At the third annual Food Loves Tech Expo, held in early November at Brooklyn’s Industry City over 3500 chefs and restaurateurs, urban agriculturalists, food supply experts, and enthusiastic entrepreneurs gathered to explore the future of food at thought-provoking panels, tastings, and interactive installations.
To amplify talks on new technologies, sustainability, and fighting food waste, exhibitors showcased innovative products that stimulate creativity for culinary professionals.
One of the most talked about topics was the growth of the plant-based movement, coincidentally just picked by the Specialty Food Association as a top food trend for 2019. Thus, it was no surprise that urban agriculture was featured at the expo with displays and demonstrations from vertical farms like Aerofarms, Farm.one, and several others flourishing on city rooftops and in basements. For an even more local method of growing garnishes right in a restaurant kitchen, Sproutsio’s “personal produce” microgarden offered a sleek but simple automated device. The elements consist of an electronically controlled hydroculture basin with sensors to adjust temperature, humidity, and water level; a LED lamp; and trays of organic, non-GMO seeds, that sprout into herbs, greens, and small fruits.
Another innovation that drew crowds, the edible Selffee, starts with a phone booth-style photo that is then printed with edible food inks directly on to the surface of foods and beverages like cookies and iced coffee. People at Food Loves Tech seemed to love consuming their portraits.
You can eat a Selffee cookie, but it is the visual appeal of Kabaq’s high-quality 3-D images of actual dishes on a restaurant menu that captures diner’s attention. Using scanning equipment, patrons can see photos at their table or online; an upselling tool that Kabaq predicts “is the future of food ordering.”
The future has already arrived for many of the foods spread out on two floors of the large Industry City event space. Another prediction from the Fancy Foods Trendspotter Panel cited gains by “cannabis across multiple categories.” With the edible market rapidly expanding, a couple of California-based entrepreneurs at Food Loves Tech offered cannabis (CBD), olive oil and honey. Pot d’huile can only sell their dosage-specific THC extra virgin locally produced olive oil in California; for the rest of the country, the CBD oil is promoted for its calming qualities. That is also the case with Potli whose hemp infused raw wildflower honey is harvested from their own hives in the East Bay area of San Francisco and balanced with industrial hemp.
Less controversial alternative ingredients sampled that work for bakers and pastry chefs ranged from Supernatural Foods clean plant-based food colors and coconut sugar, to cricket flour from Seek Foods, available in all-purpose, gluten-free, and Paleo versions.
For the diverse cadre of attendees at Food Loves Tech eating cricket brownies or sampling honey was all part of a crystal ball of tastes to imagine what’s ahead.