How can we grow tomatoes in Iceland’s sub-zero temperatures? How it is possible to 3D print seafood using offcuts from fish? How can we grow vegetables indoors in urban areas, reducing the need for farmland? The University of Cambridge is now part of a European wide initiative that answers these questions through a novel approach: using a series of Virtual Reality (VR) videos to immerse viewers in the world of food technology.
Virtual Reality to connect people with new food technology
The VR videos were recently launched on FoodUnfolded, a global, digital platform that shares content on the latest food and agricultural innovations. They are being showcased at various events, including this year’s Festival of Ideas in Cambridge from 14-27 October (booking opens soon), where hundreds of free activities are being run to connect the public with the arts, humanities and social sciences.
The videos are designed to educate and entertain millennials (aged 23-37) and the iGeneration (aged 12-22) about food technology and sustainability – and so far it has proven to be a great success. “I never knew how 3D printing food worked, and to be immersed in the whole process is fascinating,” says a University of Cambridge student. “You can do extraordinary things with technology,” adds another.
One video takes the viewer to Iceland to see tomatoes growing in sub-zero temperatures in geothermal greenhouses (available here). Another shows how food-tech company Foodini has found a way to cut down on fish waste, using 3D printing technology to create edible products from offcuts that would otherwise be wasted. Another introduces viewers to indoor vertical farming (Plantcube), which uses a fraction of the land and water required for conventional farming.
Funded by EIT Food, Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, the series shows how technology is integrated into the European food industry and where it can solve sustainability issues and transform the way our food is produced. It also aims to reconnect people with their food and show how technological advances can be key to achieving a more sustainable food system. Creative ‘infotainment’ does this by transferring new knowledge in an entertaining way. VR is a great way to do this: not only does it give the viewer a fully immersive, 360-degree experience, it also allows them to feel physically part of the story.
“We are trying to explore the potential of virtual reality to connect people with food tech more effectively,” says Dr. Holly T. Kristinsson, Consultant for Innovation and Market Analysis at Matis, a food research institute in Iceland, who is coordinating the project. “With consumer trust in the food system at an all-time low, we need to step up, reconnect with people and inspire them.”
The series is ongoing, with additional videos planned in 2020 to highlight more novel technologies, as well as events to showcase these videos. Viewers will be introduced to future kitchen devices and food origins as well as robotics, metabolomics, personalized nutrition, macro and micro algae processing and novel food processing, including how alternative proteins are made.
For anyone aged 12-37 interested in being part of the project, the University of Cambridge hold regular lunchtime focus groups, giving people the opportunity to test the videos and give feedback to improve the series. Follow the Global Food Security Twitter account (@GlobalFood_Camb) to see when our next Focus Group will be.
Image Credit: European Food Information Council (EUFIC)
The VR Future Kitchen project is a series of infotaining VR videos published on Food Unfolded. FoodUnfolded is a global, digital platform that creates and shares original content on the latest food and agricultural innovations. It aims to connect the general public through entertainment and education on the most relevant topics of today, including health, nutrition and sustainability.
This activity has received funding from EIT Food, the innovation community on Food of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) under Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
Food Unfolded: www.foodunfolded.com
Food Unfolded Instagram: food.unfolded
Iceland Tomato Farm (360 Video): https://www.foodunfolded.com/videos/iceland-tomato-farm-look-inside-360-video
Iceland Tomato Farm (360 Video) - YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB-x3r9xjYA
The Cambridge Festival of Ideas: https://www.festivalofideas.cam.ac.uk/
About EIT Food
EIT Food is Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, with the aim of creating a sustainable and future-proof food sector. The initiative is made up of a consortium of key industry players, startups, research centers and universities from across Europe. It is one of six Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KIC) established by the European Institute for Innovation & Technology (EIT), an independent EU body set up in 2008 to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe.
The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.