Training the Next Generation of Innovators: Applying Design Thinking to Systemic Food Challenges
Prototyping innovative solutions to address food waste
Date: June 12, 2018 | Permalink: http://foodaghealth.solutions/innovator-spotlight-applying-design-thinking-to-systemic-food-challenges/
The world is faced with a myriad of complex, food-related challenges. Food loss and waste alone negatively impact food security, the environment and even the economy, accounting for an estimated US$1 trillion of losses for the food industry1. Global initiatives to remedy the food waste crisis are being led internationally by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization with 130 partnering countries, and nationally via academic, corporate, government and grassroots consortiums2. The significant effects of food loss and waste are multifaceted, requiring that we work together to develop transformative solutions.
University of California, Davis professors Charlotte Biltekoff and Lauren Shimek are taking a multidisciplinary approach to solving food system challenges. They believe that in order to successfully develop solutions to critical challenges in nutrition, health and sustainability, innovators should be informed not only by science but also by understanding the social and cultural conditions that shape and result from the food system, and the real contexts within which innovations are – or are note – taken up by users. Their course, Design Thinking for Food: An Innovation Lab, trains students in evolved design thinking and rapid prototyping, with the ultimate goal of developing a new generation of innovators and achieving real-world impacts.
The course centers around what the instructors call “Food Studies-informed Design Thinking.” Design Thinking is an approach to innovation that considers technical feasibility, and business viability, but is also resolutely “human centered”. Food Studies is a multidisciplinary field that works across the food system— from production to consumption— to understand the relationship of food and the social order, and the values and beliefs that shape eating habits. The course brings together graduate and undergraduate students from across campus to learn and to apply these tools as they work in radically multidisciplinary teams to address real world food system challenges. In the first two years, the course focused on reducing food waste in campus dinning.
In project ‘CHEWS’, course veterans Kyla Broderick, Crystal Sandmire and Lauren Crawford built an intuitive sampling and customization platform designed to reduce unintentional food waste in the UC Davis Dining Commons4. The platform is intended to alleviate customer congestion during peak times (breakfast and lunch) and reduce food waste by reformatting the Dining Commons environment while meeting a fundamental need for students to find food that they like to eat. A food tasting station and made-to-order app enables customization according to food portion and dietary preferences while aligning inherent student needs with the goal of reducing food waste.
The current Dining Commons model has the potential to result in overeating and excess food waste. Students swipe a member card and self-serve in an all-you-care-to-eat system. CHEWS prototype team member and UC Davis Food Science and Technology doctoral candidate Lauren Crawford explains, “our challenge was to develop an innovative system to reduce food waste in the Dining Commons on campus and to focus on the suppliers, the chef, and customers (students).” The team posed the question, “How can we inspire them to reduce food waste?” 3,4
By studying consumer dining patterns, and redesigning the structural and functional flow of the Dining Commons, the burden of meal choice and wait time could be largely reduced. Food sampling before purchase informs customer selection, eliminates undesirable items, and may even act to satiate an appetite and prevent overeating. Professor Shimek points out that tackling food waste is not actually the number one priority for students eating in the Dining Commons. “What the student team uncovered is that the primary need (of the consumer) is to find something they like. CHEWS is a parallel path that pairs the opportunity to solve food waste with the existing desires people already have, without trying to change their priorities.”
CHEWS embodies an innovation process that engages the consumer experience and acknowledges the complexity of the sociocultural context to fully comprehend and adequately frame a problem. The CHEWS design incorporates a human-centered focus that seamlessly meets the needs of the consumer as well as the food waste reduction needs of the Dining Commons. The students are currently working closely with the Dining Commons to implement sustainable solutions to reduce food waste.
It is the “intersection of design thinking, food studies, and food science that is unique to this course,” says Professor Biltekoff. Engaging this form of thinking (food studies) and doing (design thinking) kindles the innovative spirit and ignites workable solutions The Design Thinking for Food course beautifully exemplifies the practical and effective solutions that can emerge when the efforts of people in applied, theoretical and scientific disciplines are purposefully combined. The next Design Thinking for Food course will be offered at UC Davis in Fall 2018 and will focus on the challenge of addressing food insecurity on campus.
People behind the science
Crystal Sandmire is a 4th year undergraduate student at UC Davis, double majoring in Anthropology and Design. She is a designer and an advocate for multidisciplinary learning and collaboration.
Kyla Broderick is a 4th year undergraduate Food Science and Technology major and U.S. History minor at UC Davis. She is the president of the Food Tech club and works with fellow officers to help peers learn about the food industry and get involved in the department. She has also held various internships related to her career goals and has spearheaded food science projects on campus.
Lauren Crawford is a 3rd year PhD student in the Food Science and Technology department studying analytical chemistry. Her current project aims to create an innovative processing method for black table olives to increase nutritional quality, decrease the amount and toxicity of waste water, and to increase profits for olive producers while preventing any undesirable changes to the olive’s chemical composition or sensory profile.
- Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. (2015). “SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction.” (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4068e.pdf)
- Food and Agricultura Organization of the United Nations. (2017). “Food loss and waste in the food supply chain.”(http://www.fao.org/3/a-bt300e.pdf)
- Biltekoff C, Shimek L. Project Interview. 21 Feb 2018.
- Broderick K, Crawford L, Sandmire C. Project Interview. 7 Mar 2018.
- University of Califronia, Davis. (n.d). FST 298 :Design Thinking for Food. Retrieved from http://designthinkingforfood.weebly.com.
Novel Food Safety Interventions: Techno-Economic Analysis of Antimicrobial Proteins Made in Plants
Necessary food safety interventions can be improved through insights gained from an innovative computational modeling method known as techno-economic analysis, shining new light on the effectiveness of novel biologics production.
Date: March 12, 2018 | Permalink: http://foodaghealth.solutions/novel-food-safety-interventions/
Foodborne illness emerging from antibiotic-resistant bacteria is massively threatening existing food production, food safety practices and global health. Reports reveal that 1 in 10 people in the world experience foodborne disease, often with severe distress, and resulting in more than half a million deaths and billions of dollars in annual economic losses1. While current antibiotic interventions have undeniably served to elevate conditions in the food processing industry, the number of reported incidences of foodborne illnesses are placing this once pioneering biotechnological method under scrutiny.
Fortunately, University of California, Davis researchers, together with industry partner Nomad Bioscience GmbH, are developing a novel alternate intervention to assure the safety of our food. Professor of Chemical Engineering Karen McDonald, and Doctoral candidate Matthew McNulty are performing a techno-economic analysis of plant-produced antimicrobial proteins to assess their effectiveness as food safety agents. Endolysins are the class of plant-made antimicrobials under study—highly effective naturally occurring proteins natively produced by bacteriophage viruses that directly target specific pathogens2. Simply put, endolysins are the proteins used by certain viruses to attack bacteria. The usefulness of such antimicrobial proteins against pathogenic antibiotic-resistant bacteria has successfully been tested in animal models3,6, and presents a promising alternative to traditional antibiotics as the ultimate weapon against bacteria.
To fully evaluate the viability of endolysins as an antibiotics alternative, the economic context must be considered. This is why Professor McDonald and her colleagues are developing a rigorous techno-economic model of the plant-based lysin production process. The researchers are using SuperPro Designer® by Intelligen, Inc., a simulation software that facilitates modeling, evaluation and optimization of integrated processes within production facilities to forecast associated financial requirements.7 With SuperPro Designer®, variables such as the type of operations, link between operations, and costing for equipment, supplies, time and personnel can be fine-tuned to generate a thorough assessment of the necessary resources and processes for premier manufacturing operations.
While the use of techno-economic simulation is common among numerous manufacturing industries, ranging from biofuels to pharmaceuticals, Professor McDonald and her team are newly developing the set of tools needed for the analysis of a plant-produced food safety agent. She reveals “we are using the SuperPro Designer platform as a tool to access the economics of this novel production process for food safety”, and to “evaluate how the cost of goods and total capital investment vary with [endolysin] expression level and production capacity”.4 This information is critical for commercialization of endolysins and provides insights into the business risk and the cost of infrastructure required to implement the technology in developed and developing countries. Doctoral candidate McNulty notes that “what you can get out this tool is a lot”. By adding typical agricultural system variables into the software, such as common reagents or plant growth nutrients, a whole production simulation can be created. Costs for each of the variables can be determined, giving the overall annual operating costs. McNulty explains that “you can then assess this information and in response, improve operations accordingly.” 2
Technology is undeniably changing how food is grown, processed, distributed, and even eaten. The seed, soil, and tractor tradition of yesteryear’s agriculture industry is evolving into the smart, dynamic, 3.0 production we are witnessing today. The future of agriculture has arrived and looks to be powered by techno-economic simulations, IoT sensor and mobile technology, genetic and molecular markers, and big data analytics5.
Professor McDonald’s industry colleague at the DT Consulting Group, Daniel Tusé, is a microbiologist and toxicologist. As managing director of the group, he applies his regulatory and commercialization insights to the project in an advisory capacity and provides a startling reminder of the world we currently live in. “Although access to a consistent supply of safe food should be an inalienable right, worldwide 1 in 8 people – including 1 in 8 Americans – are impacted by food insecurity and hunger.”1 Together, these innovators are using techno-economic modeling to provide a comprehensive evaluation of how this plant-made food safety additive will reduce the likelihood of foodborne illness from our future production facilities, without increasing use of antibiotics.
The importance of this work is enormous. The ability to build representative models of bioprocess economics will undoubtedly leverage innovative and transformative solutions across food and health.
People behind the science
- Tusé, Daniel. “Antimicrobial Proteins Made in Plants as Novel Food Safety Interventions.” DEB/ECH 294 SEMINAR, 9 Feb 2018, 1022 Life Sciences, University of California, Davis.
- McNulty, Matthew. Research interview. 18 Jan 2018.
- Schmelcher M, Loessner, M J. “Bacteriophage endolysins: applications for food safety”. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, Volume 37, 2016, Pages 76-87, ISSN 0958-1669, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copbio.2015.10.005. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095816691500155X)
- McDonald, Karen. Research Interview. 15 Dec 2018.
- MIT Technology Review. “High-Tech Food Chain: Data-driven, robotic and mobile technologies are transforming how we grow, process, distribute and buy our food.” MIT Technology Review, Business Report. Jul-Aug 2015, Pages 1-15. (https://www.technologyreview.com/business-report/high-tech-food-chain/).
- Gerstmans H, Criel B, Briers Y. “Synthetic biology of modular endolysins.” Biotechnology Advances, 2017, ISSN 0734-9750, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biotechadv.2017.12.009. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0734975017301611)
- Intelligen, Inc. SuperPro Designer®. Available on the World Wide Web: http://www.intelligen.com/superpro_overview.html
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) investigates the process design and economics for biochemical conversion
- Agricultural Biotechnology: Plant proteins involved in Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation
- Synthetic Biology of a Novel Class of Antibacterials
- Plant Biotechnology and Protein Production
- Optimal business prospects for advancing the production of plant-made pharmaceuticals
- Examining the Benefits and Risks of Biopharming and the Food System
- Bioprocess Economics: Driving cost-effective and scalable manufacturing practices
- Rapid, large-scale manufacture of medical countermeasures can be uniquely met by the plant-made-pharmaceutical platform technology