SproutsIO's tech-enabled system for growing personal produce

This past weekend New York’s inaugural food and technology expo Food Loves Tech, showcased over 30 companies innovating in the food technology space along with a program of talks, kitchen demos, a multisensory dining experience and a “silent disco for your tongue” presented by Audi. Produced by Vaynermedia and Edible Manhattan, the event gathered a wide range of entrepreneurs integrating technologies from the worlds of science, systems engineering and digital media with the food space. With uneven representation—from student projects to VC-funded startups—the expo was a hodgepodge collection of the diversity of ideas jostling to redefine the way we will produce, procure and consume food in the near future.

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We loved seeing the expansion of companies like Exo insect-protein bars into the savory sphere, and Sir Kensington’s condiments into chickpea-water derived vegannaise. We caught up with our friends at SproutsIO as they exhibited their tech-enabled growing system for personal produce to the public for the first time. And we tasted One Hop Kitchen’s delicious insect bolognese sauce—we preferred mealworm over the cricket—and are excited to see new pathways towards entomophagy. Focusing on innovative ideas in design, here are five highlights from this year’s inaugural Food Loves Tech expo.

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Accelerating Cellular Agriculture
New Harvest is funding the next generation of food startups. The New York-based accelerator is a non-profit research group on a mission to build and establish the field of cellular agriculture by funding the work of researchers who are reinventing the way we produce animal products like meat, milk and eggs—without the meat. Everything from lab-grown hamburgers to egg whites made by bioreactors, New Harvest is invested in rethinking our food system through advances in the fields of tissue engineering and synthetic biology.

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Clean Tech for Home Cooks
The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves has the urgent mission of developing and selling clean stove technologies for the over 3 billion people who currently cook over open fires or by means of inefficient cookstoves. Beyond the deaths from smoke-related illnesses, air pollution and safety concerns around cooking over an open fire, clean cookstoves have the potential to empower the women who are often tasked with the tedious and dangerous task of collecting fuel and tending cookstoves. At the GACC stand, Brooklyn-based BioLite exhibited their clean-burning cookstove—that can also charge a phone. The company has been developing a number of energy products using a business model of parallel innovation, for both emerging markets in the developing world and the outdoor camp market. GoSun Stove, a cannon-shaped solar cooker, also showcased their fuel-free cooker. Two models, the GoSun sport and the GoSun grill, boast speedy cooktimes (20 minutes to a meal reaching 550F) and the ability to perform with clouds and even at night. The GACC, an alliance between the private sector and the UN Foundation to Save Lives, has the ambitious goal of getting 100 million households to adopt cleaner and safer cook stoves by the year 2020.

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3D Printed Juice
Although we’re still skeptical about the future of 3D food printing, UK-based nufood’s 3D juice printer goes one step beyond the liquid spheres that we’ve become familiar with from fine dining kitchens by introducing a consumer appliance that can create edible structures with liquid droplets. Homechefs can design the shapes of the final structure using an app on their phone.

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DIY Cricket Farm
Appealing both to the makers and urban homesteaders, HomeGrown’s DIY Cricket Farm is an easy, entry-level design solution for those who might be interested in trying their hand at insect farming. Made out of easily accessible materials, SVA graduate Ashley Marie Quinn’s Cricket Farm was developed as a way of connecting people with their food and a vision for creating a more democratized food system. Quinn is working on putting together instructions so that anyone can build their own farm.

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Vending Healthy Choices
In our convenience-driven culture, there is an exploding demand for prepared foods ready to grab-and-go. If vending machines had more options beyond candy and junk food, perhaps we would make healthier choices when it’s time to snack. The wood-clad Farmer’s Fridge is a vending machine your nutritionist would approve of: it dispenses salads, crudite, oatmeal and other healthy snacks in a reusable plastic jar that can be recycled or reused (their website has some fun ideas including a lightning bug condo.