In preparation for the Inaugural IC-FOODS conference, which will take place November 7-9 at UC Davis, The Mixing Bowl’s Rob Trice and Krista Holobar talked with Matthew Lange, the Principal Investigator of IC3-FOODS, about the Internet of Food and why we need it. Dr. Lange,
who teaches at both UC Davis’s Health System and its Department of Food Science & Technology, is leading efforts to build the semantic and ontological underpinnings for the emerging semantic web and Internet of Food (IoF).
MB: Why do we need an Internet of Food?
ML: Food is the center of everything in so many ways. It’s a cultural nexus—when we celebrate religious things, food is at the middle of it. When we talk about the greatest environmental damage that we do, food is at the center of it. When we talk about our health, food is the most important thing. In my opinion, there is nothing more important that we could build, in terms of information infrastructure, than building out the Internet of Food.
By creating standards about how we describe the attributes of food—how and where it was grown, cooked, or processed, to how it can or should be consumed—in this way, we’ll be able to digitize food. Why does that matter? The Internet of Food will define the “lingua franca” enabling ag and food to be more traceable, transparent and trustworthy, empowering all of us with more precise and personalized food, diet, and health choices. From precision agriculture to precision health, we can start to build and connect the knowledge bases that, once we have in place, permit us to apply all kinds of machine learning and artificial intelligence to food, agriculture, and health: From predicting optimal crops to plant, and most appropriate cultivation techniques, to suggesting foods for consumers that increase health and delight while meeting their personal ethical and religious standards.
Part of the issue right now is that we have people building part of the Internet of Food in their own silos. With flavor alone, we’ve got folks who have built a wine wheel, a chocolate wheel, a coffee wheel and a beer wheel to describe flavor profiles that exist. We don’t want to create any more wheels. We want to connect those wheels to an information superhighway for food.