Robots & Food: A Match Made in Heaven

We cannot deny that technology has become the new normal. Humans have integrated technology into every aspect of their lives in the search for the most convenient lifestyle. The current wave of technology sees the introduction of robots into routine, daily aspects of a person’s life. The best one? Robots making our Food! The food industry recently saw a boost in the number of robots working in kitchens, cafés and bars, aiming to serve customers high quality products. Here we explore the top 5 edibles perfected by robots.

  1. Flippy the Burger Flipping Robot

At Caliburger in California (US), Flippy can be found at the grill flipping burger patties, adding cheese and toasting buns. Its highly advanced sensors allow Flippy to tell exactly when a burger patty is ready to be placed in a bun. A mere human must add on your toppings and sauces, but don’t worry as Flippy’s creators, Miso Robotics, are working on giving Flippy more responsibilities. [1]

  1. Sally the Salad Robot

Tired of waiting in the salad bar line at your dorm or office cafeteria? Sally the Salad Robot can handle that for you! Sally is a table top robot, designed by robotics company Chowbotics in the US to churn out a salad in 60 secs depending on the consumer's choice! Its ability to manage a variety of 21 different ingredients allows for thousands of different combinations. [2]

  1. Zume Pizza

If you’re ordering a pizza from Zume Pizza in San Jose (US), it is guaranteed that every bite will have the exact amount of tomato sauce, all thanks to a delta robot (i.e. a robot hanging from the ceiling!) evenly distributing it onto the dough. After human employees place the chosen toppings, another robot will transport it to the oven.  Zume’s kitchen aims to employ more robots to work alongside humans to create the perfect pizza of the future! [3]

  1. Koya & Kona the Ramen Slinging Robots

What’s better than eating authentic ramen in China? It being made in 90 seconds by robots of course! At the Toyako Robot Ramen restaurant, you can order the braised pork ramen and watch through the glass panels as two robot arms, Koya and Kona, boil the noodles, drain them and then assemble your dish with the other pre-cooked ingredients. [4]

  1. The Bionic Bar

If you find yourself on one of Royal Caribbean’s ‘Quantum of the Seas’ class cruise ships and craving a drink, you can head down to their Bionic Bar, order yourself a great-tasting cocktail and receive it in under a minute from a robot! The bar employs two robotic arms, B1-O and N1-C, who mix the drinks with millimeter precision according to your selected or custom order! [5]

Pay close attention to your favorite local café, restaurant or bar; you might just have a run-in with a food whizzing robot!

Bonus: Moley the Robotic Kitchen

If you’re a very busy individual who finds very little time to spend in the kitchen, struggle no more because in 2018 you can own your very own Robotic Kitchen. Moley Robotics in London (UK) designed the Moley Chef Robot to make any meal chosen from an iTunes style based database or it can even be taught to follow steps from a recipe of your own. Its safety features allow users to set it up to prepare food while they are sleeping or on their way home from work. [6] 


[1] (2017). Miso Robotics. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Dec. 2017].

[2] Chowbotics. (2017). Chowbotics - Robots for Food Service. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Dec. 2017].

[3] Zaleski, O. (2016). Inside Silicon Valley’s Robot Pizzeria. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Dec. 2017].

[4] Filloon, W. (2016). Watch Ramen-Slinging Robots Prepare Bowls in Just 90 Seconds. [online] Eater. Available at: [Accessed 22 Dec. 2017].

[5] Makr Shakr. (2017). The World's First Robotic Bar System. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Dec. 2017].

[6] (2017). Moley – The world's first robotic kitchen. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Dec. 2017].

Posted on 09 January 2018 By Farah Bader

Create Chaos with a Sustainable Christmas

Christmas is a time to spend in the company of friends and family with plenty of warmth, good cheer and, of course, food. That is the romantic idyll anyway. The reality is that there will be stress, disagreements, disappointment and perhaps a lot of things that can or should not be eaten. So if things are about to go to pot anyway, why not make it your own and create some untraditional chaos by choosing to have a sustainable Christmas. Below are our top seven tips:

1)    ‘Zero waste’ experience gifts are not a new idea. But how do you make sure that the experience you gift doesn’t have a larger carbon footprint than three layers of wrapping paper enveloping fair trade coffee beans? If you live in typical suburbia, leaving it in your diesel guzzling vehicle is usually the first step towards enjoying your experience day. If someone is to come to your home to provide an experience, they will no doubt be faced with the same proposition in reverse. In conclusion, the most sustainable ‘experience gift’ should probably not involve getting out of bed.

2)    Will your child appreciate gifts that you hand lovingly craft from recyclable material found around the home? The answer is certainly dependent on how they have been raised. If your child watches television or goes to school with less enlightened individuals, social and peer pressure will have their influence. So let’s face it, your child needs at least one unsustainable gift for bragging rights. But try and keep it at one.

3)    Now that you know vast quantities of space need not be allocated beneath a Christmas tree (see no. 2 above), why not dispense with the tree altogether? If you live in an area where roads are maintained by pruning back trees and hedges, you can bring home your very own Christmas twig. If that is not convenient, a single piece of paper (reused of course) can be cut into the shape of a small tree and decorated. These will look fine on any table, and any gifts can be put under said table, conveniently out of the way. Use your sustainable imagination!

4)    How do you say no to gifts? It’s very simple: say ‘No gifts please’. Practise in front of a mirror, post on social media, and put it in your email signature. Where practical, return unwanted gifts to sender this year and, guaranteed, you will not have to do the same next year.

5)    Don’t compound the problem by giving gifts that nobody wants. Gift givers fall into two general categories: those that look for the perfect gift months or years in advance, and those that shop at the petrol station the night before. Neither is really sustainable. Remember the words ‘gift’ and ‘present’ do not have ‘surprise’ in their definition. If there must be gifts, do not buy surprise gifts and do not buy anything unless the recipient specifies exactly what they want, and it is sustainable for you to get it for them.

6)    There is no need to clean the house before Christmas only to fill it with tacky decorations and glaringly inefficient coloured lights. In the interests of your personal social sustainability and sanity, dust bunnies are cute and windows only need washing if your curtains aren’t thick enough. When asked where your festive spirit is by those rude enough to ask, simply point to the Christmas twig (see no. 3 above).

7)    Unless you live next door to a homeless shelter, all food that is cooked should be consumed. If you like leftovers, by all means, make them. If you don’t, forcing other people to take them out of your house is greenwash as you no longer have control of whether they are eaten or not. Try to source your food locally and sustainably, use appropriate portion sizes and remember that your dog/cat are not garburators. Where appropriate, compost waste.

If you adopt these seven simple tips and stick with them, you are sure to create chaos this Christmas. Relax and take comfort in the fact that your first sustainable Christmas will be the first of many. The truth is, as illustrated above, being sustainable requires less effort than being unsustainable and before you know it, sustainability will be a trend. And bah humbug to anyone who thinks otherwise.

© Centre for SMART (Hana Trollman and Elliot Woolley)

Posted on 01 December 2017 By Elliot Woolley

That’s the spirit: how sustainable are our favourite alcoholic beverages?

Many humans engage in the consumption of alcohol to alter their mental and emotional status. Other reasons for its consumption are stress reduction, self-medication (pain relief both physical and emotional) and to induce a sense of social confidence and ease in the company of others. But it might be surprising to see what an enormous impact alcohol production has on our environment.

Table 1 Alcoholic Beverages Production

Alcoholic Beverages Production

World production (in billion litres)


196 (Statista, 2017)


25.9 (OIV, 2016)

Spirits (Vodka, Tequila, Whisky, Rum, Gin)

7.44 (Santos, 2013)

The land required for growing the vast amounts of ingredients that go into these beverages (such as grains, hops and grapes) is huge and needs some number crunching. For example, the global vineyard surface area amounted to about 7.6 million hectares (Statista, 2017) which is equivalent to 76,000 square kilometres. Global barley yield per hectare is projected to be around 2.92 metric tons (FAO, 2014) and 1.3 metric tons of barley would yield 8,837 litres of beer (The Maltsters Association of Great Britain , n.d.) which means a hectare of barley crop would yield approximately 19,849 litres of beer. By assuming that barley is the crop used for both beer and spirits manufacturing and summing both results, in total 203.44 billion litres, would need 10249382 hectares of land (102493 square kilometres). Therefore the total amount of land needed to produce alcoholic beverages is approximately 178493 square kilometres which is almost the size of Cambodia.

This industry also consumes an enormous amount of water. The overall water footprint (farm to glass) of Czech and South African beer production is at 45 litres and 155 litres to every 1 litre of beer respectively (WWF , 2009) whereas for wine it stands at 843 litres for every 1 litre of wine (Bonamente, et al., 2015). So combining both waters consumed by the beer and the wine industry, we need approximately 30987 litres of water of which 9154 billion litres of water is for the beer industry and the rest, 21833 billion litres (21.83 km³) of water, for production of wine. It should be noted that the water required for beer production varies globally and we used Czech water numbers for calculating the water footprint since they were the smallest. This amount of water is equivalent to the total renewable water resources consumed by Tajikistan in 2011 which stands at 21.91 km³ (Wikipedia, 2014).

In the UK, depending on the type of packaging, i.e. glass bottles, aluminium or steel cans, 1 litre of beer requires 10.3–17.5 MJ of primary energy and emits 510–842 g of CO₂ eq. (Amienyo & Azapagic, 2016). So if we go by lower numbers for energy and extrapolating the results to the annual global consumption of beer and spirits to a primary energy demand of over 2104599 TJ (584,610,833,333 kWh) which is more than the electricity consumed by Germany in a year (533,000,000,000 kWh/year) (Wikipedia, 2016). Beer production also results in 103754400 metric ton of CO₂ eq. emissions. Carbon footprints for 1 litre of a wine bottle for both red and white wines are 1.91 kgCO₂e and 1.83 kgCO₂e respectively (Rinaldi, et al., 2016). If we take into account the lower number then 25.9 billion litres of wine should produce approximately 47397000 metric tonnes of CO₂ eq. emissions. The total carbon footprint for alcoholic beverages production stands at 151151 kt which is only slightly more than Algeria’s 147,692 yearly CO₂ emissions (Wikipedia, 2015).

On top of that, as per the WHO report on Alcohol and Health 2014, problems related to the consumption of alcohol rank among the top five risk factors for disease, disability and human deaths throughout the world. There are three mechanisms of harm caused by alcohol consumption (WHO, 2014):

  • Toxic effects on organs and tissues.

  • Intoxication, leading to weakening of physical coordination, awareness, cognition, perception, affect or behaviour.

  • Dependence, whereby the drinker’s self-control over his or her drinking behaviour is reduced.

Some of the major diseases and injuries caused by alcohol consumption, according to the WHO (2014), include neuropsychiatric conditions, gastrointestinal diseases, cancers, intentional injuries, unintentional injuries, cardiovascular diseases, foetal alcohol syndrome and preterm birth complications, diabetes mellitus and infectious diseases (see Figure 1). For the year 2013-14 in England, the total cost to society of alcohol-related injury was predicted to be around £21bn and cost the NHS £3.5 billion  (Public Health England, 2014). 

Figure 1 Alcohol misuse damages health. Adapted from (Public Health England, 2014)

Based on the above analysis, we can see that alcohol consumption plays a huge role in terms of socialising and economic stimulation across the world. However, it also has a significant negative impact in terms of the vast land, water and energy resources it locks up and its impact on human health. It is up to society as a whole to decide whether alcohol is a worthwhile focus for so many of our valuable resources or whether these could be better invested elsewhere to support our ever growing global population.  

Amienyo, D. & Azapagic, A., 2016. Life cycle environmental impacts and costs of beer production and consumption in the UK. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 21(4), pp. 492-509.
Bonamente, E., Scrucca, F., Asdrubali, F. & Cotana, F., 2015. The Water Footprint of the Wine Industry: Implementation of an Assessment Methodology and Application to a Case Study. Sustainability, 7(9), pp. 12190-12208.
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Rinaldi, S. et al., 2016. Water and Carbon Footprint of Wine: Methodology Review and Application to a Case Study. Sustainability, 8(7), p. 621.
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Posted on 30 October 2017 By Sandeep Jagtap