Use curiosity to advance tech, PMA panelists say

Use curiosity to advance tech, PMA panelists say

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Looking at lessons from other industries, a panel of experts addressed the Fresh Summit Forum for the Future session on the potential for technology to create opportunities for the fresh produce.

At the Oct. 18 session, Greg Williams, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, was joined by Jaydev Desai, professor, medical robotics and human augmentation, Georgia Tech, and Andrew Pelling, an inventor and founder of the Pelling Lab at the University of Ottawa. 

Williams said advances in multiple technologies are accelerating change.

“Technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, computational biology, robotics, additive manufacturing — all these accelerating technologies are all interlinked and are all beginning now to accelerate each other’s journeys and each other’s impact on the world,” Williams said.

“And I think what’s important to remember as well as that how we fare in this world is not going to be determined by the technology itself — how we fare in this world is going to be determined by human ingenuity,” he said.

Williams said an increasingly interconnected world means the line between the digital and physical realities is fading.

“When we stop noticing technology, that is when it is most powerful,” he said.

Williams said society is just on the cusp of even greater change, noting that some compare the state of computational technology to the very early days of the internal combustion engine.

Pelling said his management of the Pelling Lab at the University of Ottawa brings two expectations to everyone who works there: Follow your curiosity and apply rigor to the research.

For example, his lab found that it is possible to grow animal cells within an apple slice, creating a new type of material that’s biocompatible, and potentially has applications in repairing human tissue.

He urged PMA attendees to use curiosity and creativity in solving fresh produce problems.

“I believe that these characteristics in all of us are some of the most important tools we have to generate knowledge, create inventions and solve problems,” Pelling said.

Desai recalled his work on medical robotics and described how the technology has become more useful in surgeries over the past 30 years. A constant commitment to innovation has spurred the growth of medical robotics, and he said that principle is needed for the food industry as well.

“Bottom line, is you have to constantly reinvent yourself and you have to constantly think outside the box,” he said.

Some of the best innovations can come from small research projects.

“Pick one project which is extremely challenging and try and take a baby step to solve the challenging problem,” he said.

Failures can inform later efforts and success will bring rewards to those who innovate, he said.