Tangential Technology – The Future of Food is Ripe

The bees in my head are very busy this morning….and here is my latest foodie data rumbling:  How will the hottest technology trends in the high tech market today impact the ongoing transformation in Foodtech?

(1) Big Data and Analytics – being front and center for IBM’s transformative ventures into Cognitive Commerce, I see the power, profit and scale that these solutions can bring to both enterprise and small to medium businesses.   The larger food players have already realized that leveraging the power of consumer and supply chain data properly can mean customer loyalty, retained market share and ongoing brand survival.

(2) Blockchain and Digital Currencies – In the early days, bitcoin and cryptocurrency may have been viewed by many as the rebellious flailings of anti-establishment revolutionists, challenging the status quo of a staid and traditionally conservative Financial Services sector.  Today, the growth of blockchain paradigms as models for how to transform Commerce applications are no longer relegated to the Financial Services sector.  This shift means data remains king to consumer retention and trend relevance. Amazon Coins, as one example, and the pervasive issues around addressing digital currency in e-commerce, causes me wonder how food technologists will leverage this development explosion to increase customer adoption and e-commerce transformation.

(3) Virtual and Augmented Reality – Marketers of all types look at the promise of VR and AR like a starving man looks at a warm meal.  The acceleration of consumer access to first generation VR means we all may have cool new ways to use our iphones and devices as soon as this upcoming holiday season.  Once VR (and more importantly AR) come to the masses in an affordable and commercially available way, e-commerce and just in time consumption business models will explode.  How are food technologists planning to capitalize on this?

What say you, FoodieData thinkers?  What are your bees buzzing about?

The Business of FoodTech: Eating Our Own Tail

Such buzz these days about Food Tech –  how mobile devices and delivery platforms and farming drones and food hubs will redefine how we eat, how we shop, how we farm and how we determine where to go to get our information about the food system…. It’s a lot of buzz.

Smarter professionals than me, focused exclusively on the comings and goings of the food technology universe will tell you we are in an unprecedented time of transition – led in large part by the application of technologies to redefine what we know about food.  These professionals are right.  We are all well served to follow and engage with the likes of Brita Rosenheim (@Baconista), Danielle Gould (@dhgisme, @foodtechconnect), Nina Meyers (@nina_meijers, @foodtechconnect), and Danielle Nierenberg (@DaniNierenberg, @Food_Tank) who make it a mission to stop and absorb the happenings in new world of Food Technology – and share them with us.

With over 20 years in high tech enterprise software, most of which has been focused on High Tech Supply Chain, I can tell you that technology – more specifically software – is only as good as the human beings using it.  Technology is simply a tool for addressing questions.   This, of course, means that food technology and the sector that seemingly has sprung up with a vengeance around us in the past five years, is only as good as the humans asking the questions they seek answers to.   I would further argue that the humans asking the questions they seek answers to are only as good as the very questions they are asking.

Can I get take-out delivered to my home while sitting on my couch, using my two thumbs on my mobile device?  Can vegetables grow upright, in a box, underground, on my counter in my kitchen?  Can I order my morning coffee from the back of the line and have it waiting for me when I reach the counter?  Are the drones flying overhead at industrial farms creating a perception that being a farmer is a profitable and viable career?   Can I pay for my meal by tapping a screen anchored to my table, to avoid waiting for the waitress to bring me the check?  Do eggs developed in a lab make my mayonnaise healthier?

I took a class in college called “War and Technology”.  This class had a cyclical mission – to explore how our human desire for war through the ages shaped the evolution of military technology – and how the evolution of military technology shaped our human desire to go to war.  It’s Ouroboros – or as Wikipedia puts it, “The Ouroboros often symbolizes  introspection, or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things such as the Phoenix which operate in cycles that begin anew as soon as they end.”  The snake ate its tail for me for the first semester of my sophomore year, while I sat in silent horror at the nature of human existence.

Is the food technology space a novelty?  A harbinger?  An adaptation?  This space is as frustrating to me as it is fanciful.  I can only conclude that today’s state may very well be a wake-up call for us to see that we are eating our tails.  A call to stop looking at new food technology as leading “fundamental change” in this food system only to perpetuate the commercialization of said technology until something newer and shinier comes along.  Can we, as consumers, as technologists, as thought-leaders, as producers, as shepherds of the earth, begin to evaluate how we are leading the evolution of the technology and begin to ask better questions?

What say you, FoodieData thinkers?  What questions have you been asking?

Puzzling by a Data Minded Foodie

A strange thing happens when you spend almost 15 years working with Supply Chain software – you start to notice the complexity of the world around you – how things inter-relate, how dependencies are formed and how end user satisfaction can evaporate with something as simple as an inefficient response.

This Food Geek wasn’t thinking about much more than whether she could make it across the farmers’ market in time to purchase the last of the rosemary sourdough bread loaves when in the beautiful summer morning buzz, I found myself thinking about the market as relationship of entities – the foot traffic, the supply and demand, the cardboard boxes broken down behind the tents, the uber selective shoppers requesting samples, loading up their tote bags and hefting CSA shares back to their cars.

A questions came fast, and started to germinate in the back of my mind:

How does “Technology” , with an intentional capital T , serve, or miss the opportunity to serve, the larger concept of the food chain?  Where T = software, infrastructure, front end APIs, mobile, biotech, startup governance, analytics – any and all.

Then, directionality:  WHERE in the food chain is technology advantageous?  WHAT exists today?  Does it serve and can it scale? How adaptable is the technology rooted there today, and can it efficiently flex and change with time, market, policy, and environmental pressures on the system?

Next:  Gap Analysis – what part of the food chain does not leverage technology today?  Why not?  What will be the impact on not adding technology to those links, as these aforementioned pressure on the system increase? Where is the data coming from and what form does it need to take to feed the technology engines?  How does that data differ between the various food streams such as Perishables, Non-Perishables, Proteins, and Beverages?

What role do standards and governmental mandates play in how food is measured, traced, recalled, distributed, labeled, packaged, shipped, disposed of, recycled, and imported?  Would technology serve to help suppliers of all sizes comply and succeed?

So Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, I just know it….when one thinks about the application of technology to the food chain, in support of the rapid changes going on in Food (with an intentional capital F) today.

My question is:   As a marketing and business development executive, how can I find a way to add value to this puzzle?