Tag Archives: food

FarmBot Is the Automated Gardener of the Future



FarmBot 3DThe promise of a work-free life, where mechanical devices do all of humanity’s drudge work has been little more than just that; a promise. And while we’re still a long way away from a time when we’ll be able to sit poolside all day, sipping fruity drinks, while armies of robots take care of the cooking, cleaning, and other mundane tasks, there is evidence that we’re coming slightly closer to that utopian vision. One such bit of that proof comes in the form of FarmBot, billed as “Humanity’s first open-source CNC farming machine.”

FarmBot may not look like the shiny gardening bot of your android dreams. But it is an innovative idea that makes growing your own vegetables fun and easy. Prospective farmers can use a computer app to plan out a garden using a game-like interface. Then, FarmBot plants seeds and waters them as needed. FarmBot operates 24 hours a day, tending your plants day and night.

FarmBot takes a variety of factors into consideration as it handles your plants:

  • Weather readings
  • Soil conditions
  • Your personal growing preferences

FarmBot allows growers to plant many different types of plants at one time. This creates a more natural bio system to occur within the garden, which can yield crops that are healthier and more nutritious than those created by large-scale industrial agricultural operations.

FarmBot is an open source project. All of the software and documentation needed to built and operate your own FarmBot is free to be downloaded and manipulated. If you’d like to just buy a FarmBot, the creators of the platform are currently selling FarmBot kits at a 25% discount for a total cost of $2,900.00.


Transparent Appliances from Morphy Richards at Gadget Show Live



Morphy Richards LogoWhen I arrived at Gadget Show Live, household and kitchen appliances weren’t at the forefront of my mind, but I was astounded by Morphy Richard’s transparent toaster and iron. Yes, you read that right – transparent – you can see right through them. Impressed and with thoughts of transparent aluminium, I chatted with Leon about the new “Redefine” range.

Morphy Richards have four appliances in the new range; a hot water dispenser, kettle, iron and toaster. While all are beautifully designed, it’s the latter two which make an impact with transparency when there’s a expectation of solidity. There are no tricks here with hidden wires either; the ThermoGlass is the heating element and gets hot to smooth the clothes and brown the bread. Aside from the visual impact of a see-through toaster, the ThermoGlass provides a lovely even heat across the whole surface and it’s easy to see how toasted the bread is.

Morphy Richards Toaster

In addition to the good looks, the new appliances focus on energy efficiency. The benefit of the hot water dispenser is that only the right amount of hot water is heated every time and the ATOMiST vapour iron uses 75% less energy and 80% less water.

The Redefine range has been on sale since before Christmas. The toaster is GB£199, the kettle is £99, the iron is £249 and hot water dispenser is £149. They’re pricey but you’re not just buying a kitchen gadget, you’re buying an aesthetic experience.

Morphy Richards iron


Cook Your Food Anywhere with GoSun Stove



GoSunLogoCooking outdoors can present a lot of challenges. You need to have the right equipment and more importantly, the fuel to get your fire started. It’s certainly easier to set up a cookout at home where you’ve got access to nearby utilities. But what if you’re out on a camping trip or a long hike where modern amenities aren’t immediately available? GoSun Stove has the answer.

Scott talked with Patrick Sherwin, founder of GoSun Stove. Patrick talked about two products. The first is the company’s namesake – the GoSun Stove. This stove uses a series of compound parabolic reflectors to maximize solar collection and then use that energy to cook food anywhere. GoSun Stove can make a meal for two people in about 20 minutes. GoSun Stove actually retains the heat it captures inside making it possible to cook on cold or windy days. The second product is the new GoSun Grill which can make food for eight people in about an hour. GoSun Stove is currently on the market for $279 and GoSun Grill is expected to retail for $599 this summer.

Scott Ertz is a software developer and video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Spün’s Smart Spoon Counts Calories at CES



SpunIt seems like everyone’s counting calories these days but much of the time it’s not convenient or accurate. My calorie book says that banana has 102 calories but what size banana is that? Anyway, to help with this first world problem is Spün Utensils – that’s Spün as in “spoon” – and Scott finds out more from founder, Umar Bakhsh.

Spün uses a combination of technologies to count those calories. First, you take a picture of your plate loaded with food with the Spün app. The app identifies the individual portions of food – ham, eggs, potatoes – and gets you to confirm that it’s got it right. You then use the Spün smart utensil and as you eat from the plate, it works out the calories consumed. After so many mouthfuls, the app will let you know how many calories you’ve chomped, along with a breakdown of the food types.

The utensil itself is stylishly designed with interchangeable heads – there’s a fork and two sizes of spoon. No knife as everyone knows you don’t eat from knives!

Expected price is US$75 with general availability in June 2016. Pre-orders are being taken on the web site here, though at the moment it looks like it’s only registering interest.

Scott Ertz is a software developer and video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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3-D Printed Cap Detects When Milk Goes Bad



biohazardWhen exactly does your milk go bad? There’s a helpful “sell-by” date printed on the packaging to give you an idea of the liquid’s shelf life. But at best, that date is an educated guess. Of course, sometimes it’s really obvious when milk has gone sour. But sometimes, it’s not so easy to tell. Fortunately for me, Jen has a keen skill for detecting when food products have gone bad. But on my own, I know I’ve consumed my fair share of food items that were probably better sent down the drain or into the trash.

Once again, new technology comes to the rescue in the battle against spoiled milk. Using 3-D printing, engineers have developed a cap that can be used with milk jugs to determine when the milk has gone bad. The cap uses a special sensor that’s able to detect changes in electrical signals caused by the proliferation of bacteria. To test your milk, all you need to do is tip the container until some of the milk comes in contact with the cap. From there, the cap will indicate if the milk is still good or not.

Researchers are hoping to find ways to expand this technology to other food products, eventually including things like Internet connectivity so food sensors can report directly to computers or smartphone apps. Finally, we’ll able to use an actual product of science to know when our leftovers have become an actual science project of their own!


Rotimatic Robot Roti Maker at CES



Rotimatic LogoFlatbreads are a staple in diets the world over – Italian foccacias, Greek pittas, Mexican tortillas. From India comes rotis, sometimes known as chapatis, which are traditionally made fresh, often taking an hour every day. If you haven’t guessed from the name, the Rotimatic automates the making and baking of rotis. Jamie Davis chats with Aman Pratap  from Zimplistic on this labour-saving device.

The Rotimatic makes fresh rotis and wraps from ingredients loaded into the top of the machine. It mixes the ingredients to a recipe and then cooks them, producing one roti a minute and 20 rotis from one load of ingredients. Roti thickness and browning level can be set on the machine itself, with recipes adjusted to personal preferences and downloaded to the Rotimatic.

The first set of pre-orders is sold out at $599, though you can sign up at their website to be notified when the next batch is released.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly for the TechPodcast Network.

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How To Lose Weight



You might be forgiven in thinking that we’ve moved from a tech blog into a lifestyle magazine but I wanted to share a little of my life from the past 18 months. In late spring last year, I visited my doctor and she pointed out that in the 20 years since I joined her practice, I’d put on over 20 kg in weight – about 44 lb – and that my blood pressure was up. All classic signs of a heart attack waiting to happen. I had to lose some weight, get the pounds off and lower that blood pressure or an early exit beckoned. Obviously I’m still here but did I shed the pounds and how did I do it.

First of all, let’s get over the fact that there’s no diet in existence that will make you magically lose weight; you have to work at it. However, the recipe for weight loss is very straightforward – there are only three ingredients really.

  • Eat less
  • Eat better
  • Exercise more

While the recipe for weight loss is easy, I’ll admit that following it isn’t. The good news is that you can have three square meals a day; the bad news is that it means no junk – no crisps (chips), sweets or late night peanut butter sandwiches. There’s no need to starve: just take smaller portions and if you are full, stop eating.

Wii Fit Balance BoardAs a geek, I also employed a bit of tech to help achieve my goal – a Nintendo Wii with Balance Board, a Fitbit Zip and food apps / web sites.

Most people will be familiar with the Nintendo Wii though sadly its discontinuation has been announced in the past few day. The Balance Board is bundled with WiiFit and WiiFit Plus, and while the associated programs are fun enough, I used the Balance Board as electronic scales to record my weight. Each morning, shortly after getting up, I’d weigh myself on the Balance Board. If my weight was down, I gave myself a mental high five. If my weight was up, it was a mental “you need to do better”. The Wii records your weight day by day and will show a graph of your progress.

Fitbit ZipThe second piece of gadgetry is the Fitbit Zip. It’s an advanced digital pedometer that will upload its data to your PC and onwards to Fitbit’s portal. I received this for Christmas and Fitbit tries to gamify the activity of walking further by competing against friends and awarding badges. While I don’t need any stinkin’ badges, I was quite chuffed to be awarded my 1000 mile badge last month. The Zip doesn’t make you fitter by itself, but it does make you aware of walking and now I often choose to walk where previously I might have taken the car. Every little bit helps.

Finally to help eat better, I used a range of foodie websites and apps to find new, interesting and low calorie recipes. I find the BBC’s offerings both on their main site and on the Good Food site are excellent. Many of the supermarkets, such as Tesco, have good recipes too. Look for sections on healthy eating. App-wise, there’s a Good Food app on Android too. It helps if the app and website cater to metric as well as imperial units and do the conversions properly as directly converting from oz to g doesn’t work terribly well.

A word of advice. When browsing the supermarket shelves, “low fat” is not a particular benefit when the product is laden with sugar to make up the taste so approach with caution any food which loudly makes those claims. Ultimately, I found that weight and calories were the best guides so read the nutritional information on the back of food.

Did I succeed in losing weight with help from this tech? Absolutely – I’ve managed to lose nearly 18 kg (40 lb) and 4″ in waistline. There’s still a few pounds to lose but I do feel tremendously better for it. It has been hard work even with the tech – it requires willpower to say “no” to food, and food is so very much part of Western culture. But you can do it as I did. Remember; eat less, eat better, exercise more. Take encouragement from your success and determination from your setbacks.


Enhance the Movie Experience



Movie & Meal DealEver since the motion picture first burst onto the silver screen, people have wanted to enhance the cinematic experience. From 3D and IMAX to Smell-O-vision, just about every trick in the book has been used to make you feel part of the film, rather than an outside observer. To this fine canon of techniques, UK retailer Tesco and on-line movie service blinkbox are adding….food.

For their “Movie & Meal Deal“, Tesco and blinkbox commissioned top neuroscientist, Dr. Jack Lewis, to study the effects of active ingredients on people’s brains and then suggest food types that complement the movie-watching experience. His findings gave Tesco and blinkbox the perfect, if somewhat unusual, combinations for the ultimate movie night in.

Dr. Lewis reckons these foods match the movie genres.

  • Action – Sun-dried tomatoes coated in cocoa powder will raise noradrenaline which is instrumental to sensations of excitement
  • Comedy –  Fresh fish stuffed with beetroot and coleslaw to supplement the nitric oxide system and improve dopamine availability in the pleasure pathways of your brain
  • Drama – Chopped lemon, lime and mint sandwich drizzled with chilli sauce on wholewheat bread to trigger the RAS (reticular activating system) to remain alert and focused.
  • Horror – Chicken marinated in freshly brewed coffee will take you out of your comfort zone and raise levels of anxiety
  • Romance – Curl up with a spicy curry (not chocolate!) to top up your libido-stoking testosterone levels

Everyone knows that certain drugs can change the way you feel, but the chemicals we take into our bodies through our diet can also have an effect on our mood,” says Dr. Jack Lewis “Choosing to eat certain foods, whilst leaving others out, regulates the availability of ‘raw materials’ that the brain’s chemical messengers are created from. This means that you can tailor your meals to create the perfect mood for a movie night in, no matter what the genre.

The “Move & Meal Deal” is a partnership between Tesco and blinkbox: buy a variety of food and drinks from Tesco and then rent a blinkbox new release movie for just £2 instead of the usual price of £3.49.

Me, I think I’ll stick to popcorn.