As technology advances in the food industry, our menus are about to get a whole lot more man-made.
Food futurist, Tony Hunter believes that as costs drop and intelligence rises, we could be seeing man-made meats, molecular drinks and vertically-farmed vegetables on our plates sooner than we may think.
"It boils down to three key things," he says, "Familiarity, cost and taste. If you get those right, these new foods and drinks have a chance in the market place."
Here, Tony talks to some of the latest and most-groundbreaking food technology we're seeing around the world right now, that may be hitting our mainstream markets as soon as the year 2025.
Tony believes that the way people think about meat has to change in order for them to embrace cell-based, human-constructed animal products.
"Culturally and psychologically people want meat and will turn their nose up at a plant-based burger because it isn't what they perceive as 'real meat'," says Tony. "People are saying to me, 'I don’t like to think about where it comes from', but in the end, this type of meat is just as lab-grown as yoghurt is a lab-grown milk product," he says.
He believes that cell-based meat is a game-changer, as it is a plus for sustainability and health as scientists can control what goes into the meat to boost the diet-friendly properties.
"Cell-based meat tastes exactly the same and is just as safe as conventional meat," says Tony. "Would you rather eat the burger where the cow got killed or the one where it didn’t? Most people will say they’ll take the one where the cow didn’t die," he tells.
"Also, the one where the cow wasn’t killed has no cholesterol, is high in omega 3 and 6 and uses 96 per cent less water to produce and 50 per cent less greenhouse gasses," he explains. So, from a health perspective, the only way is up!
Conventional farming practices are already experiencing a huge breakthrough in China and Japan, with vertical farms producing items from carefully-stacked rooms or shipping containers. "There are already 200 vertical farms in Japan, and they've just built one in China that's over 5,000 square metres," says Tony.
"Also, growth times are a lot shorter because it’s a controlled environment. Where a growth cycle may be 40 to 60 days, these guys are talking maybe 18 to 33 days to produce the same vegetable or fruit," he says.
As well as produce hitting the shelves faster, there's also the added bonus of product consistency, as the same elements are always applied.
However, a lot of the criticisms surrounding vertical farms include the energy required at this point in time to power these farms. "There is something in what they’re saying. Reports out of the UBS bank say that with the rate of change we’re experiencing, energy will soon become a negligible cost. If that’s the case, it makes these technologies much better as a lot of their processes are around a higher energy output," says Tony.
The coffee and whiskey industries can also benefit from advancements made to science, by using the deconstruction process to find out what to omit and what to include to make the best experience for the consumer.
"Molecular testing allows for continuous change and improvement in ways people with conventional methods can’t do," says Tony.
"For example, in a 12 or 20-year-old whiskey, you can lose 50 per cent of the product over that period of maturing time. Say, a company starts with 100 barrels and ends up with 50 at the end. Imagine the resources it took to make that 50 per cent that’s lost? It's actually a huge cost when it comes to sustainability in terms of production," he explains.
In order for things to improve and change, the product cycle is very short. If you want to improve a 12-year-old whiskey it takes 12 years to test, however with molecular advancements, taking out ingredients or getting that 'matured' taste doesn't require the same wait we've had with conventional brew times.
For more information on the future of agriculture in our society, head to evokeAG's website.