They are not yet being used commercially, but there are several prototypes that are being researched in the United States and one in Guadalajara, Mexico.
3. “Clean” or in vitro meat
Artificial or cultivated meat is also known as “clean” or in vitro meat .
It is another way of producing meat by literally growing it in the laboratory from animal cells.
There are two companies in Silicon Valley leading technology: Memphis Meats and Just Inc .
Within these factories, robots analyze the molecular interaction of food by producing “recipes” for artificial food.
“We use data and algorithms to increase the possibilities,” automation engineer Chingyao Yang, who works in the Just Inc. lab, told the BBC.
Proponents of this technology say it is a good alternative to “conventional” meat. But will everyone like it?
“We have to make products that work better when it comes to pleasing consumers than what current technology does,” says Brown. “If not, we will have failed.”