In the last five years alone, a number of exhaustive studies and documentaries have been released with the intent of unveiling the darkest secrets of the food industry. Whether this content pertains to how the sausage gets made, how food animals are treated and fed as they are raised, or how such products negatively impact our bodies, attitudes toward certain foods and their somewhat hidden ingredients have rapidly shifted, especially in the United States.

Due to our evolving mindsets, a number of social movements were given the opportunity to break into the mainstream and thrive. The most popular of such movements is, without a doubt, farm-to-table dining.

At its inception, farm-to-table was simply focused on bringing responsibly grown, farm-fresh food to restaurants and school cafeterias, as organic products sold in supermarkets were often expensive or in short supply. Therefore, this movement made healthier meal options more accessible to individuals of all backgrounds and socioeconomic standings.

In 2018, however, it has become evident that we must revisit and refine the mission and purpose of farm-to-table, as it is increasingly influenced by outside industries, such as agricultural technology (agtech), and shifting consumer behaviors and preferences.

With that in mind, let us examine some up-and-coming trends within the farm-to-table movement.

Enhanced imaging technology

Although such devices have been the crux of the agtech industry for quite some time, a number of new imaging technologies have altered certain farming practices, including the utilization of antibiotics and pesticides.

For instance, infrared spectral imaging is now employed to detect major health issues in food animals, potential food handling and safety issues, and better comprehending the needs of various animals and plants. Such information allows farmers to improve living conditions and operations, prevent tainted plant and animal products from being sold to the public and, in turn, enhance the quality of the food that is distributed.

Integration of automation

Along that same vein, more and more agricultural developers are seeking unique solutions to otherwise dire labor costs and shortages. Therefore, automation is being increasingly integrated into the harvesting, weeding, and distribution processes.

However, the efforts from key, biology-based companies like Zeakal, Benson Hill, and Hi-Fidelity Genetics, are focused on improving agricultural processes on a much larger scale. Most notably, each company has recently revealed its own innovative technologies that can drastically alter the growth and distribution of commodity crops — from discovering new genomic approaches to leveraging cost- and capital-efficient development models.

Emerging sub-movements

Similar to other social movements, a number of smaller initiatives have stemmed from farm-to-table dining. The most buzzworthy of these is root to stem, which emphasizes the need for improvement of responsibility and workflow within the foodservice industry.

To elaborate, root to stem values the complete — or complete-as-possible — use of every ingredient. This would entail chefs utilizing leftover ingredients for a number of future recipes, or passing them along to other members of the service team like bartenders and mixologists. Regardless of the methodology, this approach ensures food waste is minimized to the fullest extent.

The farm-to-table movement has impacted the food industry from start to finish. Although its widespread adoption has been slow but steady, many experts believe 2018 may be a tipping point of sorts for the movement. While only time will tell, it certainly is refreshing to see more than just the health-conscious and trend-aware eaters supporting farm-to-table dining.

If you wish to learn more about the farm-to-table movement, or even host a destination culinary event, consider requesting such information from Caitlin Crowe, the co-founder of and event planner for Topo Pino!