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From farm to plate —5 crucial food sector innovations

Food production might still be the most important endeavour humans undertake.

And despite thousands of years of practise, it’s still a struggle ensuring there’s enough nutritious food for everyone on the planet.

But scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs are making sterling efforts to improve and solve the sustainable food puzzle.

Here are five crucial food sector innovations.

Seed banks

In the event of a global disaster, food security would be at the cutting edge of survival and many precious species of plants could be wiped out forever.

To prepare for this doomsday scenario, the Global Seed Vault at Svalbard, Norway stores almost a million packets of seeds that would be used to restore supplies.

The high-security building is slotted securely into a mountainside on the island of Spitzbergen and seeds are stored at an optimum temperature of -18°C.

But an unseasonably warm winter last year meant the store was compromised — although no vital seed stocks were lost.

Drones

Agricultural drones have been used by farmers for several years.

The devices can regularly photograph crops so that farmers can effectively map each area of their properties in order to monitor disease outbreaks and maximise crop yields.

Drones can also be fitted with infrared cameras — creating images that make it easier to differentiate from healthy and diseased plants.

And the compact aerial devices also allow farmers to keep an eye on soil conditions and plan the optimum times for seed planting.

As word of their potential spreads we’re likely to see more drones hovering above our farmlands.

Production cooling

Converting raw ingredients to finished products is dependent on maintaining consistent conditions in food production facilities.

If conditions are sub-standard, valuable product can be wasted or finished products can be harmful to consumers.

But specialist firms like Penmann design and install bespoke cooling, air conditioning and ventilation systems for clients producing everything from ice cream to soft drinks and biscuits.

Diligence at this stage of the process is essential if food products are to reach shop shelves in good condition.

Logistics software

Transporting food from farms and factories to supermarkets, cafes and restaurants is a tricky business — especially if produce is fresh or refrigerated.

Software systems like SmartDrive keep logistics fleets safer by combining video, vehicle and driving data to improve driver performance and reduce risk.

Analytics can also be used to predict the optimal route on any given day — saving fuel and improving delivery efficiency.

Mobile payments

User-friendly food delivery businesses rely heavily on convenient online payments.

With lots of competition, if your payment process is clunky and bothersome you’re likely to lose out to competitors.

Hong Kong company Foodpanda mitigated this risk by ensuring that mobile customers could use a one-click payment procedure to make transactions smooth and effortless.

Their unified payment platform creates a consistent customer experience online, on mobile and in stores and makes it convenient for customers to use any method they prefer to pay for their food.

This technological awareness is essential if food is to reach customers lips and fill their stomachs at the last stop of the supply chain.

These five crucial food sector innovations prove that technology is streamlining the way we produce and consume food — from farm to plate.

What food sector innovations impress you most? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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