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Food of the future. Innovation presented at Expo Milano 2015

Innovation / -

Cibo del futuro un itinerario tra i Padiglioni

Hydroponics, algae, vertical gardens, desalination and crop research – at Expo Milano 2015, the solutions to increase food security and create the food of the future can be found in many of the pavilions. Here’s an overview.

In the room dedicated to the power of the challenge, through the use of holograms and short films, 21 stories about food and agricultural innovations are presented. There is the Ferrari Farm, which built ​​three sealed sterile greenhouses with hydroponic plantings that’s unique in Europe. The greenhouses allow the cultivation of high-quality plants in the absence of pathogens and regardless of external weather conditions. Also presented is the  Ocean Reef project, which allows basil to grow under water through a system of biosphere  balloons anchored to the seabed off of Noli, Italy, where large amounts of carbon dioxide act as steroids for the plants, resulting in rapid growth.
The visitor is led through a "passage of time", starting from 2015 and going up through 2050. How will we be feeding ourselves? Here is a sort of “laboratory of solutions for the future”. The systems presented are: hydroponics and aquaponics (with authentic fish tanks), the use of insects (permitted in Belgium as an ingredient when mixed with other flours) and the rediscovery of common wild plants.
United Arab Emirates
For the UAE, the theme of Expo Milano 2015 is crucial, as 85 percent of food is imported and the scarcity of water resources is a constant challenge. A series of 48 holographic installations divided into 24 cubes have been mounted, highlighting 12 challenges and offering numerous solutions. For example to address climate change, the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture is studying edible plants that are resistant to saline conditions specific of the Emirates.
In the exhibition space dedicated to water, German projects are presented on the recovery of phosphorus as fertilizer. In the section devoted to the land, interactive displays provide information on projects such as agroforestry to prevent erosion and to stabilize the water balance. Progressing through the pavilion, visitors can view solutions that combine climate protection, sustainable procurement, energy and nutrition, such as agricultural solar panels, or combining the use of surface energy and agriculture. Finally, there are projects for the preservation and promotion of biodiversity, including the Gatersleben Gene Bank.
Japan's contribution to the problems of the planet is shown on stage three of the Pavilion, entitled Innovation. The animated mascots, Morizo ​​and Chiccolo, explain to a robot in simple language the food challenges of the planet. Touching one of the four world maps on the sides of the pavilion, you can find solutions that Japan has proposed to the various food problems on a global scale.
Israel is presented as a 'granary of knowledge'. The outside of the pavilion presents a vertical field that uses an Israeli patented irrigation system with low environmental impact. The wall is typical of the most advanced Israeli agricultural techniques, saving water and reducing the emission of pollutants. In the second room, the contribution of Israel to international agricultural innovation is presented, such as the cultivation of higher quality grain for pasta and automated milking methods.
Interactive content is divided into 15 circular displays. In the fifth display, dedicated to aquaculture, a method, called milking, extracts the eggs of sturgeon without killing the animal. In the sixth display, dedicated to the agriculture of the future, the danger posed by locusts is presented, which in 2013 devastated more than 2 million hectares of crops. Scientists have developed a monitoring system using drones to identify areas affected by outbreaks.
The visit to the Kuwait Pavilion is conceived as a journey aimed at understanding what life in the desert is like and how the Kuwaitis were able to make their territory a hospitable place, rich in resources. At the end of the second room, there are walls of glass, a vertical garden made ​​with hundreds of hydroponic plants representing the commitment of the Middle Eastern country to the development of agriculture.
Date palms, the heart of the agricultural tradition of Oman, are the center of the section "Our rich agricultural heritage", with the "one million palm trees" project, which should be completed in 2025. An installation reproduces a simplified acquaponic system. In the "Treasures of our seas" the visitor learns that the country is building an artificial reef, through completely natural installations on the seabed, around which will form calcifications.
The Qatari government is investing in agricultural projects at the forefront with the Qatar National Food Security Program (QNFSP) including: a hydroponic system, desalination and water production from atmospheric moisture (Agriverde) and microalgae for aquaculture. Qatar is also building a hub port for efficient transport. With the Filaha project, the government is promoting the publishing of some ancient texts on traditional farming methods, to check their applicability in the present day.
The Pavilion highlights a number of innovative projects and prototypes made ​​by startups and university departments of Slovakia. Some examples? Smart hydroponic systems for growing at home (Croptech), energy drinks that can be achieved through the liquefaction of farro for a natural cereal drink (Functional food) or plastic material made ​​from 100 percent natural materials such as corn and sugar beets (Biodegradable bioplastic).
United States
The vertical garden is the feature that best represents American Food 2.0: a large wall made of motorized panels that turn towards the sun. Through a hydroponic method and water recovery, the system nourishes over 40 varieties of crops.  Inside hanging pots are equipped with a system of lights capable of stimulating the growth of plants. A series of videos depict American innovation in agriculture, policy, cooking, food, industry and research.
A journey of innovation in the wake of the "Prix de l'Audace et de l'inventivité". Ten trends characteristic of French creativity are illustrated by ten selected products during the last edition of SIAL, the largest exposition linked to innovation in the food industry. These ten products are integrated into the design of the pavilion, and the "Prêt à Pousser" project - organic mushrooms grown in a cardboard box - has been selected as winner of the competition, indicative of the trend "cook and grow at home."
The Netherlands
At Expo Milano 2015, the Netherlands have developed projects related to innovation in the field of nutrition. With the concept of "sharing", the country believes that the solutions to global challenges require international collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and resources by all. The concept of "growth" is expressed through the richness of the Netherlands, from which the technological, economic and social development of the country is derived. While that of "living" is shown by the number of people looking for a higher and higher quality of life.
The Pavilion shows an example of urban aquaculture as seen in the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, where the first oyster nursery in the Mediterranean was built. The excellence of these products is guaranteed by the good quality of the water that is constantly controlled by xenia coral, used on farms as a natural alarm that monitors conditions, while phytoplankton serves as food for the oysters. The mollusks are raised in the nursery until they reach the size of 10 mm, and then they are transported to Brittany and then return to the Principality of Monaco where they enter the production process. The oysters provide an example of the methods and technologies capable of obtaining healthy products in urban environments.
Future Food District
A real food laboratory is found within the Exhibition Area where visitors can learn how to choose and purchase food with the aid of technologies of the future. The exhibition that combines innovation with suggestion;  the challenge is to improve food production, starting to make use of insects, Bio-on sustainable packaging and floating structures capable of producing foods, such as the startup Jellyfish Barge.`
The innovative idea that the country offers is related to a new form of food packaging. The protective films are developed in new edible ways, so as to avoid waste, applicable to almost every kind of food that can be wrapped in portioned packages and cooked in boiling water: tea, coffee, oatmeal, soups, pasta, spices and herbs. In addition, all raw and ready to eat food can be packaged like this including meat, cheese, fruit and vegetables.
Arid Zones Cluster  
Display panels illustrate the strategies that address the processes of desertification and soil degradation, policies for sustainable land management and soil Regeneration techniques. Examples are the Desert Green Wall project, the realization of a "green belt" of trees, and the Acacia Operation Project. To capture and transport water various examples are shown including the Vallerani System, the mechanical plow that creates micro basins and pockets in the ground; the Watercone, a cone which, through the condensation principle, obtains drinking water from brackish or polluted water; the Solar Bottle, a flat sided bottle with a transparent face and an aluminum one to capture the sun's rays, obtaining fresh water purified by exposure to direct sunlight for at least six hours; the Dew Bank Bottle is an example of biomimicry, and works due to its dome shape and the strong temperature differences between day and night, it can be left outside overnight, collecting condensation; and there is also the Hippo Roller, a cylindrical tank able to roll like a wheel and which can hold up to 90 liters of water.

Marco Gualtieri. Technology can help us tackle the challenges of Expo Milano 2015

Innovation / -

Marco Gualtieri

Innovative technologies can help us to reduce waste, support small farmers, and eat food which is healthier, more sustainable and available to everyone. At the Universal Exposition, many young innovators have proposed promising solutions. Has the era of the Internet of Food arrived?

Sustainability, food security and waste reduction are the keywords of the food startups which Expo Milano 2015 has brought to everyone’s attention. The same priorities are shared by Marco Gualtieri, founder and Chairman of Seeds&Chips.
 Gualtieri has launched several successful startups: he created TicketOne and was one of the founders of Netcomm, the Italian e-commerce Consortium.
 He is also the founder of Milano Cucina.
Which parts of the agricultural food chain have the highest rate of innovation?
All the various phases in the supply system are undergoing significant innovatory processes which – thanks mainly to the digital dimension – are changing the way that food is produced, transformed, distributed and communicated. Agriculture is intensely involved in technological innovation. Sensors, software, drones and big data make it possible to limit (often drastically) the amount of water used, but also the amount of fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide. But precision agriculture also makes it possible to take early action in cases of mass infestation… think of the recent case of Xylella which struck hundreds of ancient olive trees in southern Italy, spreading its deadly effects because intervention was too late and too slow. If adequate precision agriculture systems are in place information can be gathered in real time and interventions activated. The same thing applies in the animal farming sector.
What trends are shared by the most interesting startups in the agricultural food production field?
Sustainability, food security and waste reduction are the keywords. These are the challenges which Expo Milano 2015 has set as the central focus of international attention. The good news is that today the instruments exist to tackle these challenges. Technologies, sensors, networks and devices of all kinds have reached an unprecedented level of innovative sophistication and accessibility… and therefore diffusion. Thanks also to Expo Milano 2015, many young innovators have become aware of the vast opportunities involved, meaning that hundreds of new startups exist in the world today. These are just the bridgehead of a much larger system which will grow exponentially. What happened with Internet will also happen to the Internet of Food: the use of the web will make the whole system more efficient.
What are the most innovative technologies likely to transform the world of food in the future?
Along with precision agriculture, certainly the techniques of production without soil (hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaponics), and also the projects of food replicas without animal protein: hamburgers without meat, mayonnaise without egg, etc. Hampton Creek, the Californian startup which developed and is now successfully selling Just Mayo, the egg-free mayonnaise indistinguishable from the traditional version, is an extraordinary example.
At the same time, I also wouldn’t underestimate the e-commerce platforms (or the information and traceability platforms), new packaging and 3D food printers. Going back to hydroponics, on the other hand, we will see more and more of it and in ever improved versions (again using sensors, networks and big data), but above all the spread of this system to urban contexts. A great example is the solution proposed by Robonica, a Milanese startup which in a few months’ time will start producing the first “home appliances” for producing zero kilometer tomatoes, lettuce and much more. Another Italian startup, Pnat, is moving in similar territory with its JellyFish Barge, a kind of raft that desalinates and purifies water using only sun, wind and wave power, and then uses a hydroponic system to produce fruit and vegetables. Urban farming, feeding the city… these expressions indicate phenomena which will evolve massively in the coming years.
Which do you think is the most promising of these technologies? In what timescale do you see them being massively applied?
The speed of innovation is mind-boggling. Many of the most radical innovations simply didn’t exist a few years ago. The entire food supply chain will be revolutionized (before long, the world’s digital consumers will top the five billion mark). The extraordinary merit of Expo Milano 2015 – perhaps insufficiently recognized or appreciated – has been its skill in stimulating encounters, forums, debates, information, proposals and solutions on the most vital theme of all for our Planet, and especially for humanity. This is why I’m convinced that this particular Universal Exposition will mark an epochal point in mankind’s relationship with food, after which technological innovation will make it possible to reduce waste, support small food producers, and eat food which is healthier, more sustainable and – above all – available to everyone.

The GreenWatcher, Giunko, Hangreen and OrtiAlti: innovative life for the world of food

Innovation / -

Four startups, four ideas for injecting new life into the world of food. These have been selected by Autogrill which, on the occasion of the presentation of its own tenth sustainability report, chose to share the stage at the Coca-Cola Pavilion in Expo Milano 2015 with them.

Their names are The GreenWatcher, Giunko, Hangreen and OrtiAlti, and they are four startup companies who intend to change the course, preferably in an eco-direction, of our everyday lives.  Autogrill selected them, and presented them at Expo Milano 2015 in the Coca-Cola Pavilion as sustainable innovative projects capable of contributing to the future of food, and more. Here is what they propose:
The classic app that makes life easier. At least during the crucial moment of differentiated waste disposal. In Italy especially, it’s not always easy to work out which container to use for certain waste items, especially when they contain various materials. This is further complicated by the differences between one municipality and another, especially for people travelling or temporarily in a different city. This matter was the subject of a discussion between four engineers from Bologna during a long car journey, and in the end they hit on a solution, brilliantly combining two elements easily available to most citizens: the barcode, now present on all industrial products, and the smartphone with its geolocation function. Thus was born the Junker app, which by scanning the barcode on a product’s packaging (its database already contains over 1 million items), and determining which municipality you are in, tells you how to dispose of its various components.
If the product scanned is not recognized, the user sends a photo of the barcode to the app and receives an answer in real time, while this reference is added to the database. Junker currently has 6,000 users and 30,000 searches made, and has received numerous prizes for innovation: from Innovami in 2013 to Call4Ideas at Forum PA 2015. Hera, the multi-utility of the Emilia Romagna Region which serves 3.5 million citizens, has inserted this technology in its Rifiutologo… a Regional platform for waste services.
The startup’s business model offers its service free to citizens, while it charges a subscription fee to subcontracted service companies or Municipalities… which can also use it to communicate to its citizens the calendar for waste collection and other useful information.
We have already mentioned this startup various times, on account of the large number of awards it has collected: from Legambiente Italia’s Premio Innovazione Amica dell’Ambiente to the first prize in the We-Women for Expo competition.
OrtiAlti (meaning ‘High Vegetable Plots’) is a social enterprise founded by architects Elena Caragnani and Emanuela Saporito, whose mission is to create vegetable plots on the roofs of companies, condominiums and public buildings. It is continuing this mission: last December, on the roof of an industrial factory from the 1930s in Turin, assigned by the Municipality to a cooperative which works with disadvantaged people, it created a roof vegetable plot which also supplies a restaurant in the same building. Meanwhile, the inauguration is approaching of a project for the Carrefour Shopping Center in Nichelino (a province of Turin), whose produce will be distributed to customers. The next development could well be the development of aquaponic systems.
This startup too is focused on green initiatives, here related to automated vertical gardens. The modules proposed (in three different formats) are built with eco-sustainable materials (wood and water-tanks in recycled plastic) and are equipped with special sensors for checking the parameters relating to plants cultivated. An electronic card connected to a smartphone app communicates the data to the user.
This is another startup which has won numerous awards: First Prize Startup Digital Media, Special Prize Sardinia Research, Special Prize Make at Cube (the prize from the Avanzi Fund, where the company is currently incubated), Special Prize and the first prize at the Startup Weekend Cagliari 2015. Would you like to meet the four young creatives who started it? From October 2 to 4 they’ll be in Green City Milano.
The GreenWatcher
Having surveyed 7,000 companies and attracted thousands of signed-up users, this company describes itself as the world’s biggest global platform for checking on the degree of eco-sustainability of individual companies.
First launched in Florence, The Green Watcher in its bilingual Italian-English version is now used in Europe, the US and South America. The platform is fed by information sent by its users (EcoOpinions) while the measurement of the companies’ environmental sustainability (EcoEvaluations) is carried out in self-service modality – online and directly by company owners or management – and is certified. The platform can be accessed by mobile-friendly devices and as an app.

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