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Changing the future of food

By 2050, the world population is expected to grow to 9.7 billion people. Over the decades, environmentalists, scientists and scholars have voiced concerns that revolve around the same lines: How do we feed an increasing population if land is becoming scarce, our oceans are at risk of being overfished and climate change is causing adverse effects on the environment?

Feeding the world has become a challenge; currently, Asia alone accounts for 67 per cent of the world’s hungriest. Every year, new food initiatives are introduced in the hopes of resolving some of the region’s food issues – one of which is The Future Food Asia Awards (FFAA).

The first of its kind in the region, the competition encourages innovation by recognising promising foodtech and agritech start-ups across Asia Pacific. This year marks its second edition, with start-ups competing under categories such as sustainable farming (soil and crop technology, aquaculture), precision agriculture (robotics, equipment and hardware), streamlining of supply chain (agri-finance, food safety and traceability) and the enhancement of nutritional value (food fortification and smart packaging solutions among the few).

More than 19 start-ups competed in FFAA 2018, but five entries stood out for judges: Singapore’s Alchemy Foodtech, India’s FIBSOL Technologies, South Korea’s PureSpace and China’s Xiaozao Technology, which each won a SGD50,000 (approx. USD37,000) grant, and Australia’s OneCrop, the winner of the year, which was awarded USD100,000.

An agritech start-up, OneCrop pitched a technologicallyadvanced, cost-effective, biodegradable mulch film (a film used to limit weed growth and retain moisture in crop production) that stores soil moisture, increases soil temperature, and spurs plant growth. Using this mulch film will allow farmers to harvest more crops at a faster rate without damaging the environment.

With innovative start-ups investing in the future of food, sustainable solutions are on the horizon, but ongoing education and awareness, as well as productive dialogue concerning issues like overconsumption, wastage, overfishing and climate change are essential to our survival.

Early Inventions

Food technology has been around since ancient times, and it just keeps evolving.

Irrigation

The artificial application of water to irrigate crops is credited to the ancient Mesopotamians. This enterprising civilisation had been funnelling water from the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates rivers to fields inland since 6000 BC!

Canning

In 1795, the French army offered a reward to anyone who could devise a method to preserve large amounts of food for its soldiers. Nicolas Appert, a French chef, confectioner and brewer, won 12,000 francs in 1810 for creating the canning process, whereby food is sealed in glass jars. This eventually evolved to storage in cans.

Pasteurisation

In the 1880s, Louis Pasteur demonstrated that bacteria in liquid could be eliminated using heat, making food safe to consume. The process of pasteurisation was named after him.

Did You Know?

The Nicolas Appert Award (named after the French man who invented airtight food preservation) is the most prestigious accolade awarded to food technologists by the renowned Institute of Food Technologists.

Remembering Bourdain

“If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food.” — Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain, chef, writer, travel host and champion of the ‘little guy’ (his culinary adventures often spotlighted roadside stands and mom and pop establishments serving up honest eats) changed the way we ate and looked at food. With his signature tell-it-as-it-is commentary, Bourdain sampled foods from the brilliant to the bizzare to enlighten us viewers on the cuisines and cultures of the world.

Bourdain, who once cheffed at New York City’s now defunct Brasserie Les Halles, shot to fame with his no-holds-barred memoir Kitchen Confidential in 2000. The book’s success led to a TV show – A Cook’s Tour on the Food Network, and in the following years, TV’s ‘bad boy’ chef hosted several other notable shows – the most recent being CNN’s Emmy Award-winning Parts Unknown.

Sadly, Bourdain passed away on June 8 while filming for the show in France. His death devastated a legion of fans worldwide and is a loss to the culinary industry, as well as millions of TV viewers who, without Bourdain’s urging, might have never discovered the goodness of a bowl of Sarawak laksa (noodles in spicy prawn-based broth) or dared eat durian!

Sarawak laksa

Bourdain also catapulted Asian street food to cult status. One of the best examples of this is a 2016 episode of Parts Unknown that featured then US President Barack Obama in Hanoi, Vietnam. The witty repartee between Bourdain and Obama while slurping pork noodles and savouring local beer was TV gold and put Bun Cha Huong Lien, a humble no-frills eatery, on everyone’s radar.

Perhaps, Obama summed it up best in a tweet following Bourdain’s passing: “Low plastic stool, cheap but delicious noodles, cold Hanoi beer. That’s how I’ll remember Tony. He taught us about food – but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown. We’ll miss him.”

Bourdain will be remembered as a gifted storyteller with a passion for people, culture and food, and more importantly, for inspiring us to expand our horizons.

S’more S’mores Please!

A popular campfire treat in the US, a s’more consists of gooey fire-toasted marshmallows and a square of chocolate sandwiched between graham crackers. In the US, the sweet sandwich is so beloved that National S’mores Day (August 10) is dedicated to its enjoyment.

Art on a Plate

Lobster Ravioli with Lime and Coconut

Award-winning CURATE at Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore, showcases the culinary stylings of rising chef Stéphanie Le Quellec from Michelin-starred La Scène in Paris, France, for the 11th instalment of the Art at Curate dining series. From August 3 to 9, diners can sample exclusive four-course lunch (from SGD108++) and eight-course dinner (from SGD188++) menus crafted by Le Quellec and CURATE’s resident chef Benjamin Halat.

Inflight Delight

Nasi Kandar with Chicken Varuval

Inspired by the Malaysian Indian-Muslim dish of rice served with a splash of curries (usually, chicken, fish and beef), vegetables and fried fish or chicken, the latest addition to AirAsia’s inflight menu, Santan, features aromatic long-grain Basmati rice, chicken varuval (dry chicken curry), turmeric-spiced stir-fried cabbage, and a delicious chicken and seafood gravy inspired by the hearty mix of curries that Nasi Kandar is known for. Available for a limited period on board AirAsia Malaysia and AirAsia X Malaysia.

Images: Getty, 123RF

What do you think?

Written by Kerry-Ann Augustin

Kerry-Ann is a journalist who has dabbled in all forms of writing across the board, from print and digital media to broadcasting. When she is not working (which is almost never) she can be found at home making prank calls or playing the air guitar. Because she can’t play a real one.

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