Exploding meat and other new food technologies

There is a range of new technologies that are set to take the food and beverage industry by storm. We list what we believe will be the next big five technologies that will change the way food and bev does business.

Shockwave Technology
Being developed by Australia’s own CSIRO, shockwave technology is at proof-of-concept stage. The idea of shockwave technology for meat applications first came around in 1997 when scientists decided to put pre-packaged meat under water and detonate explosives to see if they could tenderise meat.
Shockwave technology is where high pressures are applied for a short time – micro seconds – to meat. In previous studies, 100gms of explosives, placed underwater, were used to tenderise meat. Scientists thought, ‘this is great, but how can we commercialise something with explosives?’
In 2001, dielectric discharge came into being, which helped recreate the shockwave. The technology uses two electrodes to generate a similar effect to the explosives. The scientists put voltage through the electrodes and the resulting arc causes very high pressure under water.
The CSIRO thinks it might cause tissue disintegration, which can accelerate the tenderisation of meat.
When it comes to modelling and pressure, scientists aimed to understand shockwave distribution in the treatment chamber and to identify the area of maximum impact. There was a tenderisation effect that was measured objectively using a Warner Bratzler shear test, where the peak force required to cut through treated meat samples is recorded. The CSIRO is now working towards optimising this effect.

Lab-Grown Meat
VOW in Sydney and Brisbane-based Heuros are two Australian companies who are delving into the lab-grown meat space. Using stem cells from animals, the two Australian firms join a growing number of enterprises around the world that are looking to make meat-based protein without using abattoirs. While progress has been relatively quick, none of the companies have been able to make lab-grown meat a commercial reality due to the costs of producing it. Apparently the growing of the meat is not an issue, but scaling up production is. However, once that issue is solved, the next one will be trying to persuade consumers how ‘natural’ the meat’s taste and texture can be. Watch this space.

Compostable Packaging
Not to be confused with its biodegradable cousin, compostable packaging is being worked on by an array of companies in the food and beverage space. The winner of this year’s Packaging Innovation category at the Food & Beverage Industry Awards was PA Packaging Solutions’ home compostable packaging that breaks down completely after 26 weeks in a home compost bin. The issue with biodegradable claims is that all items can wear that label, after all, every product is biodegradable – it’s just a matter of how long it takes; 1 year or a 1000. Compostable packaging is aiming to target the greenie in all of us. There are a couple of issues, one being the bigger a piece of compostable packaging becomes, the more compromised it is – ie, it has issues holding the weight of the contents.

Personalised Food
Not only is technology processing our food and drink faster, and getting it to market quicker, it will soon be able to customise individual food needs of consumers. In an era where allergies and intolerance to certain ingredients are growing, there will soon be a demand for foods that meet the requirements of individuals within a family as opposed to the whole family group. It will be a challenging prospect but already companies like Sunbasket and Platejoy are tapping into the healthy/organic arena with their offerings.

Data mining
Not strictly food and beverage-only related, but something that will be happening more as the world becomes more and more digitally connected. Whether it is a local café, or a multi-national food outlet like Starbucks or McDonalds, data is currency. AI will be the key driver as food manufacturers and the outlets they sell to try and find out more about the consumers of their products. Is the Venti big in Sydney’s western suburbs, or is it the Trenta? Where are most Big Mac’s consumed? Perth or Adelaide.

And while some may think that it has a feel of Big Brother about it, there is also an upside. It should lead to less food waste and packaging as certain sectors of the community can be targeted and their specific needs met without oversupplying a particular outlet.


Digitisation makes for more productive and sustainable farming

Progressive digitisation is increasingly important in the farming industry: data-supported targeted application of fertiliser and crop protection products, soil analysis sensors and autonomous operation are just a few of the buzz words in the current discussion around Farming 4.0 and smart farming.

“Smart Farming can support more productive and sustainable farming via an accurate and resource-efficient approach,” said Dr Jan Regtmeier, director product management at Harting IT Software Development. Regtmeier demonstrates application of the Harting Mica and its benefits for agriculture. The Edge Computer controls processes and procedures seamlessly and records all of the relevant data. “This gives farmers security, also creating consumer trust,” Regtmeier said.

Two application scenarios show how Mica gathers data. In the first one, Harting Mica  records data from two sets of scales, which are used to weigh tractor and trailer, recording the weight of maize delivered. The tractor is also given a single ID to ensure that it is uniquely assigned to the crop area. The data recorded is processed and sent to the Cloud for further evaluation. In the second application scenario, Mica records data during the critical mashing process. The data is then used for process optimisation with data analytics.

“Data-supported farming allows for new approaches, ensuring sustainable food production now and in the future,” explains Dries Guth, principal innovation manager and Head of the IoT Innovation Lab at itelligence. Data collated via sensors, from the soil and farming machinery and satellite imagery and fed into intelligent systems supports not only yield optimisation, but also the resource-saving application of water and crop protection products. “It is also about exploring new forms of food production, as we are now seeing with the successes in Urban Farming and Vertical Farming for example,” said Dries Guth.

“The potential for smart farming is huge,” says Regtmeier with conviction. “The farming industry has only just begun to make use of digitalisation.”

Technology helps food and beverage companies overcome market instability

The rapid uptake of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is dominating today’s business landscape, and its rising impact can’t be ignored.

A 2017 survey of large Australian businesses revealed that 89 per cent had already rolled out some form of AI, and that 70 per cent of senior Australian executives see their future business strategies hinging on this exciting new technology.

Why the sudden interest in AI? Because well-executed AI unlocks unprecedented opportunities for growth.

According to recent forecasting by Gartner, new business revenue created via AI will amount to $300 billion by 2020.

READ: Artificial intelligence boosts wine’s bottom line

Clearly there is an opportunity for food and beverage companies to help themselves to a slice of this growing revenue pie. How? By effectively and flawlessly bridging the increasing disconnect between market volatility and revenue growth.

In today’s food and beverage industry, international competition is growing, margins are thinning and the price of commodities is constantly changing. Added to these pressures, are multitude of factors — from increased labour costs, seasonal trends and changes in consumer demand – that can create profitability obstacles.

In this tumultuous environment, manual pricing and quoting methods are no longer agile enough to deliver sufficient revenue. Without the ability to address market fluctuations as they occur, companies feel the effects of margin leaks. And this is where AI comes in.

AI can unlock big data and analytics to give food and beverage companies the insight to respond in real time to market instabilities, quote the right price at the right time, close more sales, and protect margins.

To maximise success, David Bray from PROS suggests that food and beverage companies prioritise the following three key capabilities when implementing AI-powered revenue management systems:

Get the picture: Analyse sales for a clearer understanding of which products drive overall profitability. When you know what your most profitable products are, you can prioritise these should you need to make a strategy pivot.

Find your price points: Map customers’ price sensitivities and reactions to pricing spikes. Find out the price points that cause buying behaviours to decline; and the price points at which buying behaviours increase.

Real-time response: Adjust prices dynamically to account for shifts in underlying commodity prices, changes in market conditions and up-to-date supply information. AI-enabled dynamic pricing technology takes all variables into account to formulate winning pricing strategies.

“AI-powered dynamic pricing technology delivers a number of tangible benefits,” Bray said. “It automates processes, so companies can streamline operations. The technology captures more sales with faster and more accurate quoting, and drives additional revenue from cross-sell opportunities,” he said.

According to Gartner Research, robust price optimisation strategies can increase margins by 50 basis points or more, and increase revenue by up to four per cent. Multinational dairy company, Fonterra, is one such example – after implementing a new dynamic pricing revenue realisation system, it achieved a 2-4 per cent margin uplift, equivalent to $20 million per quarter.

AI-based technologies are reshaping how companies around the world do business. A considered, strategic implementation of high-level AI-powered functions will ensure your business can override market instabilities to grow revenues and outpace the competition.