The Future of Food is Really Small

Applications of Nanotechnology in Food

To date, food is one of the most valued economic production lines.

What does feeding 11 billion people look like?

And its 11 billion people because we’re talking just 30 years from now. I can tell you that with current agricultural methods, this isn’t good. In fact, its so bad because we would need about 5 planet earths to feed the world. Even if we were to inhabit Mars, we still wouldn’t be able to feed the world sustainably.

The Food System

As of now, the food system has been split into three main categories: food production, food processing, and distribution. These steps inform not only how we produce food, but also how it’s delivered to people like you and myself for consumption.

Food Production

Currently, we rely on the process of agriculture. This isn’t just terrestrial farming of animals to produce our food. With agriculture, we can produce a variety of products, including food, feed, fiber by raising and domesticating animals.

The current dairy production pipeline, showing the GHG contributions of carbon dioxide (CO_2), methane, and nitrous oxide by dairy. A spike in the 21st century indicates a projected growth of dairy emissions.
The zero-grazing method

Food Processing

Right now, animals are toy cats on a highway filled with dump trucks. Basically, they’re super inneficient machines. In terms of converting what we feed them to edibles that we can use, we’re at about a 3–5% efficiency for some of the leading animals (and foods), like chicken/hens, and cows, or eggs, meat, and dairy. Slaughtering animals like pigs for bacon is that eco either; slaughterhouses produce about 10 million tons of waste per year.

Just our food system in a nutshell…😒
  1. JIT: This is just-in-time production. It’s *kind of* what it sounds like. All the products are open and stored inside of wherever the food is being used or cooked (in-house). The product is broken down into its base components, for example, a pizza is broken down into the cold sauce, toppings, and cheeses, and when the customer orders a pizza, the chef/worker constructs it, and throws it in the oven. Then BAM! Delicious pizza. Aside from pizzerias, this also use in restaurants, and some grocery stores (Whole Foods’ lunch 🤩).
  2. Mass Production: When there’s a lot to make, mass production comes into place. This massive market all want the same exact product (like corn, or candy), so its mass produced. The production line makes a whole lot of the same thing, and is able to do it quickly.
  3. One-off production: Unlike the other three, this one tends to be very selectively wasteful. This is used when we customers want something specifically for ourselves, and only for us, like a wedding/birthday cake or a chocolate mould. If you’ve ever had a custom-made cake, you and I both know how detailed fondant can become. One-off production can take multiple iterations, and making the designs can take multiple days and is ultra-specialized!

The Marketplace

After we make food, we store it. Then, when we store it, we drop some of it on the floor, throw some away, or some of it spoils. But that’s just us at home. Think about what happens in groceries.

and this is just for corn!
18/66 = 27%

The Future of Food

  1. Nanomaterials are a lot of times structural precursors for sensors, therapeutic devices, larger devices (that need their material properties), and medicine
  • Nanoparticles — 1 to 100 nm in diameter particles (on the nanoscale). This can also refer to different nanotubes and nanofibers which have the same properties in specific dimensions. They’re also sometimes called ultrafine particles; they are very receptive to the random movement (Brownian motion) in a liquid, so they can’t really sediment
  1. Heat, molecules, and ions can diffuse through the high surface area of particles very often, can coat, ferromagnetism, mechanic points, melting points, regular packing, large area/volume, interfacial layers, melting, solvency, and quantum implications/crystals
  1. One of the most interesting nanostructures, which describe full systems that are built on the nanoscopic scale, a lot of these are actually VERY in different constructions like space elevators, drones, smart shirts, and the like

Applications

The huge premise of nanotechnology in food in today’s age is our ability to use this technology to create functional, delicious foods by engineering different biomolecules to complete functions that aren’t their initial applications. This includes anything from gene editing to pesticide delivery. Due to the diversity of this technology, there’s practically no limit to what food technologists are getting ready to with nanotechnology at their disposal. It’s a brand new tool in the toolshed that will give them the ability to innovate beyond imagination, from burgers to beverages.

  • Nanotubes and nanoparticles in the gelatin made from slaughterhouse waste as viscosifying agents. Basically, what this means is that we can extract the substances from the remains of dead animals to get gelatin, which we can then turn into nanoparticles that can allow different substances to flow. This means that we’ll be able to improve the watering of crops!
  • Nanocapsules that can infuse plant-based steroids to replace cholesterol in meat. The reason why this is important is that the cholesterol content in meat means that eating a lot of it can increase the chance of heart disease. Cholesterol is a type of fatty molecule, called a lipid. More specifically, it’s a special type of lipid called a sterol, and helps to construct and strength the cell membrane. When we eat a lot of meat, we collect a lot of cholesterol, which builds up on our membrane walls, which is called atherosclerosis.
  • We can create nanoemulsion-based systems that deliver particles that carry nutrients throughout the food and disperse it, which can increase the availability of the health benefits of produce.
enzymes in a nutshell
  • Nanosensors in soils to understand the liquid content of the soil as well as the nutrients in the soil and how that correlates to crop growth. This will give farmers accurate diagnostics on the state of their crops.
  • We can combine nanochips and blockchain for identity preservation and tracking of crops specifically, and store them on the blockchain to be able to find. detect, and isolate specific crops. Combining these with sensors would be advantageous to this system, as farmers would also be able to determine which crops are sick.
  • Nanosensors that can identify and signal when there are animal and/or plant pathogens that are nearby.
  • There is the possibility of using nanocapsules to deliver vaccines to different crops after the early diagnosis of plant-based diseases, like in corn, for example.
  • Nanoclay and nanofilm as barriers that can help to increase the shelf life of different produce to prevent the absorption of oxygen. Less oxygen absorption means that the food doesn’t spoil as quickly.
  • Nanosensors that are electrochemically based that can detect ethylene.
  • Powders ground down to the nanoscale to allow for nutrients to be absorbed in nano-engineered supplements.
  • Creating vitamin-based nano sprays that can disperse into small droplets that can enter the pores of organisms better, which increases absorption.
  • Nano-capsules that contain nutraceuticals — nutrients that prevent chronic diseases — that can deliver nutrients to supplements that are produced, or stabilize the supplements chemically and increase the absorption of the nutrients when ingested.
  • The use of coiled nanoparticles, or Nanocochleates, that can send nutrients directly to cells that don’t cause the food pills to taste, smell, or even behave differently.
  1. Nanosensors instead of QR codes to track supply chains more efficiently.
  2. Custom engineered animal feed with nanomolecules that can bind and remove toxins or pathogens, and give the animals the necessary nutrients they need without injections!

The XXI Future

By applying the fundamentals of engineering and physics and learning more about the folding and quantum properties within material dimensions, we can create nanomaterials to target the delivery of bioactive compounds, micronutrients, and more.

Before you go…

ma ’23 + tks ’22 | bio @sickkidstoronto | ml @hansonrobotics | ml collaborator @ibm | https://okezuebell.com

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