The term “food technology” has many interpretations from cookery lessons at school, to large scale industrial kit, to the latest developments in hydroponics or health wearables. For me it as a combination of all of the above. When used to better individual health outcomes, those of our communities as well as our businesses, it becomes tremendously exciting. There are some great examples already and huge potential for this combination to change our lives and businesses for the better.
Food Technology holds tremendous potential for each of us in improving our own health and it offers fantastic opportunities for the businesses in which we work to bolster their health offerings for customers and employees alike.
Functional food and nutraceuticals were popular terms for product development in health back in the early noughties. With huge demand for natural foods with minimal processing, food marketing has tended to move away from this terminology. Thankfully food research did not throw food technology out with the sprout water and we are now seeing the delivery of natural products with enhanced nutritional qualities. A great example of a collaborative partnership across the food supply chain between Devenish, MoyPark and Waitrose has seen the use of naturally sourced feed to enhance chicken so that not only contributes to our protein intakes but also our essential omega 3 fatty acid intakes. With only 23% of the UK's adult population consuming the recommended intake of these nutrients, which are essential for healthy heart, brain and vision function, this demonstrates how evidenced based improvements in targeted areas can mean more healthy food for us all and simplified pathways to improved public health.
Move this on to digital farming. Yes, that’s right, if we look at the FabFarm, we can see how 3D printing and digital fabrication can be used to create the ideal environment for the aquaponic production of salad vegetables and fruit (it uses fish and their natural environment to provide a clean, sustainable and highly efficient environment for the growing).
This was created by a collaboration between the Nerve Centre’s FabLab and the Playtrail in Derry-Londonderry and is delivering not only on physical wellbeing by increasing intakes of fruit and veg, but also social wellbeing through the Social Enterprise this initiative has established.
Next up, me, you and everyone else, tracking everything we do using our mobile devices, aka mHealth. What are the best fitness apps? Which is the best nutrition app, calorie calculator? (See future blog post as I am asked this a lot!) In our search for personal improvement, with devices like the health watch, the FitBit, designed to help you learn about your health and start reaching your goals, we are collating health measures like never before, we are our own ihealth data lab. Combine this with the ever increasing number of food diary apps available and the potential to advance scientific research in the nutrition and health field is incredible. I cannot help but imagine what CitizenScience will enable in the future if we all knowingly contribute to it. Given the recent reports on gene therapy, using mHealth to investigate populations at the level of detail only RCTs (randomised controlled trials) can manage today, creates phenomenal scope for health advancement in our future lifetimes.
mHealth is taking us beyond just the physical side of healthcare. Levels of interest in ascension health for example, with popular apps like HeadSpace, have been linked to improvements in mental wellbeing. Community connectivity though app usage is also combating loneliness and improving social wellbeing. Indeed social prescribing is becoming much easier with the developments such as Elemental Software. The three critical components to health; physical, mental and social wellbeing, are being served in new ways with these digital developments. I was delighted to hear recently about Comic Reliefs Tech For Good Programme, a key area being dedicated to improving health and wellbeing of vulnerable and disadvantaged people.
And then a personal favourite of mine when it comes to our food choices, SpoonGuru. I do upfront want to declare I have worked with this fab team and am always enthused by their energy and innate desire to provide an evidence based solution to a real need. Starting out as a tool to positively position food to someone with a gluten allergy, showing them what they can have, rather that all those "may contain" warnings, now progressing to an award winning platform, recently establishing a collaboration with Tesco. This company in its short lifespan has already shown how today and in the future companies, through the digitalisation of food, we can positively position health focused behaviours like food shopping.
Progression to tailored health advice will surely come and alongside this, a drive towards preventative medicine and not just patient orientated care. Yet again this offers significant potential for future scientific research. Collaborations between businesses, research institutes, local and virtual communities have so much potential to deliver new knowledge and new ways to wellbeing. I think you will agree it is a hugely exciting time for us all as individuals to welcome food tech into our everyday lives and for our businesses and research institutes, to reap the benefits and opportunities that once only dreams where made of.
#FabFarm #health #productdevelopment #healthyfood #foodtechnology #foodtracker #mHealth #CitizenScience #FoodTechWeekLDN17
I will be attending London Food Tech Week starting Oct 30th 2017 and Food Matters Live in November 2017. If you want to catch up at either of these events, please do get in touch.
Dr Danielle McCarthy, RNutr (Food), PhD, is a Health and Wellbeing Consultant, she advises & collaborates with businesses, academics and public bodies to develop projects, products or services that achieve meaningful change & measurable impact on Health & Wellbeing. Connect with her via www.LiveItUp.Ventures @mccarthy_dr