Head of process at Integrated Food Projects, Ed Keenan, shares his own personal predictions, using experience from his own career on how he thinks food factory design and food engineering projects will change and evolve over the next 50 to 100 years.
With the current speed of emerging technology the average food factory in 50 to 100 years will have changed beyond recognition.
It goes without saying that in my position as head of process, I have a vested interest in the technological development of food process design. I believe it’s important, and worth exploring, for societal progression to at least consider what the future will hold far beyond our own lifespan.
It would be all too easy to reel off predictions about robotics and automation in the food industry, and although clearly this is true, I imagine the truly ground-breaking advances will come with the development of General Artificial Intelligence (GAI) which will no doubt be designing and running our food factories for us.
Here are my top 10 predictions:
1. Molecular alteration – Turning water into wine. The creation of foods from their base elements will be achieved in one of two ways, either through the alteration of one base element into the various elements and compounds required to make the food, or simply through a combination of various elements almost like a pick and mix.
When it comes to cooking the food, in the future all combustible energy sources will have been banned, but this won’t be a problem, as the food won’t need preparing in the traditional way, it will have been created in its cooked form. Think ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’. Perhaps, Gas Fermentation using just electricity and air will be the route…
2. Night sky cooling – In a new world where all current refrigerants have been banned -what if we could use the cold darkness of outer space to refrigerate our factories? Infrared light, specifically within the mid-infrared range with wavelengths between 8 and 13 micrometers escapes to space carrying heat with it. Could we harness this phenomenon to simply send our heat into outer space, thereby cooling our factories?
3. Micro Nuclear reactor or Hydrogen power sources – In-house energy generation technology will have matured to allow vast energy generation onsite, removing the need for any connection to the grid. However, even with this greater access to energy, increased awareness of efficiency will make it economically viable to recover spare energy wherever it may be, from drain flow through to steam extracts (perhaps even lampshades with photovoltaic cells on the inside – one of my favourite childhood inventions).
4. Inductive power system and atmospheric electrical charging – Inductive charging was bizarrely, until recently, limited to electric toothbrushes but now we are seeing phones, watches and other gadgets charged in this way. Equipment will soon be charged without any direct connection to the power source. Atmospheric electrical charging is similar to Nikola Tesla’s Ionospheric power concept, equipment will be powered simply through being within the vicinity, and will not need any direct contact with its power source – instead taking it’s charge from the environment.
5. Harvested Piezoelectricity – During the food factory construction process, pressure crystals, which convert kinetic energy into potential energy (stored energy) will be embedded within the floors of the factory and roads on the site, converting vibration and movement into stored energy.
6. Transport through teleportation – Proved possible in principle (or at least not against the laws of physics) in 1993 by an international group of scientists. More recently, Chinese scientists “teleported” photons to a satellite 300 miles away, using a phenomenon termed ‘quantum entanglement’. In simple terms this “spooky action at a distance” (as Einstein called it) involves a pair of photons simultaneously sharing the same state, even when separated by vast distances. Change the state of one particle, and the other changes too, without any detectable connection. Perhaps this will be how our supply chain and logistics will operate.
7. Lights out fully robotic AI systems – With advances in sensors and a lack of people working in the factories, automation within the food industry will mean there is no reason to illuminate an entire facility during normal operation. Without people, the production environment is open to atmospheric alterations unsuited to humans such as UV and Ozone, which have positive impacts on food safety. If ever required, a human would control the factory through mind control from a remote location.
8. Robotic engineers & self-fixing machines – There are several ways this can already be done, the best of which analyse data captured from the machine to make live assessments against peer machines and components from around the world, creating extremely powerful predictive algorithms which schedule maintenance, order spare parts, and avoid shut-downs. However, this far into the future, the machines will not only be 3D printing their own spare parts, but will actually fit them as well. When not in use the machines will convert back into their compact form, like transformers, reducing the space required for storage.
9. Vertical Factories / Underwater factories – With challenges around space availability, sites will look to build vertically using gravity to assist in processing. Underground and underwater factories will also become common.
10. Onsite packaging ‘growth farms’ – As we move from plastic to paper to other packaging materials, it will make much more sense for factories to house their own packaging growth facilities, growing the packaging materials from organic sources, with seaweed and algae seeming like the current frontrunners for sources.
Integrated Food Projects have partnered with Kettleby Foods on a number of high-profile multi-million pound capital projects since 2003/4, helping the business to develop and grow. Throughout that time they have provided cost-effective and efficient solutions on development projects both at our existing ready meals production facility and also in creating a new satellite facility. The projects at our existing facility were managed without impact on our ability to service our own clients, and all projects have been delivered within budget, in a timely fashion and to the requisite standards of safety and quality. Their team work ethos and professional approach ensure successful projects and I would utilise Integrated Food Projects in the future without hesitation.
- Jarrod Thorndyke, Production Director
I have worked with Integrated Food Projects on many capital expenditure projects since 2004, the latest being the development of the new plot of land adjacent to our main site. They successfully employed a project delivery process to ensure the integration of a leased modular building solution with the development of the site infrastructure to improve logistics and Health and Safety. Their staff are always positive and enthusiastic and have fostered a team-work approach ensuring another successful project delivered. I look forward to working with them again in the near future.
- Engineering Manager, Major UK Ready Meals Manufacturer