Edible Innovation: Sustainability Beyond Meat

Maker News
Edible Innovation: Sustainability Beyond Meat

From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Future Food Institute — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.

The definition of “hunger” is, in few words, a compelling need or desire for food. More specifically, it’s the feeling of weakness or discomfort that you get when you need something to eat. Hunger can lead to malnutrition and consequently to several physical side effects: weakened immune system, physical and mental stunting, increased risk of disease. Today, the problem some of the boldest food makers are facing is how to reduce it. Several are the factors that determine this phenomenon: to be really sustainable the “typical” diets need to be integrated with new foods, the so-called Super Foods: easy to produce and cultivate and with higher nutritive principles.

Insects, seaweeds, mushrooms are conquering their space, replacing part of the no-more-sustainable meat industry, reducing waste of water, raw materials and food itself. For example, SpirEat is an Italian startup. The way it is grown makes the difference, which is why SpirEat is more than a supplement: thanks to its delicate and pleasant flavor, it is the new ingredient for cooking. It comes from 100% Italian organic cultivation. Thanks to the natural drying method at low temperatures (104 ° F) , it maintains all its nutritional properties. It is pure: it has no additives, dyes, preservatives or sugar. Its production is zero impact.

The main product is the Spirulina, which is a particular kind of microalgae: full of iron and beta-carotene. It contains carotenoids, phycocyanin and allophycocyanin, which are mainly responsible for antioxidant activities. About vitamins, it contains all the essential amino acids, some important minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and many vitamins (from A to D). It has three times the protein of a steak but it is produced with much less resources.

On the other hand, we can find an alternative protein source: insect bars. Most of the world has joined the bug-eating revolution: the idea of the american startup EXO is based on turning these sustainable wonders into powder, add wholesome ingredients like dates and cocoa nibs, and get a delicious fuel. The United Nations estimates that crickets are 20x more resource-efficient than cows when raised for protein.

Quinoa, a South American seed, is conquering an important role as a Super Food too. Marc Arts, founder of GreenFood50, a dutch start up in the quinoa field, declared “Our mission is to enable tasty, sustainable and healthy food for a growing world population”. And this is exactly what quinoa can do for the world: it’s full of vitamins, minerals, protein and dietary fibers, in addition is naturally gluten free and really versatile in the kitchen. To achieve its mission, GreenFood50’s multidisciplinary team cooperates with Wageningen University & Research to translate customer needs into innovative products with the latest technologies and know-how and within the limitations of available crop land, water and energy. It has a global partner network in the food and agri-industry and is a member of Food Valley Society and The Protein Cluster.

The key question is still about how we can guarantee food to everyone.
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report of 2017 highlights the increase to 815 million of undernourished people in the world in 2016, up from 777 million in 2015, although still down from about 900 million in 2000. The goal of a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030 is in danger, but there’s still a hope renewing efforts through new ways of working, through circular economy and sustainable diets. As Robert Swan said “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”.

Special thanks to Lucrezia Palladini and Silvia Poli for their contributions to this article.


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Chiara is fascinated by food as a means to impact bodies, minds, and environment. She has studied international business in three different countries, and is an alumni of the Food Innovation Program and US Director at the Future Food Institute.

Based in California, she is also a Research Scholar at Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, working on building the first comprehensive Internet of Food to enable food care through food systems semantics. She is a selected member of Barilla Center Food Nutrition Foundation, a Research Affiliate at Institute For The Future, Board Member at Maker Faire and selected member of the Global Shapers, a young global network of innovators promoted by the World Economic Forum.

She is passionate about social entrepreneurship and impact investing, and aims to leave her mark on society.

View more articles by Chiara Cecchini


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