This past quarter I had the opportunity to take a phenomenal one-unit seminar series in the Mechanical Engineering department entitled Food, Design, & Technology. The class explored food entrepreneurship and innovation at every level of the food chain, from farm to table. So here is what I learned in my Food, Design, & Technology class from the lenses of some incredible companies that are redesigning the food space.

No Plastic Straws, No Problem

In addition to their impending launch of a new location neighboring Stanford's campus, the Boba Guys are taking the boba scene by storm throughout the Bay Area. By supporting both the plastic straw ban and local dairy producers, the founders speak of continually striving to better the environmental and health implications of their products. This is definitely my cup of tea.

A More Bear-able Waiter

In an effort to curb the high employee turnover rate associated with the restaurant industry, Bear Robotics created an automated waiter: the Bear Robot. This technology alleviates front-of-the-house employees of mundane tasks by taking on the brunt of table deliveries and allowing staff to engage with eaters on a more interpersonal level, thereby increasing job retention. "Say when" — the new cheese algorithm.

A New Type of Burger Chef

Clocking in at just $6 per burger, this new burger hub utilizes a new concept sans chef hands — precise automation from bun to condiment selection — in the form of a robot. Creator is a new restaurant in San Francisco that aims to make its robot-made burgers healthy, responsibly sourced, affordable, and uniquely delicious. Sign me up for the Top Chef-designed Tumami Burger.

Seaweed on Top

By farming domestic species of seaweed, Salt Point Seaweed is able to create delicious snacks (like this seaweed & seed product pictured above), fresh ingredients to be transformed by chefs, and easily replicated and accessible recipes. Salt Point Seaweed continually strives to alleviate the environmental burden of unsustainable aquaculture and to introduce seaweed to the masses through a variety of avenues, all ending with healthful, accessible, and tasteful food. Kelp it up!

What Out Storefronts: The Rise of Culinary Incubators

Food industry stakeholders come together at a culinary incubator — a method of consolidating the various efforts of food entrepreneurs through the shared utilization of a single space — such that they may pilot new recipes, collectively understand their market, and ultimately save money. Such models, like KitchenTown, encourage the facilitation of knowledge-sharing among forces within an industry and across disciplines, which in turn may drive significant change and innovation. Futuristic food necessitates futuristic cooperation.

A Bug's Life as Food

Unbeknownst to many people in the U.S., insects comprise a significant portion of other countries' protein consumption. A local start-up, Tiny Farms, is attempting to emulate this  through the farming of crickets domestically. In addition to prototyping protein powders and usage in various other foods to be consumed by humans, their fried cricket product successfully satiates hungry Raiders fans. Don't crick-it 'til you try it.

So here are some exciting bites on what I learned in my Food, Design, & Technology class. Though I did not include all of our guest speakers' companies, you can check out other incredibly innovative things food entrepreneurship has to offer right now (i.e. Starship Technologies and Memphis Meats). The future of food is coming, and it's coming fast.