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Emanuela Taverna

Emanuela Taverna is a professional journalist, who has significant experience in covering hot button issues in the field of sustainable development and green economy. From 2009 to 2013 she was editor-in-chief of the magazine and website GreenBusiness and formerly senior editor of the journal Food from 2002 to 2009. For the Sodalitas Foundation she was editor of the Libro d’oro della responsabilità sociale d’impresa 2014 (Golden Book of Corporate Social Responsibility 2014). She currently writes feature stories on food, retail and sustainability for a number of publications and manages content and events on these topics for a range of companies and foundations.
Emanuela Taverna su Expo Milano 2015

Nine strands of innovation

Innovation / Emanuela Taverna Michele Sechi Gatta

A mapping analysis of the 175 food startup companies which made appearances at Expo Milano 2015 has made it possible to identify the main trends in agrifood innovation, grouping them in nine main strands. Let’s see what these are.

First trend: the Internet of Things

Innovation / Michele Sechi Gatta Emanuela Taverna

Thanks to the Internet, potentially every single object that is part of our everyday experience acquires an existence in the digital dimension: tools and commonly-used devices can exchange information via electronic components, sensors and interconnected software. Consequently, all these devices can be controlled from a distance. These characteristics open up a vast field of possible application in agricultural food production.

Second trend: urban vegetable plots

Innovation / Michele Sechi Gatta Emanuela Taverna

Increasing the total cultivatable area inside cities as well as outside them is a necessity… and also a pleasant hobby. Devices equipped with sensors are able to measure air temperature, atmospheric and soil humidity, concentration of main nutrients, threats, etc. This data is then gathered and processed and communicated via a mobile or web device. But small spaces can also be exploited using aeroponics, aquaponics and hydroponics, none of which require soil.

Third trend: sustainability

Innovation / Emanuela Taverna Michele Sechi Gatta

The food of the future must require less water, less energy, less fertilizer and less transport. And since sometimes you have to look at the past in order to innovate, many young people are devoting themselves to agriculture and reviving methods of organic cultivation, using biodynamic approaches, permaculture or synergic agriculture. Sustainability also has a vital social dimension, such as the inclusion of weaker or disadvantaged members of society or boosting female business empowerment.

Fourth trend: health

Innovation / Emanuela Taverna Michele Sechi Gatta

Allergies and intolerances and other food-connected pathologies are multiplying all over the world, and in doing so are creating target groups which offer considerable market potential. The startup projects in this strand focus on solutions for offering healthy and genuine foods, foods suitable for certain kinds of dietary problems which remain pleasurably palatable and easily available. The most significant sub-group here was seen to be the development of substitute products, where traditional animal protein contents are simulated by vegetal contents.

Fifth trend: security and traceability

Innovation / Emanuela Taverna Michele Sechi Gatta

The traceability of agriculturally produced food products is an increasingly significant issue both for institutions and private subjects. The use of mobile devices enables the monitoring of various phases of the supply chain and ensures respect for food safety standards and traceability. Many new evaluation techniques have been developed using sensing devices. The use of a single category of technique or a combination makes it possible to cover the challenges of a wide range of food sector problems.

Sixth trend: superfood

Innovation / Emanuela Taverna Michele Sechi Gatta

Scientific research has led to the discovery of previously unexplored nutritional properties, many of which are presented as ‘superfoods’. Some of these already existed in nature but needed rediscovery and market distribution. Others are created by laboratory nutrient enrichment processes. In this micro-trend, a special mention goes to algae. Rich in vitamins and mineral salts, algae have long been present in the diet of many Asian peoples, and have been indicated by the FAO as one of the possible solutions to malnutrition in Developing Countries.

Seventh trend: sharing

Innovation / Emanuela Taverna Michele Sechi Gatta

Among the environments in which the desire for sharing is especially strong, the field of food generates intense interest. This trend can be said to include all online platforms and mobile apps which encourage networking on food issues, whether offering digital resources to obtain short supply chain products, lunches and suppers in private homes, interactive edutainment products for children, store locators for finding restaurants, and much more.

Eighth trend: waste reduction

Innovation / Michele Sechi Gatta Emanuela Taverna

Technology can produce effective weapons to counteract the scandal of food waste. The possibility of communicating in real time (frequently through a smartphone) the availability of excess food or near-expiry date food has made it much simpler to reinforce recovery methods. More and more applications and online platforms are being launched – by creative innovators from Italy and many other countries – which benefit retailers and consumers by signaling the availability of products near the end of their shelf life.

Ninth trend: 3D printing

Innovation / Emanuela Taverna Michele Sechi Gatta

The spread of 3D printer technology is a fascinating phenomenon, which is starting to be employed in restaurants and even in private homes. This is basically a more sophisticated version of the home-made auto-production approach, made ‘smarter’ by the use of this new technology.

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