The 4 most innovative trends in food

Omics, cognitive, multimodal inspection and recovery and recycling technologies will be the protagonists this year in the agri-food sector, according to AINIA.

The areas of food and health, smart business or industry 4.0, food safety and sustainability, will be fundamental pillars on which these technological innovations in the sector will pivot.

Food and health: omic technologies

This year omics technologies will be very present in the field of food and health, due to the benefit and differentiation they can bring to the industry. Omics technologies are high-throughput techniques that allow the study of a large number of components in the analytical results of a sample. They encompass research fields such as genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics or metabolomics.

Research in this field will contribute to the development of personalized diets that favor the physical and mental health of each person, according to the Head of the AINIA Department of Biotechnology, Begoña Ruiz. Specifically, proteomics focuses on the large-scale study of proteins (their structure, function and diversity), key in a society where the consumer is increasingly aware of the importance of health and demands functional foods. It is worth highlighting at this point the search for new sustainable sources of protein that satisfy different consumer profiles, such as vegans or vegetarians, and that reduce the pressure that currently exists on certain sources of animal origin.

There are numerous applications in the food sector, for example: for the design of new products with added functional ingredients; or for the study of the protein richness of products rich in proteins that appear on the market, such as those that incorporate insects, microalgae or lemna among others.

Smart Business: cognitive technologies

The European Union considers digitization as one of the fundamental pillars to face the situation caused by COVID-19. The events that occurred in the first months of the health crisis have highlighted the need to make production more flexible in order to respond to peaks in demand and also prepare to offer personalized services or solutions.

On the other hand, "in the face of a consumer who is increasingly concerned about product safety, the search for systems that guarantee safety and quality standards throughout all the links in the chain is accelerated," according to the Head of the Department of Information and Communication Technologies of AINIA, David Martínez.

Added to this is the need for transparency that provides the consumer with accurate information about the product and its origin. However, at present, the business fabric of the food sector has before it a great opportunity to obtain value from the huge amount of data of different nature that they generate (records in their management systems such as ERPs or production systems, machine data , sensors, scientific or market data that can be obtained from the internet, supplier records, laboratories, etc.). "Cognitive technologies, that is, technologies that work with data such as artificial intelligence or machine learning are making their way to provide comprehensive and integrated support to the problems of the food industry in this area," he points out David Martinez. 

Food safety: multimodal inspection technologies

Another of the fundamental pillars will be food security. Faced with the growing demand for new fast and reliable methods that allow early detection, or even the prediction of the appearance of hazards that compromise the quality and safety of a food, the combined multimodal inspection is a key technological solution, since it is capable of predict and prevent hazards of different nature thanks to the combination of various technologies.

"The information captured by each of the technologies is exploited synergistically, allowing a more complete picture of food inspection to be obtained, which will make it easier for food companies to anticipate risks, achieve cost savings associated with wastage and protect to the consumer ”says the Head of the Intelligent Automation Department, Ricardo Díaz.

Sustainability: recovery technologies

The by-product recovery and recycling processes are positioning themselves as a fundamental pillar in the agri-food sector. Valuation processes that respect the environment and do not generate polluting waste are key.

“An emerging technology is that of obtaining and functionalizing cellulose microfibers, which subsequently has applications as a packaging material with special properties, or even as a cosmetic ingredient, acting as a rheological modifier, moisturizing agent and emulsifier. These are two clear examples of technological applications for the sustainable recovery of by-products ”he points out Begoña Ruiz from AINIA.

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