Stories

On Our Loading Dock

We’re not the only ones thinking about food systems, food tech and the food supply chain. Check out these recent books, films, podcasts and other media that are making our brains buzz.

Food Mover: Robots as Farmhands

Cocktail-making and pizza-delivering bots may be a sign of the future. But the real workhorses of the food supply chain aren’t just simple-task machines. They’ve got multiple senses and big brains.

Your Food: Up for Grabs?

Robyn Metcalfe invites readers to explore changes in consumers’ experience with the food supply chain. It’s real-time evolution — in food waste, urban ag and more.

Food Movers: Lock, Stock and Barges

An ancient form of over-water food transport never phased out. From the 1400s through today, big flat boats haul food commodities from inland farms to ocean ports.

From Hoof to Highway

Cowboys driving cattle over a dusty range — it’s an iconic image for many when they think of Texas. While cross-country cattle drives are no longer the first step in the beef supply chain, the paths carved out of the land by millions of hooves left their mark on the state. Historian Jeannette Vaught reveals the legacy of Texas’ earliest traffic.

Food for Thought: Smart City Tools, Then and Now

Food technology — gizmos such as blockchain, sensors, taste algorithms, genomic tracking — is a hot topic these days, generously funded by venture capitalists. But food technology has been around for decades. Can openers, anyone?

How to Make Do in Wartime

War can bring major supply chain disruptions. Brits “made do” in World War II using rations, substitutions and frequent doses of cheery optimism from the likes of “Potato Pete.”

Seafood Traceability Nets New Benefits

High-tech tracking is everywhere in food today — from RFID tags in strawberry crates to temperature sensors in dairy shipments. Urban planner Laurie Zapalac shares a case study of new tracking tools used by Boston’s seafood industry that leverage big data to ensure food safety, sound fishery management — and to let you know who raised your oyster.

Urban Agriculture: Can it Feed Our Cities?

Technological developments in agriculture have opened up a surprising new kind of field for crops. Vertical gardens that thrive in urban warehouses and soil-free greenhouses with produce growing in hydroponic tanks bring fresh food closer to population centers. Jane Black digs into the future of farming.

Cutting Waste Across Cultures

The United Nations has proposed a goal to cut global food waste in half by 2030. Liz Goodwin, a senior fellow and director of food loss and waste at the World Resources Institute (WRI), has taken that mandate to heart. Goodwin, of all people, would know what that...

The Hunt for Food Waste

The fact that an enormous fraction of the food we produce — 30 to 40 percent, experts say — is unharvested, unsold or simply discarded isn’t new news. But you might not have heard about all the ways food waste is being transformed: from building materials to raw energy. As Ari LeVaux explains, the trick is getting it out of the waste stream to start with.

Edible Materials

Here’s some food for thought: These products are derived from food system losses in agricultural and livestock production. These materials, currently used in buildings, apparel, consumer products and packaging, lead the way in replacing fossil-fuel derivatives and other strained natural resources with rapidly renewable food waste.

Really, Really Smart Cities

Take a peek into the future through the eyes of food futurists and illustrator Josh Cochran. Drones, rooftop gardens and smart kitchens abound.

Food for Thought: Labelology

Your fruit and vegetables come with a surprising amount of information about their history and origins. Each sticker has a code printed on it along with the grower’s name and logo. In the future, be prepared for even more transparency — labels may disappear as scanners and digital “ink” become cost effective. These paper stickers will be the old papyrus scroll for food storytelling.

Recipe Tracker: Tart in Ymbre Days

Cookbooks are products of their time, reflecting flavor trends and the availability of ingredients. In “The Forme of Cury,” we get a taste of medieval England.

How a Little Startup Fixes a Big Food Chain Gap

In rural India, where dairies may have only one or two cows and the power grid is spotty at best, improving the supply chain from producers to distributors requires fresh thinking and a surprisingly simple solution. Entrepreneur Sorin Grama shares his story.

Rio’s Recipe for the Olympic Games

While many agree that the Rio Olympics fared better than the dire predictions, the reality for restaurateurs, farmers and concession managers was rough. Brazilian journalist Fabiana Pires takes us to Rio before and after the 2016 Summer Olympics to get the real story of the “Taste of the Games.”

Tsukiji on the Verge of Change

The venerable fish market known for chaotic auctions and flapping-fresh is facing a move to a controversial new location. Xaq Frohlich examines Tsukiji’s back story and looks into its future as it prepares for some needed upgrades and braces for the inevitable fallout of change.

The Early Years of Logistics

As we’ve moved farther from the farm, transparency about the food system becomes more important. To better understand a largely invisible system, we need an introduction to food logistics — starting with Alexander the Great.

Beasts of Burden

While they may seem like historical relics, draft animals are still used worldwide to move agricultural products from fields to markets. Check out our gallery.

Behind the Wheel

The image of a truck driver probably evokes a burly guy in a gimme cap. But a small number of women share the driving load: Meet Annette Womack.

The Secret Evolution of the Pizza Box

More than just a simple package for a steaming hot meal, the pizza box is to some a blank canvas — for food artistry and technological innovation. Join world-record-holder Scott Wiener on a journey into the history of the pizza box.

How the Bodega Gets the Banana

Have you ever wondered how bananas, such a seemingly fragile fruit, end up in so many places, at their perfect stage of ripeness for quick sale? Rachel Wharton finds out how this not-so-mini miracle happens.