The Spoon Weekly: The Edible Barcode

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For the last few years, there’s been lots of excitement about blockchain’s potential to finally bring end-to-end transparency to the food system. After all, once we have an incorruptible record of where food comes from, we’ll be able to track it from the time it leaves the farm until it arrives on our plate, right?

As it turns out, realizing the dream of registering our food on a decentralized ledger and getting everyone across the food system to use it is a lot harder than it sounds. Add to that the doubts that have surfaced over the past year-plus about blockchain and the broader crypto world, and web3 hasn’t really delivered on becoming the food transparency magic bullet.

But even before web3 stumbled, did it ever really have a chance to truly track our food throughout the food system? Except for maybe a cow here and there with a driver’s license, food commodities don’t usually come with digital ID cards that allow you to automatically identify its point of origin. In fact, over its lifetime, a grain of wheat may travel thousands of miles across a number of factories and kitchens until it lands on your plate. 

But what if you could insert the identification into the food itself, where the food has a unique identifier baked (or sprayed, or mixed) inside or onto that can be identified no matter where it goes along the food value chain? That’s the idea behind a form of digital tag from a company called Index Biosystems, which has developed what they call a form of invisible barcode in the form of baker’s yeast. 

The way it works is the company creates what they call a BioTag by mixing baker’s yeast in extremely trace with water, then spraying or misting it onto a product such as wheat. BioTags are incredibly sticky once applied and remain attached to the surface of the grains, withstanding the milling process while remaining detectable in flour. From here, the BioTab becomes, in a sense, an invisible bar code that the company or one of its customers can read using molecular detection techniques such as PCR and DNA sequencing.

Index Biosystems isn’t the only company working on the idea of the invisible, integrated, and edible bar code. In 2020, a group of Harvard researchers wrote about their idea for an edible “bar code,” which they described as a scalable microbial spore system that identifies object provenance in under 1 hour at meter-scale resolution. According to the researchers, the spores would be identifiable for up to three months and multiple stops down the supply chain. The year before, SafeTraces announced they’d patented a system that took DNA strands drawn from seaweed that would turn into DNA bar codes readable throughout the food supply chain. 

DNA-powered identification systems are a compelling idea for a food world in which pathogens and food-borne illnesses have become a big problem. Companies early to this space (like SafeTraces) may have been a bit early, but now, as DNA identification systems have become commonplace and tools have become accessible by almost everyone, I have to wonder if the day has arrived for the embedded edible bar code. 

Researchers at Cal Poly Are Studying The Social Impact of AI & Robotics on the World of Food

Last fall, a group of researchers at Cal Poly was awarded a $700 thousand grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the social and ethical impacts of AI and cooking automation.

The study will last four years and explore the benefits and risks to individuals and the impact on family and communal relationships, creativity and culture, economics and society, health and well-being, and environment and safety.

The study is led by Andy Lin, a philosophy professor and director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at Cal Poly.

“Robot or AI kitchens would automate a special place and communal activity in the home, so that immediately warrants critical attention,” Lin said in the announcement. “Outside of the home, restaurants are one of the most essential and oldest businesses, given the primacy of food. They are the bedrock for an economy, the soul of a community, and the ambassador for a culture. But the pandemic is causing a seismic shift in the restaurant industry, and robot kitchens could be a tipping point that forces many restaurants to evolve or die in the coming years.”

Check out the news (and how your’s truly is involved) over on The Spoon.

We’ve Added New Speakers for our Food AI Summit!

As you may have heard, this October we’re hosting the Food AI Summit, a new event focused on how AI will transform our food system. 

The conference, which will take place on October 25th in Alameda, California, will convene scientists, investors, entrepreneurs, and others who are building the future of food using AI together for a day of keynote talks, interactive sessions, product demonstrations, and networking. 

We’re continuing to build a great list of speakers, and this week we’ve added longtime food AI innovator Riana Lynn of Journey Foods. Lynn joins others like Jasmin Hume of Shiru, David Lee of Inevitable Tech, and Kevin Yu of SideChef. We’ve got more great speakers on the way, including maybe you! If you think you have an interesting insight or are building something that will change the world, feel free to fill out the speaker inquiry form and let us know!

Also, if you’d like to sponsor the event, we’d also like to hear from you as well! Just fill out this form, and we’ll be in touch.

And, of course, we’d love to see you in Alameda in October! Our Spoon community is the engine that makes our events and website go, and we are excited to connect with you IRL and talk about this exciting space! If you’d like to attend, we have a special discount just for newsletter subscribers. Just enter NEWSLETTER in the coupon code when buying a ticket for $100 off an early bird ticket. 

Check out The Food AI Summit Website. You can read the full announcement on The Spoon. 

The Consumer Kitchen

SEERGRILLS Unveils the Perfecta, an ‘AI-Powered’ Grill That Cooks the ‘Perfect Steak’ in Two Minutes

AI is seemingly everywhere nowadays, so it was only a matter of time before it would show up at the backyard BBQ to help us cook the perfect steak.

That’s the vision of a UK startup named SEERGRILLS, which debuted the Perfecta this week, which the company describes as the world’s first AI-powered grill. The grill combines high-temperature infrared cooking with its AI system called NeuralFire, which automates the cooking process.

According to SEERGRILLS CEO Suraj Sudera, the AI works through a combination of sensor data, cook preferences inputted by the user, and intelligence built into the software around different food types.

“The device will capture the starting temperature of, say, chicken breast and adjust the cooking in line with the preferences you’ve inputted in the device,” said Sudera. “Whether it’s a three-inch or five-inch chicken breast, it doesn’t matter. It will be whatever adjustments it needs, just like your cruise control on your car will adjust to keep you at the preferred speed.”

When a cook is done, users can rate the quality of the cook, which informs and optimizes the NeuralFire algorithm for the next cook. Suraj says that SEERGRILLS is also constantly updating its food database, so if, say, a new type of steak from Japan becomes popular, the AI engine will be updated to optimize the cook for that meat type. The company says its AI will also optimize to reach each type of meat’s sear and doneness, as well as help to perfect the Maillard reaction.

Read the full story on The Spoon. 


If you have experience selling sponsorships for events and building multifaceted ad and brand campaigns for some of the world’s biggest food companies, we’d love to hear from you! A great opportunity to be involved in the world of food tech! Just drop us a line with a resume or link to your Linkedin, and we’ll be in touch!

Cultivated Meat

José Andrés Serves Up Cultivated Chicken in Honor of Willem van Eelen, The ‘Godfather of Cultivated Meat’

A couple of days after the first sale of cultivated meat this weekend in San Francisco, news of José Andrés serving up GOOD Meat on the opposite coast landed in my inbox.

According to the release, Andrés served charcoal-grilled cultivated chicken last night to a hand-picked group of diners. The dinner included cultivated chicken marinated with anticucho sauce, native potatoes, and ají Amarillo chimichurri, and precedes China Chilcano’s menu debut of the dish, which will be served weekly in limited quantities and by reservation only later this summer.

The meal was served in honor of the late Willem van Eelen, known as the “godfather of cultivated meat,” on what would have been his 100th birthday yesterday, July 4, 2023. After hearing a lecture on preserving meat, van Eelen, a WW2 prisoner of war, came up with the idea of creating meat outside of the body of an animal. Over the following decades, van Eelen would start businesses to save money to pursue this idea while working on it and filing for patents. He would pass away in 2015 at the age of 91, just two years after Dutch startup Mosa Meat would be the first to realize his idea with their cultured meat hamburger.

Read the full story on The Spoon. 

Big Week For Cultivated Meat: Dutch Government Approves Tastings, UPSIDE’s Chicken Debuts at Crenn

It’s been an eventful few days for cultivated meat.

After getting the final regulatory green light from the USDA to serve cultivated meat to U.S. consumers, UPSIDE Food’s cultivated chicken showed up on menus for the first time this weekend at Bar Crenn. The event, hosted on Saturday, July 1st, marked the first time cultivated meat has gone on sale in the U.S.

Here’s how the special menu, prepared by famed French chef Dominique Crenn, was described by the press release sent to The Spoon: Diners at this historic meal were served UPSIDE Foods’ cultivated chicken, fried in a Recado Negro-infused tempura batter and accompanied by a burnt chili aioli. Served in a handmade black ceramic vessel adorned with Mexican motifs and Crenn’s logo, the dish was beautifully garnished with edible flowers and greens sourced from Bleu Belle Farm. It reflects the global benefit that Chef Crenn sees in cultivated meat – with UPSIDE Chicken from the Bay Area in California, tempura from Japanese traditions, and an infusion of Recado Negro from Mexico’s Yucatan.

Read the full story on The Spoon.

Coffee Tech

Ansā’s New Roaster Uses Radio Waves To Roast Coffee on The Countertop

While we know fresh-roasted coffee tastes better, by the time store-bought beans make it into our coffee machines, chances are they were roasted months ago. But what if we could roast the beans right before they enter the brewer?

If a new company called Ansā has its way, coffee roasting will come to our office breakroom with its new e23 microroaster. The e23 takes green beans sent from the company and roasts them on the countertop without any smoke or ambient heat associated with traditional gas-fired roasting systems.

So how does the company’s roaster work? According to Ansā, the company uses dielectric heating, which usually refers to microwave heating-based systems. According to the company, the system’s computer vision (provided via a built-in camera) coordinates roasting with precision application of the radio waves to transmit the energy to individual beans, creating a highly precise and homogeneously applied roast.

Read about Ansā’s tech on The Spoon.

The Meataverse

Yes, I’ve Entered the Meataverse

Last year, when news got out that Slim Jim had gone and registered the term meataverse, we all had a good laugh.

Over a year later and a few notches down the Gartner Hype Cycle, the salty meat stick company has finally launched its web3 world effort to get people to go online and collect digital art of cartoon meat sticks. The company, which, in a sarcastic nod to Facebook’s new corporate name, has periodically rebranded itself as MEATA on Twitter and described the effort in its trademark finding as something providing “services featuring virtual goods, virtual food products, and non-fungible tokens,” along with “providing a metaverse for people to browse, accumulate, buy, sell and trade virtual food products.”

But now, they’ve gone and done it by Jim, and I’m going along for the ride. Sure, it sounds ridiculous and something an adult who doesn’t eat Slim Jims would probably avoid wasting his time on, but here I am, the proud owner of GigaJim #1070.

Read about Mike’s adventure in the Meataverse over at The Spoon. 

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.

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