There's so much happening in the food world these days, it's hard to stay focused. Robots mixing cocktails and flipping your burgers. Sushi donuts and bone broth and gluten-free everything. Apps that give you free coffee and tell you how to pair wine with cheese.
There's no better place to get a glimpse of what's coming down the pipeline than SXSW, the nation’s largest tech conference that brings together leading food industry innovators to discuss the future of food in terms of technology, agriculture, and environment. Here are six exciting things in the food world we spied at SXSW 2017 that are happening right now—or will happen in the not-so-distant delicious future.
1. Vertical Farming
So long crop circles, the future of farming is contained in a giant warehouse under LED lights and air conditioning. AeroFarms CEO David Rosenberg explained the benefits of vertical farming: growing produce in indoor aeroponics uses 95 percent less water and eliminates the need for pesticides. (Sounds good to us!) At AeroFarms, non-GMO crops are grown in beds that are stacked on top of each other in the farm/warehouse in industrial Newark, NJ. Plants are monitored via sensors for quality and taste, fed hydroponic mist, and stimulated with colored lights for photosynthesis. With veggies this pampered, we bet the taste is out of this world.
2. An At-Home Fermentation Device
Fermented foods like probiotic-rich kombucha and sauerkraut are all the rage, but can take days or even weeks to make. The Panasonic House at SXSW showcased a prototype for "The Ferment" Fermented Food Incubator—every kimchi lover’s dream. Fermented food kits containing pre-programmed recipes and fermentable foods such as rice, cabbage, and fish would be delivered to your home. You then seal the ingredients in bags, set in The Ferment, and let the machine go to work. An app controls the temperature around the food to create optimal fermentation conditions, making short work of those pickled veggies.
3. A Machine That Softens Food for You
Are you irritated by the crunch of carrots? Does sinking your teeth into a hearty burger leave you exhausted? If you you think chewing food takes too much effort, this is the gadget for you. Panasonic also featured the prototype for the DeliSofter, a food softening tool designed for people who have difficulty chewing and digesting whole foods. This machine acts similarly to a pressure cooker, softening the texture of everyday meals so everyone can enjoy what they’re eating. While the tool is mainly intended for medical uses, we're guessing it'll also come in handy for those who just can't be bothered with chewing anymore.
4. Algae Oil for Cooking
Watch out, coconut oil—a new miracle fat is here to change your cooking game, and it’s all thanks to algae. Health food expert Dr. Andrew Weil of True Food Kitchen discussed Thrive Culinary Algae Oil, a sustainable cooking fat made from algae that is high in monounsaturated fat (that's the good kind). This neutral-tasting oil is similar to grapeseed or canola oil in that it can withstand temperatures up to 485°F, and also comes from one of the world’s most sustainable resources. Algae is cleanly fermented in large brewers—a process similar to beer—then expeller-pressed for the oils..
5. Recipe Robots That Help You Decide What's For Dinner
It's the age-old question: What should I cook for dinner? Now you can let a robot decide. The Food Network's Recipe Bot is a Facebook Messenger-enabled chat bot that can answer food questions and look up recipes based on command. Rolled out late last year for the holidays, the bot can talk you through your Easter celebrations with advice on how to make the tastiest deviled eggs or how to spiral a picture-perfect ham. Need some instant inspiration? Send the bot a taco emoji and see what you get in return; Rachael Ray’s Braised Pork Tacos or Bobby Flay’s Brisket Tacos, perhaps?
6. Booze in a Can That Isn't a Bud
Canned alcoholic products aren't new, but increasingly more wine, beer, and spirit companies are turning to cans to get their beverages to market. Denver, CO-based winery Infinite Monkey Theorem is one of the pioneers in the wine-in-a-can movement; owner Ben Parsons aims to make wine that mirrors the active lifestyle of the winery’s patrons by way of smaller, recyclable packaging. Other alcoholic beverages such as mead, sours, and cider are following suit in turning to cans to present their products. Blue Owl Brewing in Austin, TX is one of the first to can sour-mashed beers, allowing Texan beer nerds to take their Sour Belgian Wheat Beers to the pool and beyond.
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