Food of the Future

From eating crickets to farming with fish, UT’s Food Lab is rewarding food innovators.


There are 7 billion of us on the planet, a number the United Nations predicts may hit 10.9 billion within the next century. And we all have to eat. While food production is more efficient and cheaper than ever, one in nine people—that’s 805 million—still go hungry every day. UT’s Food Lab wants to change that.

“Our focus is how food gets to cities around the world,” says Robyn Metcalfe, founder and executive director of the Food Lab. “We want to educate and activate.”

The lab, which is not a physical laboratory but an interdisciplinary group that encourages food research, is hosting its first Food Lab Challenge for aspiring entrepreneurs working on food issues. Open to anyone with an idea related to the business of food, the challenge will award a $10,000 grand prize and four $5,000 prizes in categories ranging from healthy eating to packaging. Below, get to know three of the 21 finalists.

Aspire Food Group

The problem: Overpopulation and a lack of cheap, healthy food sources.

The solution: Chow down on a cricket. Per 100 grams, insects have similar protein, iron, and calcium content to livestock at a fraction of the cost, labor, and water used. Aspire has already started insect breeding and product development in Mexico, Ghana, and at a cricket farm outside Austin. To get around the ick factor, Aspire processes crickets into powder for use in energy bars, baked goods, and dietary supplements.


The problem: Expiration dates on foods and medicines are unreliable and inconsistent, resulting in both food poisoning and unnecessary waste when items are pitched too early.

The solution: SafeLain has created a small strip of tape that measures oxidation—the true determinant of when a food is no longer safe to eat. The tape turns from red to brown when oxidation levels become unhealthy.

Ten Acre Organics

The problem: Conventional agriculture wastes a tremendous amount of water.

The solution: A new, more efficient method of agriculture called aquaponics, which can use 90 percent less water and produce 20 times more food than standard methods. In aquaponics, farmers allow bacteria to turn fish waste into food for plants. Ten Acre Organics is among the first to try aquaponics on a large scale. At a farm outside Austin, the startup produces fish, salad greens, tomatoes, and more. The company name references their goal of having a 10-acre aquaponic farm outside every U.S. city.


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