870 million people around the world suffer from malnutrition, yet 2.8 million people died due to obesity-related health problems from 2010-2012. Each year, 1.3 billion tons of food ends up in the garbage.
Future food market - will we be served by a robots?
EXPO 2015 wants to find a solution to reduce malnutrition, to raise the awareness of the importance of food, and to seek innovative technological solutions for eco-friendly production: anything that would restore the equilibrium between food availability and consumption. Nature, food, people. It's all connected. So what does the future hold for us?
The answer hides in one of the most extensive EXPO projects, the Future Food District, which was presented by Carlo Ratti, the project manager and the director of the SENSEable City Lab at the Institute of Technology.
What's the story behind the Future Food District?
The Future Food District is a micro universe that explores new ways of interaction between food and consumers. Such collaboration is courtesy of new, modern internet technologies. The key question of our project was how food should be produced, distributed, prepared and consumed, all of which we projected into the future, while putting emphasis on the increase of awareness about what we eat.
What inspired you?
This may be hard to believe, but I drew my inspiration from the past, when people were much more aware about what they ate, and when food production and distribution were more transparent. Thanks to new technologies, we hope to eliminate the wall between the consumers and manufacturers, in order to introduce a more personal relationship with food.
What are three reasons why we should visit the Future Food District at EXPO?
First, it's a space where technology intertwines with natural elements, which makes for an intriguing visit. Second, and definitely worth mentioning, is the interactive shopping experience, allowing every visitor to become a food manufacturer and a consumer, both at the same time. And last but not least, a visit to our pavilion will give you the opportunity to test the smart kitchen technologies, with our professional cooks by your side.
Carlo made his case, and so we ventured into the world of new technologies, to get a taste of this unique shopping experience.
The view at the entrance to the pavilion opens to a vast market and an ocean of screens displaying product information (such as source, ingredients and price) with the objective of saving us precious time. A crowd mills at the fruit and vegetables department. Just why becomes clear once we draw closer. The fruit and vegetables are being served by a robot. That's right, a robot. No, it doesn't greet anyone, say thank you or smile, though admittedly these qualities are rare enough even when we're served by humans. But on the upside, the service is fast, which allows you to quickly move on to your other errands.
The next thing that draws our attention is the glass-fronted mini refrigerators displaying a digital message: "Print your meal." The instructions are as follows: pick your food, add a desired flavor, pick your vitamins, press print, and wait for your meal.
When the 3D printer prepares your meal, a special spray is applied, to keep the food fresh. Alas, there were no live demonstrations, though we would've loved to sample food that's made with love for technology, rather than love for cooking.