This week I went along to the Food Matters live event. The tagline is “Many Voices, Making Food Matter”.
Food is medicine. And I am always interested in sustainable, foods of the future. My focus at this event was to find examples of controlled environment agriculture, algae, seaweed and insects. I was not disappointed, and one of these foods won the Best New Product of the year award. To find out which one, read on.
Hydroponics and vertical farming
I have written several blog posts before about hydroponics. Growing Underground had a stand at the show exhibiting the technology that they use to grow micro greens and salad leaves in re-purposed WW2 air raid shelters in London. The living hydroponic farm was an eye-catching stall at the show.
Growing Underground grow:
- Thai Basil
- Red Vein Sorrel
- Red Amaranth
- Pea Shoots
- Mustard Leaf
- Garlic Chive
- Micro Rocket
Urban agriculture in a controlled environment allows year-round production. Hydroponics uses less water than growing the same crops in traditional soil-based farming. The produce is pesticide free.
Supplying Marks and Spencers and Wholefoods, among other outlets, this is an example of a company growing nutritious produce using the latest sustainable hydroponic and LED technology, reaching consumers on the high street and becoming mainstream.
Seamore is a start-up based in Amsterdam with a mission to, “turn seaweed into an everyday food by offering tasty, healthy and sustainable seaweed alternative to the foods we love.”
I was pleasantly surprised to try the sea pasta. Yes, the seaweed loos like a green tagliatelle pasta. However, that is where the similarities end as the seaweed is packed with minerals and vitamins and an iodine boost. The team at Seamore have provided a page that is dedicated to explaining all the health benefits of seaweed.
I wanted to understand the harvesting process to see how sustainable it is. Seamore practice sustainable harvesting. The seaweed is hand harvested, and no more than 15% of the seaweed is cut. This technique is called patch harvesting and helps to preserve the whole ecosystem. While the company uses drones to track and manage the seaweed growth, as a consumer you can track where your seaweed comes from on the website by following the details on each pack.
Seamore was the winner of the Best New Product of the Year at the show.
Having tried this at the show, I would definitely eat it again. And I am going to follow up with some more research into seaweed and its potential as a future food staple.
More than two billion people, all over the world, eat insects. Insects are nutritious containing Vitamin B1, B2, B13, omegas 3 and 6 and iron. Insects are high in protein, require less space and water to produce than other meat and release far fewer greenhouse emissions. I came across four stands at the show encouraging us to eat more insects. Insects could well be the sustainable superfood of the future.
EatGrub provides a range of different products. If you want your insects to look like insects, then there are flavoured crunchy roasted crickets to chow down on. If you prefer your insects to be disguised inside a product, then you might prefer the protein bars. The online shop also sells insects that you can cook.
Now, I have to confess that I did not try any of the products because I do have issues with some shellfish, so I think it will be safer for me to nibble on some at home and see how I get on! I can understand that there are barriers for people to eat insects. There was a lady at the stand when I was there who said that she could not bring herself to eat an insect.
One of the other stands was a French company Jimini’s crickets. I learnt that there are over 2000 species of edible insects. As with EatGrub, Jimini’s mission is to bring a healthy and sustainable source of nutrients to our diets.
Products included pasta, protein bars and flavoured mealworms, crickets and grasshoppers.
The insects are farmed in Europe and cooked in France.
Leader Foods from Finland were also advertising a protein bar using insects as part of the ingredients. The other stand I found belonged to Bugs World Solution Food based in Belgium. This company has created a Bugs cookbook to help persuade people to think differently about insects and see them as healthy and delicious. The famous dish is cricket croquette (KrekelKroket).
What struck me about all of the people I spoke with about insects is the mission they all have to make a change, however small, in the way that we look at the potential for insects as a sustainable, nutritious addition to our diet. Watch this space.
The last future food that I wanted to find out more about was algae. I am familiar with algae from spirulina which I have consumed on and off over the last 20 years. What I discovered at Food Matters was chlorella, and it was not green, it was ‘golden’ in colour.
The chlorella is produced by a Swiss company called Alver, whose stated mission is, “to alleviate the protein crisis by creating sustainable, natural and tasty protein rich foods.” This product is seen as a low impact option for the future of food. According to the website, it uses 400 x less land than meat, 50 x less water than meat, has 90% less saturated fat than meat and produces 90% lower greenhouse gas emissions.
The algae has minerals (Calcium, Phosphorus, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Selenium, Vitamins (A, K1, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, E), Amino acids and Carotenoids.
I was happy to taste some and enjoyed the fact that it does not have the taste associated with green algae.
My mission is to change the narrative around food so that we talk about producing sustainable, regenerative and nutritious food. So I am keen to understand what will become the future of food. I am confident that we will see more food that uses insect protein, seaweed, controlled environment agriculture and algae in our shops in the years to come.