Future of Food

Can food tech solve London’s biggest food challenges?

By Centre for London 21 June 2016

Food tech has the potential to overcome many of today's biggest hurdles.

Editor’s note: As part of our series on Food & Drink, this guest post from Centre for London explains the potential for food technology to change our world for the better.

There’s no getting away from it. For the average Londoner, summoning a driver, finding a hotel or navigating your way around the city via a smartphone have become automatic.

A new language is emerging: ‘getting an Uber’ or ‘Airbnbing’ are now part of our everyday conversations. But despite this one of the most important sectors is being starved of attention: our food.

London’s food sector desperately needs innovation. Population growth and urbanisation are placing serious pressure on our existing infrastructure.

Fortunately, entrepreneurs see challenges like these as opportunities. Food Tech is all about the exciting new technological innovations that have the potential to revolutionise the value chain of the food system, the complex line of production from farm-to-plate-to-bin, in new ways.

Here are just three examples:

1. Reducing food waste

There are numerous angles from which to tackle food waste reduction, packaging innovation is one of these. Food labelling currently requires ‘use by’ date to be printed onto food packaging, but a new company, Bump Mark, has developed a bio-reactive food label, which decays to show when a product is passed its shelf life.

This has the potential to replace existing labels and produce huge efficiency gains, as consumers get better information on the freshness of their produce and sellers can stop throwing away food that is still fit for consumption. 

New technologies can now turn waste coffee grounds into energy.

2. Create new energy sources from our food

Take Bio-bean, the first in the world to industrialise the process of recycling waste coffee grounds into biofuels and more.

Bio-bean collects waste coffee that would have been disposed of from cafés and restaurants. They process 50,000 tonnes of waste – which accounts for around one in every 10 cups of tea and coffee consumed in the UK each year.

3. Efficient and affordable access to local produce

Farmdrop’s online platform brings consumers organic produce directly from local farms.

They use digital technology to remove the need for third-party distributors that increase costs and reduce produce freshness.

State stamp of approval

Traditionally, there have been significant barriers to entry for newcomers, and a lack of understanding of the potential may leave entrepreneurs and investors alike thinking the sector is less promising than it really is.

The reality is, this new breed of food and tech businesses are both scalable and profitable. And most importantly, they create impactful solutions to challenges our global food ecosystem is facing.

We need the Government to embrace food technology and create a new strategy for the sector, which should include stronger relationships between food corporations, academia and the food tech startup ecosystem.

There are so many benefits on offer. Better food means healthier people and a more sustainable future.

We believe that with a little support from the government, and buy-in from investors and entrepreneurs, London could blossom into Europe’s leading food innovation hub.

This post is an extract from London Essays, a journal published by Centre for London and generously supported by Capco. The full set of essays can be found at: essays.centreforlondon.org