Your next veggie burger might be cooked with some chickpeas, black beans—and maybe a pinch of artificial intelligence.
NotCompany, a Chilean startup, is using machine learning to reduce the environmental impact of foods by eliminating animal products. The company’s algorithms make connections between complementary ingredients, combining them into new recipes that mimic the taste of something familiar.
As described in a nice profile on the Ringer, NotCompany’s artificial intelligence, called Giuseppe, identifies suitable substitutions by going through data sets of the chemical, molecular, and nutritional components of ingredients while considering their environmental impact, their healthiness, and their taste. The company’s first product, a mayonnaise, eliminates dairy using peas, basil, potatoes, and canola oil. Chocolate and Greek yogurt will be the next to come to market.
Using AI to cook up new recipes isn’t an entirely new idea. A couple of years ago, IBM created technology under its Watson brand that could suggest ingredients to use or dream up strange new dishes. AI gastronomy hasn’t exactly taken off, but it was a clever trick.
Replacing meat has also been a darling cause of Silicon Valley for years. Startups working in the area include Impossible Foods, which makes “bleeding” vegan burgers, and Hampton Creek, which makes its own vegan mayo (but became infamous for a scandal in which the company bought its own products from grocery store shelves in order to boost sales figures).
There is, however, a bit of fatigue around tech-driven food of late. Research now suggests that going meatless might not be the emission killer that many hoped for. And Hampton Creek was recently dropped by Target after a food safety scare.
NotCo might find other things for Giuseppe to do, though. A skin-care company, which hasn’t been named, is apparently interested in what the AI could do for its research and development.