How tech is helping to change the way people think about the food on their plate

Energy

When we make a nice meal or dine out at a restaurant, a whole host of things run through our mind: Did I cook the chicken all the way through? Do the vegetables need more seasoning? Should I order dessert?

As concerns about the environment and climate change grow, many of us are now also asking questions about the sustainability and impact of the food on our plate.

“Consumers today want to be supported in making the right choices,” Olivier De Schutter, co-chair of the Brussels-based International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), said.

“They are concerned about the environmental impacts of their eating habits, they are concerned about the health impacts of industrialized food systems,” he added.

Given the above, technology could have a role to play in raising awareness of the impact our diets have on the planet, allowing people to make informed decision about the ingredients used when preparing dishes. 

Based in Zurich, Switzerland, Eaternity is a firm aiming to raise people’s awareness of the way food impacts the planet. Manuel Klarmann, its CEO and co-founder, told CNBC’s “Sustainable Energy” that the company looked to “precisely measure the environmental footprint of our food.”

“We are going to provide an app that allows you to scan the barcode of basically any product that you find in the supermarket, and it provides you with the carbon footprint of that product,” he added.

At the moment there is no release date for this cell-phone based technology, a collaboration with another company called CodeCheck, which supplies the scanning app.

Eaternity does already offer a web-based app. “This ‘recipe manager’ specifically allows restaurants to type in a recipe and to see, also, the … carbon impact when it comes to … meal and dish based CO2 emissions,” Klarmann said.

One business that’s used Eaternity’s technology is Tibits, a restaurant chain serving vegan and vegetarian food.

Speaking to CNBC, Tibits co-founder Reto Frei emphasized the importance of sourcing food in a responsible way.

“I believe you can become sustainable, for example, by having a seasonal menu (and) of course, working with local suppliers as well,” he said.

Eaternity is one of many firms developing ideas that could help to make the food and drink sector more sustainable.

Bio-bean, for instance, takes used coffee grounds and converts them into products such as biomass fuel. Another business, Homebiogas, has developed a system which uses bacteria to break down organic matter and convert it into cooking gas and fertilizer.   

On the subject of how the world’s growing population will be fed, IPES-Food’s Olivier De Schutter outlined a vision of how the farming sector would look in the years ahead. 

“The future is smaller farming units that can practice a much more diversified type of farming, much better for biodiversity and soil health, and that can be very productive per hectare.” he said.

“The key challenge today is to move to the most resource efficient way of producing food, to reduce food losses and waste and to reduce, therefore, the environmental impacts of food production and consumption.”

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