Eye on AI - March 4th, 2022
Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!
This week, we’ll be addressing two big stories in precision farming (and fermentation), including a new method for creating real milk and dairy products without the use of cows, and a big acquisition by vertical farming company Bowery Farms.
New Protein Could Enable Real Milk Creation Without Cows
What comes first: the milk or the cow? Before last week, the answer seemed obvious: the cow. Now, thanks to new advances in AI, that order may be reversed. According to the article “Cow-free proteins signal possible new day for dairy,” researchers at Imagindairy have discovered a new way to produce milk –– real milk, not a nut or plant-based alternatives –– through what they’re calling ‘precision fermentation.’
“... this new approach will involve feeding microorganisms that the scientists say are up to 20 times more efficient than a cow’s system in turning feed — hay and grain, for example — into human food,” writes FSN contributor Cookson Beecher. “Imagindairy does this by using what is called ‘precision fermentation’ to create ‘true’ milk proteins — including, in particular, casein and whey, two of the key compounds responsible for taste, texture and other properties of cow’s milk and its derivatives.”
Milk is made up of 80% casein protein, 20% whey protein. By tapping into microflora, tiny microorganisms that ferment things all around us (fermentation being the process in which a substance breaks down into a simpler substance) and giving them the precise DNA sequence for cow whey and casein proteins, Imagindairy researchers are able to produce milk-based products identical to the original dairy products without the use of a cow.
This news comes on the heels of NovaMeat creating the world’s first 3D printed piece of “meat” that mimics the fibrous nature of real meat, which we touched upon in last week’s Eye on AI. Though Imagindairy hasn’t yet made its product available in the market, it’s recently closed a $13 million seed round suggests it has some momentum. Innovations like these will allow us to continue producing meat and dairy products while reducing agricultural land use to help reduce greenhouse emissions and could have enormous impacts on the future of farming and global warming.
Vertical Farming Company Utilizes AI to Bring Cities Fresh Produce
Another precision farming method that’s been in the news lately is vertical farming. This week was no different, with leading precision farming company Bowery Farming announcing their acquisition of Traptic, a tech company that uses 3D cameras, robotics, and AI to harvest crops.
“Traptic combines 3D cameras and AI with robotic arms equipped with a unique gripper to harvest fragile fruit and vine crops,” writes Progressive Grocery contributor Marian Zboraj. “The vision system uses 3D cameras and neural networks to distinguish ripe from unripe produce, and precisely determines their position.”
Traptic’s robots utilize 3D cameras and AI navigates sensitive farming spaces to delicately harvest crops when they’re most ripe. They’re said to reduce food waste by up to 20%, increase yields of high-quality, blemish-free produce, and work 24 hours per day. Traptic’s technology will integrate into Bowery's network of farms powered by its proprietary BoweryOS solution to orchestrate and automate the entirety of its operation.
This purchase marks the first indoor-farming company to use Traptic’s robotic harvesting technology. Bowery Farms hopes the acquisition will help it achieve its vision of democratizing fresh produce to urban areas. Already it supplies produce to global grocers like Albertson Cos., Walmart, and Amazon Fresh, among others. These new robots will help Bowery grow as it expands locations to harvest more produce in less time with less emissions and land use, another small step in helping to reduce agriculture’s global carbon footprint.
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