Inside a warehouse in the middle of the suburban office sprawl of San Carlos, a Silicon Valley town south of San Francisco, hundreds of heads of lettuce and herbs grow next to a mobile robot designed to move the plants as they get bigger. In a lab next door, engineers tweak robots that can handle every part of the growing process, from planting seeds to packaging harvested heads of lettuce for a grocery store.By early 2018, Iron Ox, the startup behind the R&D farm, plans to open an 8,000-square-foot production farm nearby–all fully automated, in a system that the company says can make local, pesticide-free food production as cheap as traditional agriculture in the field.In the company’s system, a robotic arm plants seeds in a tightly-packed tray, where the seeds germinate in nutrient-filled water. As the plants get bigger, the arm can transplant them to a tray with more space, and then transplant them again a couple of weeks later. Moving the plants maximizes the number of plants that can grow in a tight space.The robotic arm also uses a camera to scan each plant and note any problems. “We can actually observe is it the right size, is it the right color, does it have any pest pressure or mildew or anything like that,” he says. Plants with mildew, which can easily spread, can be automatically removed. The robots can use machine learning over time to optimize how the plants are grown.
In 2008, Patrick Quade ducked out of his office at Morgan Stanley in Manhattan and stopped at a corner deli for a BLT wrap. The next day he suffered explosive diarrhea and was vomiting so violently, "it was like some force was just wringing my stomach out." When he called the deli to report the incident, they said they were not to blame and hung up on him. "Food poisoning kills 3,000 people a year," says Quade. "I thought to myself, I don't know for sure it was the deli. But what if 30 or 40 people in the neighborhood went to that deli and also got sick? Who would know?"Quade, who is now 46 years old, had no website coding experience and no background in food safety, but shortly after that incident, he founded iwaspoisoned.com, a crowdsourcing website where individuals can report food-poisoning incidents, public health officials can receive instant local alerts, and the food industry can be apprised of outbreaks early on.Today, Quade works on his site full time, boasting over 1.7 million page views and more than 75,000 reports from 90 countries and 46 U.S. states since the site's inception. In addition, 20,000 consumers and 350 health agencies subscribe to the site's daily alert service; custom alerts are available for state department agencies.
Canada’s Maple Leaf Foods today announced it has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Field Roast Grain Meat Co. for $120 million as it expands its portfolio in alternative meats. Seattle-based Field Roast is a leading brand of premium grain-based 'meat' and vegan cheese products, with sales of approximately $38 million.
About 40 percent of US and UK consumers have increased their consumption of what they consider healthy foods;70 percent of consumers want to know and understand the ingredients list on food products;Consumers from several countries recorded double-digit responses for “real ingredients” as the factor most influencing their purchasing decisions for food and beverage products. The responses ranged from 12.6 percent in Spain to 17.4 percent in the UK, 18.3 percent in Australia, 21 percent in the US and 23 percent in China.Based on that type of data, it’s no surprise that the share of food and beverage products launched globally with some sort of “better for you” claim increased from 42 percent in 2012 to 49 percent in 2017. Further, global product launches with ethical claims – such as animal welfare, humane raising, environmentally responsible, ethical packaging – rose at a 44 percent compound annual growth rate from 2010 to 2016, Williams said.Williams was quick to point out that while some of these claims lack scientific backing or regulatory definitions, consumers still want them. “Perception is reality: if consumers think it, even if it’s wrong, that’s their perception, and you have to make products that appeal to them.”It found that 73 percent of consumers read the ingredients list and 66 percent read the nutritional panel. In addition, 94 percent said they would be loyal to product manufacturers that adopt “complete transparency,” while 99 percent said they would pay more for transparent products.
Bell and Evans said it broke ground on a 560,000-square-foot chicken-harvesting facility that will allow the Fredericksburg, Pa.-based processor to expand its organic product offerings as it also moves to a slower-growth chicken breed.
With the problems in animal agriculture today, veterinarians may be the most important advocate for the beef industry and food animal production. "My job is to work with retailers of the beef industry, and tell them what a good job we do as an industry, how hard we work, how safe our food is, and how much we care about our animals and neighbors," Thomson said to producers. "Based on what the retailer asks for, I go out into the country and say to producers, 'Here are some things our customers want us to do in the future.'"Sustainability has been the buzz word in the agriculture business for the last several years. Thomson sees animal welfare, environmental stewardship, and food safety and security as all important parts of sustainability. "The one thing people forget, is if it will cost more to be sustainable? Without profitability, there is no sustainability. Define what you want to be sustainable," he said.
Health officials have issued a warning about potentially tainted raw milk that was sold in four states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising anyone who consumed Udder Milk products to seek medical attention. According to the CDC, people who drank raw milk from the company may have been infected with a rare germ called Brucella abortus RB51, which can cause an illness called brucellosis.Officials say a New Jersey woman became sick with an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacteria after consuming Udder Milk earlier this year.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today provided local food service professionals the flexibility they need to serve wholesome, nutritious, and tasty meals in schools across the nation. The new School Meal Flexibility Rule, published today, makes targeted changes to standards for meals provided under USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, and asks customers to share their thoughts on those changes with the Department.The interim final rule published today gives schools the option to serve low-fat (1 percent) flavored milk. Currently, schools are permitted to serve low-fat and non-fat unflavored milk as well as non-fat flavored milk. The rule also would provide this milk flexibility to the Special Milk Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program operators serving children ages 6 and older. States will also be allowed to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in obtaining whole grain-rich products acceptable to students during School Year (SY) 2018-2019.Schools and industry also need more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals, Perdue said. So instead of further restricting sodium levels for SY 2018-2019, schools that meet the current – “Target 1” – limit will be considered compliant with USDA’s sodium requirements. Perdue again lauded the efforts of school food professionals in serving healthful, appealing meals and underscored USDA’s commitment to helping them overcome remaining challenges they face in meeting the nutrition standards.
new technique developed by researchers at the University of British Columbia can identify unwanted animal products in ground beef within minutes, the school announced in a news release. Using a laser-equipped spectrometer and statistical analysis, food science students led by professor Xiaonan Lu determined with 99 percent accuracy if ground beef samples contained other animal parts, and could say with 80 percent accuracy which animal parts were used and in what concentration.The new method can do so in less than 5 minutes.
Low-income consumers in Canada are well educated on nutritious food choices but are unable to afford the best food for their families because of financial pressures, according to a new report. The results of the study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto counter conventional opinions that low-income consumers make poor food choices because they don’t know what foods are healthy. The data indicate that money dictates the decisions made by these consumers rather than a lack of knowledge about which foods are healthier for their families. When asked what they would buy if they had more money, respondents cited more and better-quality fruits, vegetables and meat rather than processed foods, the report noted.