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Food Robotics & AI to enable personalized fresh food for all

Making healthy food accessible to all anywhere at any time through food robotics & AI recommenders, and by connecting food service providers

Photo of Glenn Mathijssen
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Alberts

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

/

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://alberts.be

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Brussels and Antwerp

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Belgium

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Belgium, the heart of Europe, covers a total area of approximately 30.700km2

What country is your selected Place located in?

Belgium

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

That’s where we’re from, so we know the culture and local languages perfectly as well as a good overview of the market players and potential partners :) Also, it’s very central in Europe and offers smooth pathways to expand to the rest of the continent. Moreover, Brussels is the center of the EU, which is where all the important decisions are made with regards to health policy. We’re right where it’s all happening! Last but not least, we are located right in the center of the frozen food valley, with quick access to major players such as Greenyard. Frozen ingredients are a key component of our healthy food solutions.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

BELGIUM is the perfect test market. The country is a melting pot of cultures; just in Brussels we see 180 different nationalities and 55% of this city’s population is not Belgian. After Dubai, Brussels is the city with the highest percentage of residents born abroad. The country also has 3 official languages thanks to its borders with the Netherlands, France and Germany. Big brands have also discovered that our country is a perfect experimentation ground for new products: besides the mixture of all those nationalities, the north and south of the country each have their own language and culture as well. For our project to make healthy food accessible to everyone, Belgium is a perfect testing ground. Studies show that 50% of Belgians are overweight and 20% is obese. A big reason is that the citizens don’t eat enough fruit and veggies. Only 9% eats the required amount of fruit and only 1-3% eats enough veggies. We do notice that this issue is not limited to Belgium. It’s a global issue. And due to the variety of the population, Belgium is a perfect test market to see if our solution finds a market fit. BELGIUM is the perfect test market. The country is a melting pot of cultures; just in Brussels we see 180 different nationalities and 55% of this city’s population is not Belgian. After Dubai, Brussels is the city with the highest percentage of residents born abroad. The country also has 3 official languages thanks to its borders with the Netherlands, France and Germany. Big brands have also discovered that our country is a perfect experimentation ground for new products: besides the mixture of all those nationalities, the north and south of the country each have their own language and culture as well. For our project to make healthy food accessible to everyone, Belgium is a perfect testing ground. Studies show that 50% of Belgians are overweight and 20% is obese. A big reason is that the citizens don’t eat enough fruit and veggies. Only 9% eats the required amount of fruit and only 1-3% eats enough veggies. We do notice that this issue is not limited to Belgium. It’s a global issue. And due to the variety of the population, Belgium is a perfect test market to see if our solution finds a market fit.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

11500000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

HEALTH - While for more than a century soda, snack & fast/junk food brands have screamed out “Happiness” on every billboard, one of the largest challenges to date has been diseases caused by unhealthy eating habits such as obesity, heart diseases, diabetes and other chronic diseases. The United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goal No 3 (SDG 3) is, therefore, about “’Good health and well-being”, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that the number of obese children aged 6-17 has more than doubled in the last 40 years and that 30% of children aged 11 are overweight or obese (Corporate EU Observatory, ‘16). Moreover, low fruit and vegetable intake is among the top 10 selected risk factors for global mortality. An estimated 5.6 - 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide in ‘13 may be attributable to a fruit & vegetable intake below 500 - 800 g/day respectively. To boost the sales of healthy products, some governments (e.g. in Germany, UK, USA) offer tax benefits on healthcare and wellness plans. NO WASTE - The Alberts’ concept has environmental awareness at the core of all its developments. Only IQF fruits & vegetables are used, doubling the minimization of food waste. Firstly, IQF fruit & vegetables are sliced or diced which means so called “ugly fruit & vegetables” are processed as well. Secondly, preparing food based on frozen ingredients reduces, for a standard household, food waste by 47% compared to cooking with fresh food. Alberts adheres to Responsible consumption & production, as stated in SDG No 12. As of January 2020, only bagasse-based cups and straws, industrially compostable, or reusable cups will be used. During the next re-engineering round, a pure propane refrigerant solution, the EU vision for the future, will be developed. Aligned with the SDG 6 to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all, Alberts already incorporates minimal water usage. Water to clean the blender after preparing a fresh snack is at only 100 ml per smoothie. NUTRIENTS - Last but not least, in line with minimizing food waste, our society needs to move towards ways to optimize nutrient efficiency in the way we eat daily. Processed foods are particularly low in nutrient levels, though dominating our daily consumption patterns. TRUST - Moreover, we’re thrilled to point out our vision to deploy robotics & AI in a decentralized food system to nurture our fellow citizens. The current culture will require a big focus on restoring trust in the food system, named as KPI no. 1 by EIT Food (where Alberts is selected as a Rising Food Star): “Overcome low consumer trust - supporting European citizens in the transition towards a smart food system that is inclusive and reassuring”.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Alberts addresses the above mentioned challenges by state of the art and highly scalable:
** FOOD ROBOTICS solutions to provide hassle-free, personalized and healthy snacks and meals… The Alberts Stations.
** FOOD AI Recommenders to enable consumers to make the healthy move tailored to their needs and tuned to their personal needs… The Alberts Health Coach. Alberts developed an international award-winning micro-factory, a vending robot, that meets all microbial standards to produce on the spot truly healthy snacks - soups & smoothies - using only Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) fruit & vegetables, free of additives. Alberts adds only pure, filtered water, resulting in a snack full of nutrients and a sugar content <5%.
As such, Alberts turns the classic food industry chain upside-down. Instead of centralizing raw produce to big classic factories where pasteurized purees or freeze-dried powders are created to produce instant soups or smoothies with +60 days shelf life (low in nutrients), Alberts transforms raw produce, on the spot, in just 90 sec, into a fresh, healthy, hassle-free personalized snack. Since it is fresh produce, the taste is optimal without added juices and no purees or powders added.
Alberts’ free mobile app enables consumers to share their recipes and experiences with the healthy snacking community. A Health Coach integrated in the mobile app, gives the consumers personalized advice, based on their own nutritional requirements and daily habits. In view of an EIT Food (EU commission) project with esteemed partners from the catering and academic world, Alberts is developing personalized nutrition services which are linked to connected food service providers (including our own robotic solutions as well as catering partners’).

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Belgian citizens, and in extension EU citizens, will have access to fresh, healthy and personalized food at anytime and anywhere through food robotics solutions. As such, both adults and kids can pass their days at school or work without relying on highly processed food. By deploying our personalized food recommender systems we ensure healthy food is not only at the tip of our fingers, but top of mind as well. The Food Robotic Solutions allow to turn the food system upside down: instead of relying on centralized food factories that turn fresh produce into highly processed food products full of sugar, salt, fat, chemical stabilizers that are eventually “90 days fresh”, we are able to bring that same raw produce directly to the location of the end-consumer and make it on the spot with food robotic solutions into a fresh and healthy product without any additives whatsoever. Since the past 5 years three unique elements ensure the Alberts’ vision can be successful: Consumers have the ambition to eat healthy, though find it hard to meet their ambitions. Entities such as employers see the results of physical and mental health hurting their financial results. Caterers and food service providers in general see health as one of the potential key differentiators. With technology, such as AI recommender engines, as an enabler the time has never been brighter to see the above interests being aligned and having a healthier population as a fruitful result. Key will be to focus on trust and privacy and protect the consumer interests first. Nobody feels comfortable sharing, or seemingly sharing, health and nutritional results with their employer. The connected Food and Health system is the key enabler to allow for the needed change on privacy and trust in AI and strive for transparent AI recommenders.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

DIET - Unhealthy food is presented in very appealing ways by major food brands around the world. Trying to alter unhealthy eating habits is and will remain difficult. This behavior has led to large parts of the world population to suffer from obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other food-related chronic diseases. Our mission is tied to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal-3: “Good Health and Well-being”.The World Health Organization reports that the number of children aged 6-17 has more than doubled in the last 40 years and that 30% of children aged 11 are overweight or obese (Corporate EU Observatory, ‘16). Moreover, low fruit and vegetable intake is among the top 10 selected risk factors for global mortality. An estimated 5.6 - 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide in ‘13 may be attributable to a fruit & vegetable intake below 500 - 800 g/day respectively. There is a clear willingness to provoke change, though. Next to sugar taxes in eg. the UK, some governments (e.g. in Germany, USA) also offer tax benefits on healthcare and wellness plans.
ENVIRONMENT - Next to health, we are also very much involved with sustainability at Alberts. For one, we focus on the limitation of food waste. In our food robotics devices, only IQF fruits & vegetables are used, minimizing food waste significantly. These fruit & vegetables are sliced or diced. Consequently, so-called “ugly fruit & vegetables” can be included in the offering as well. Secondly, preparing food based on frozen ingredients reduces, for a standard household, food waste by 47% compared to cooking with fresh food. Alberts adheres to responsible consumption & production, as stated in SDG No 12. As of January 2020, only bagasse-based cups and straws, which are industrially compostable, or reusable cups will be used in our devices. During the next re-engineering round, a pure propane refrigerant solution, the EU-vision for the future, will be developed. Aligned with the SDG 6 to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all, Alberts already incorporates minimal water usage (only 100ml to clean the blender).
CULTURE - In line with minimizing food-waste, our society needs to move towards ways to optimize nutrient efficiency in the way we eat daily. You see, the issue today isn't hunger, but rather malnutrition. Processed foods are particularly low in nutrient levels, though dominating our daily consumption patterns. The more pure we can serve our food, the better for our health and the health of the planet.
POLICY - As Belgium is ideally located to evoke change and leads by example in 2050, the EU commission in Belgium is perfectly positioned to ensure a full EU roll-out of the food service system we initiated. They will help to facilitate a health policy that encourages healthy food programs in companies and schools.

TECHNOLOGY -  Imagine Belgium in 2050 where Robotics and AI technology meet hand in hand to ensure everyone adopts fresh and healthy diet habits. We aim to create by 2050 a connected network of robotized and semi-automated food service systems, established both online through digitalization and offline through sustainable partnerships, is spread out to ensure we all eat freshly made and personalized food, everywhere you go. Your AI assistant will ensure you order the right food items at the right time, in sync with your nutrition tracking wearables, and nudges you towards the healthier options smoothly.
ECONOMIC - At Alberts, we have very exciting plans. Our vision for the food system is to deploy robotics & AI in a decentralized food system to nurture our fellow citizens. Trust in the food system is at an all time low at this time. It will require a big focus and effort to restore consumer’s trust in the system. Actually, this named as KPI no. 1 by EIT Food (where Alberts is selected as a Rising Food Star): “Overcome low consumer trust - supporting European citizens in the transition towards a smart food system that is inclusive and reassuring”. The challenges mentioned above are addressed in our vision and concept by state of the art and highly scalable: food robotics solutions, in order to provide hassle-free, personalized and healthy snacks and meals (i.e. The Alberts Stations) and food AI recommenders that enable consumers to make the healthy move tailored to their needs and tuned to their personal needs (i.e. The Alberts Health Coach). We developed an international award-winning micro-factory, a vending robot, that meets all microbial standards to produce truly healthy snacks - soups & smoothies - on the spot using only Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) fruit & vegetables. Because we make the product on the spot, the smoothies and soups are completely additive free. Alberts adds only pure, filtered water, resulting in a snack full of nutrients and a sugar content <5%. As such, our vision on the food system turns the classic food industry chain upside-down. Instead of centralizing raw produce to big classic factories where pasteurized purees or freeze-dried powders are created to produce instant soups or smoothies with +60 days shelf life (but low in nutrients), Alberts transforms raw produce, on the spot in just 90 sec, into a fresh, healthy, hassle-free personalized snack. Since the ingredients are fresh, the taste is optimal without added juices and no purees or powders added. Alberts’ free mobile app enables consumers to share their recipes and experiences with the healthy snacking community. A Health Coach integrated in the mobile app, gives the consumers personalized advice, based on their own nutritional requirements and daily habits. In view of an EIT Food (EU commission) project with esteemed partners from the catering and academic world, Alberts is developing personalized nutrition services which are linked to connected food service providers (including our own robotic solutions as well as those of our catering partners). Belgian citizens, and in general EU citizens, will have access to fresh, healthy and personalized food at anytime and anywhere through food robotic solutions such as ours. As such, both adults and kids can pass their days at school or work without relying on the highly processed food that those major food brands are promoting so appealingly today. By deploying our personalized food recommender systems we ensure healthy food is not only at the tip of our fingers, but top of mind as well. It will become the obvious choice. While speaking to all stakeholders in the last few years, we learned that three unique elements ensure the Alberts’ vision can be successful as they are aligned with their goals and interests. First, consumers have the ambition to eat healthy, though find it hard to meet their ambitions. Second, entities such as employers see the results of physical and mental health hurting their financial results. Third, caterers and food service providers in general see health as one of the potential key differentiators. With technology, such as the AI recommender engines we have in mind, as an enabler and to smoothen the transition from unhealthy to healthy habits, the time has never been brighter to see the above interests being aligned and having a healthier population as a fruitful result. Key will be to focus on trust and privacy and protect the consumer’s interests first. Nobody feels comfortable sharing, or seemingly sharing, health and nutritional results with their employer. The connected Food and Health system is the key enabler to enable the needed change on privacy and trust in AI and strive for transparent AI recommenders.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Through the esteemed professor Vanderborght, editor in chief of the Robotics and Automation magazine

2 comments

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Spam
Photo of Giok P Chua
Team

Hi Glenn Mathijssen
You have a cool project
Greeting from Kluang Malaysia
Wonder if we can JV for Total AgriFOOD ecoSystem for 2050
Have u visited our TRIPLE WINs@eco2KAMPONG Herbal Food Hub

Giok P CHUA

Spam
Photo of Glenn Mathijssen
Team

Hi Giok! Let's do this :) You can always contact me on glenn@alberts.be! Join the revolution :)