In the first of our series of quickfire introductions to this year’s inaugural entrants to the 50 Next list, we are getting to grips with the Tech Disruptors, a group of young people under 35 who are shaking up the future with systems and solutions that fix age-old problems with fresh perspectives and original thought
The Russian-born chemist who taught a computer to taste wine
The wine industry gets a bad rap for being stuck in its ways. The philosophies around producing the best wines are rooted in tradition and mystique that insists that much of the production process should be done in the way that it always has to maintain consistency and familiarity. Many elements of this process rely on a human touch but, as we well know, humans are an imperfect system.
Chemistry student and wine expert Katerina Axelsson witnessed first-hand human error in blind tastings, where the same batch of wine with two different labels received completely different reviews from the same critics. To her solution-driven brain, this was one element of inconsistency that could be overcome with technology. By teaching a computer how to taste wine using artificial intelligence and analytical and flavour chemistry methods, she can empirically predict human preferences, thus increasing the chances of a wine’s success. As of this year, she is ready to roll out Tastry – her ‘computer nose’ – to the world.
Learn more about Katerina
Check out Tastry, Katerina’s vinous intervention
The entrepreneur behind plant-based food that prioritises taste
Flavour is the long-held sticking point of plant-based alternatives to animal protein. The vast swathes of chefs converting their restaurants to be entirely vegan are growing by the day; just see the latest dispatches from the kitchens of Best of the Best chef Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park and Kyle and Katina Connaughton of SingleThread for reference.
Matias Muchnick insists that, for domestic growth in this space to be a true success, flavour has to be the bedrock on which it is built. His firm NotCo aims to reshape the food industry with plant-based products that replicate animal proteins that match up in terms of smell, texture and, crucially, taste. Get ready to start seeing Matias’ products on shelves near you.
The industrial designer using temperature technology to reconfigure food waste
While many believe the ‘sniff test’ to be a more reliable barometer to determine whether food has spoiled than grocery store use-by dates, this doesn’t stand up to health laws surrounding mass production. In essence, a use-by date will always be a conservative assessment to protect consumer health – and indeed the producer’s business should it come to litigation.
After witnessing the mounds of perfectly good food wasted based on these use-by dates, Solveiga Pakštaitė created Mimica Touch, a temperature-sensitive indicator that tells consumers when their food has actually spoiled. It’s a new kind of packaging that reacts with bumps to signal when a food product has gone off. It uses gelatine, which decomposes at the same rate as meat products and turns to liquid when no longer fit for consumption.
The upcycling evangelist distilling a new category for the drinks sector
Vermouth from discarded grape skin, vodka from potato peel, dark spirits from coffee husks… the list of booze produced from waste products is long and ever-growing. However, very few of these are made on an industrial scale and even fewer seek to create an entirely new spirit category. Enter Jonathan Ng, who invented Sachi, the first alcoholic beverage in the world made from soy whey, a by-product from the manufacture of tofu.
Sachi, which tastes like sake, has heady fruit notes and a low abv, which chimes with the zeitgeist for spirits with a markedly lower alcohol content. Expect to see Jonathan’s liquids on a backbar near you, soon.
The champion coder and celebrated podcaster optimising agriculture through tech
Coding? Completed it, mate. Self-starter Abby Rose taught herself how to build websites and apps in order to solve agricultural problems she witnessed first-hand when she and her family moved to Chile to set up their own organic smallholding producing olive oil and wine.
Abby’s stable of solution-focussed apps include Sectormentor, Workmentor and Soilmentor, which offer basic but crucial data to farmers running small businesses. They cover off everything from logging a crop’s yield, to remotely tracking its health through its production cycle. These tools have now been rolled out to be available to download for farms across the world through Abby’s new-found tech firm, Vidacycle Tech.
The Ghanaian innovator empowering African farmers with affordable technology
A lifelong entrepreneur, Isaac Sesi’s business acumen began germinating at high school, where he made and sold products that would make his classmates’ lives easier. Through his teens, his family farm lost a number of wheat crops to excessive moisture, so Isaac set about using his entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit to find a way to predict and prevent any waste in the future.
Isaac invented GrainMate, a measuring system that can be applied to seven different types of commodity that makes it easy to determine their moisture content to help reduce post-harvest losses. It sells for $85, a fraction of the cost of comparable devices and, as his company begins to produce at scale, Isaac hopes to further reduce the price and extend his knowledge into other areas of agriculture.
Learn more about Isaac
Check out GrainMate, the app that logs moisture in decomposable arable crops
Keep an eye on the 50 Next website for more developments and for information on how to apply and nominate for next year’s list