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How Data is Changing the Food You Eat

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How Data is Changing the Food You Eat

A look at how big data impacts food production and how people eat.

· Big Data Zone
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You’ve likely heard at some point how big data is set to change how you live. On the surface, that may sound like one of those exaggerations people make about new technological advancements as a way to sell the idea, but in the case of big data, the statements hold some significant weight. In other words, it’s not just a theoretical concept but something playing out before our eyes. Take the case of food as an example. Something as simple as what you eat is being greatly affected by the use of big data, usually in ways that are easy to overlook. Data is indeed changing what you eat, where you eat, even how you eat, and the overall impact it could have not just on your life but the lives of everyone else is enormous.

Perhaps one of the biggest effects data is having on food in general happens at the beginning stages: farming. For decades, farmers have needed to adopt new technology in order to keep up with a rapidly growing population. As a result, many have started to implement big data solutions into their farming occupations. The overall goal isn’t to actually change the types of crops being grown but to increase the yield. With an estimated 9 billion people expected to be living on the planet by 2050, the need to grow more crops is pressing. Big data is helping in this effort in several ways. Data aggregation technology has quickly taken hold as it is used in a lot of farming equipment managed by farmers.

Precision agriculture is another area seeing a lot of attention. Using GPS and data analysis, it measures and responds to field variability in the crops being grown. The result is a more efficient use of resources, such as fertilizer and water. Some platforms, like TerrAvion, are being used for this purpose as well. With real-time aerial imagery, farmers are able to improve their irrigation practices, resulting in greater yields through fewer resources. The results have been impressive so far. One survey of soybean farmers found they saved up to 15 percent on things like fertilizer and seed, while a different study showed use of precision agriculture reduced water use by half while still increasing yields by 16 percent.

But that’s just how your food is grown. Getting from the farm to your plate also involves a lot of data. With data collected from sensors during the farming and transportation stages, the food industry has been able to reduce spoilage significantly. Data is also gathered from transportation statistics and levels of consumption, which indicate when is the best time to take the food to the market. By reducing the amount of spoilage, the food industry can ensure nothing is wasted. At the same time, restaurants are using data to check on the quality of food as well. Real-time analytics are used to check on food before it is served as a way to make sure is of a high quality and won’t make customers sick.Data is also changing the types of meals you could be having. An enormous data mining project conducted by the Food Network and Wired looked into the types of ingredients that can enhance meals.

Based off of this data analysis, it should come as little surprise that they discovered adding bacon to sandwiches results in a higher rated meal, likely one of the reasons bacon is being added to so many meals these days. On the other hand, adding bacon to desserts does little to improve ratings. Other ingredients that were found to enhance meals included whipped cream, avocado, and cream cheese, so don’t be surprised to see more of that in your meals.

Data projects are also leading to the creation of new recipes, as seen by research done by IBM. This could help spice up the amount of variety in your diet.As big data has gotten more prevalent and the food industry has gotten more involved with it, we’re seeing more changes coming to the food that we eat. Data platforms like Cassandra vs. Hadoop have become more readily available, and restaurants and food-related businesses feel more comfortable using it. Big data has the potential not just to change what we eat but could end up helping feed the entire world. Its impact on farming, transportation, storage, and meals could end up being felt for many generations to come.

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Topics:
big data

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