Looking Back to Look Ahead: Food Technology Milestones

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June 2, 2022 – Right now, scientists are developing new tools that will improve the availability, safety, nutrition, and environmental impact of the foods we’ll eat 50 years from now. They are mining a vein that dates back to prehistoric times, when the first hunter-gatherers began farming. Discoveries have been rapid and heavy since the industrial revolution:

1784: Flour made easy. In Philadelphia, Oliver Evans invented the first fully automated, water-powered flour mill. Across the Atlantic Ocean around the same time, Scottish inventor Andrew Meikle designed the first mechanical thresher to harvest wheat.

1810: Efficient and efficient preservation of food. The “tin canister” was invented in England. In 1812, the first commercial cannery in the United States opened. Canned food fed the military in the 19e large-scale wars of the century, then extended to the public.

1863: Huge progress in food security. Louis Pasteur invented the process of destroying germs that will bear his name.

1924: Clarence Birdseye invents you-know-what. What is frozen vegetables?

1927: This refrigerator makes it easy to cool down at home. Although electric refrigeration had been invented a decade earlier and some household models existed, it took some time for a mass-produced refrigerator to become widespread. Once it did, refrigeration revolutionized the way we buy, store and cook food.

1928: Better than… The first mechanically sliced ​​bread was sold by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Missouri. But it didn’t become a thing until Wonder hit the market in 1930, the first nationally distributed sliced ​​bread.

1950: The green revolution. The end of World War II ushered in a new era of agriculture, in which technological innovations led to huge leaps forward in production. Factories that produced ammonia for explosives were converted to produce nitrogen for chemical fertilizers. Between 1950 and 1998, the use of these fertilizers increased more than 10 times worldwide. During this period in the United States, the use of insecticides increased by a similar amount. And while mules and horses outnumbered tractors on farms by almost 5:1 in 1945, by 1960 more tractors were working than animals. Thanks to these and other advances, America today has a third of the number of farms it had before World War II, but they produce three times as much food.

1967: Enter the microwave. Amana introduced the Radarange, the first microwave oven small enough and affordable enough for home use. It was another way to make home cooking easier, and it also created a whole new market for frozen dinners. (Microwave popcorn didn’t hit the market until 1981.)

1992: A booming practice: precision agriculture. This relatively new farming practice uses advanced technology to make agricultural decisions specific to each farm, or even field. Focusing on the five Rs the right source of nutrients, at the right rate, in the right place, at the right time, in the right way – it produces higher yields using less land, water and fertilizers, as well as fewer herbicides and of pesticides.

1994: GMOs arrive in stores. A tomato has become the first product labeled as a genetically modified organism (GMO) to hit the market. It was designed to stay firm after harvest, meaning it could ripen longer on the vine without being damaged in transit. Over the next few years, summer squash, soybeans, corn, papayas, potatoes, and GMO canola will follow.

1999: Growing Upward for Sustainability. Dickson Despommier, PhD, a professor at Columbia University, conceptualized vertical farming. The practice, which grows crops indoors in vertically stacked, air-conditioned floors, is expected to reach nearly $10 billion in sales by 2025.

2002: The protein of the future? The first lab-grown meat is successfully cultured from a goldfish. Although it was a major technological breakthrough, it was not sold for public consumption – would you eat a goldfish?

2009: unexpected result of innovations. As food manufacturers refined their methods, the products they created were given a new term: “ultra-processed foods.” They have been linked to the obesity epidemic and the growth of type 2 diabetes, among other public health issues. In 2018, these foods provided 57% of the calories Americans consumed daily.

2019: A bleeding vegan burger. After 5 years of experimentation, Impossible Foods introduced the Impossible Burger, a plant-based patty that mimics the taste, texture, and appearance of ground beef to an uncanny degree. Yes, it is ultra-processed.


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