Food Trends To Look Out For In 2018

In any business, it is important to watch consumer and industry trends. This is one way to keep ahead of the competition; another is to create the trends and lead the industry. The struggles to lead are as important, or even more important than the problems of being a competitor trying to play catch up.

The following are some bold ideas and trends which started in 2016 or 2017 but will be more evident in 2018:

Mushrooms. The use of mushrooms has gone beyond food, but also as an infusion in beverages. This trend has already started in Asia, where mushroom-infused coffee and tea have been increasing in the region. Some even use red mushrooms as additional ingredients in various drinks. In addition, mushrooms as food continues to gain in popularity. Mushrooms are a rich source of umami flavor, and more mushrooms types have become more popular in recent years. Western countries have used mushrooms for years; however, they have been slow to innovate the use of mushroom other than in food. The popularity of mushroom will grow to include non-food products, like soap and shampoo.

Technology. Food safety is getting bigger. Food technologies in various countries have put an emphasis on keeping food fresh. These include diverse technologies to determine the freshness of food, as well as other technologies meant to keep track of food or ingredient history. The new food technology includes sniffers which can detect the level of spoilage of greens and other vegetables.

Blockchain technology is also under development to keep track of food history, including where it came from and how it got to the vendor and the end-user. These methods help keep the food secure, and safe. Other technologies help keep the food fresh by keeping track of date of purchase, and date they were harvested or manufactured. This helps the user to determine which package of fresh vegetables to use first. These new food technologies will soon be on the market without the consumer knowing it.

Focus on the Individual. Coke started a campaign where the bottles have names on them. Soon the bottles will not only have first names, but also last names. This is not a far-fetched idea. With the help of big data and enormous data collection efforts, it is now possible to have a soda pop bottle with your name on it. The technology exists to have total customization, which would also enable the product with your name on it visible where you would normally buy it. Customization does not only mean a name – it can also be a trigger. Some people will buy anything with a Hello Kitty logo, while others will buy only purple items. This kind of information is currently available to marketers online via social media. The information borders on privacy issues, but since it is a trivial matter, the consumer does not notice it.

More Plant-based Products. Plant-based meat has been gaining traction. This trend will continue in the years to come. Soy-based artificial meat will expand marketing channels to groceries everywhere. More people will have access to this innovation. Although currently an expensive product, the economics of scale will pull down the prices with more consumers buying these products.

The underlying concept here is technology and innovation. In fact, for mushrooms, consumers are following a trend which has been growing for more than a decade. It is time that the U.S. consumers caught up with the rest of the world. The rest is about innovation addressing issues and concerns, and have grown enough to be a marketing handle.

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University Of Queensland Develops Dipstick Technology For Quick And Portable Isolation Of DNA And RNA

DNA and RNA isolation for studies are used for long and tedious processes done in the laboratory. A new technology from the University of Queensland in Australia now allows extraction and isolation of DNA and RNA in less than 30 seconds. The technology works in the field without the need for any of the traditional cumbersome equipment.

From Field Research

According to Professor Jimmy Botella and Dr. Michael Mason, the dipstick technology will benefit people in the study of agricultural, health, medical and environmental problems. It has already been used in plantations in Papua New Guinea in the diagnoses of trees. It has also been applied to diseases in livestock and in human samples, as well as in pathogens in food and E. Coli contaminated waters.

Designed for use in plant samples, the research team found it could also successfully purify DNA from other plant samples, as well as from human blood, and pathogens from infected plants and animal samples. Compared to the older system, dipstick technology is portable, faster, simpler and cheaper. Anyone can use it with minimal training. Being portable, it also works in the field, a hotel room or any clinic.


The dipstick itself is made of a cellulose-based paper and roughly the size and shape of a cotton bud. It separates the RNA and DNA from any sample tissue. This enables the separated RNA or DNA testing for common diseases or pathogens, including HIV, hepatitis as well as cancer cells.

The dipstick enables the separation of RNA and DNA and allows the study of samples for specific characteristics. Human disease detection is one area where the technology is useful.

RNA and DNA purification requires RNA and DNA separation. DNA separation minimizes the possibility of cross-contamination from other DNA or non-DNA contaminants and also increases the stability of the sample during long-term storage. Traditionally, the first step in purification is to break open the cells to expose the DNA. A detergent removes the cell’s membrane lipids, followed by the use of alcohol to precipitate the DNA. The introduction of protease removes the protein while RNase removes the RNA.

RNA purification involves different steps from those for DNA. The cells are first disrupted, followed by the addition of a reducing agent, then it is shaken vigorously. This breaks the disulphide bonds, and also represses any contaminant protein in the sample. The addition of phenol and chloroform-isoamyl alcohol separates RNA from the sample solution. This yields an aqueous phase, which goes to a separate tube and isopropanol, followed by the addition of a centrifugate solution, causing precipitate to form.

Using 75% ethanol to wash the sample removes any impurities. Since RNA is less stable than DNA, it is separated only prior to immediate use. The laboratory staff follows quality assurance procedures ensuring purified RNA with no contamination, as the presence of RNase compromises quality.

Formerly, the above procedures were only done in a lab to ensure that contamination does not occur. Dipstick technology assures that the samples are properly separated even in the field.

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“Roman” Solves ED Online And Asks You Visit A Doctor, Too

The process for diagnosing erectile dysfunction (ED) can take time. A patient is lucky if he can get into a doctor’s schedule within a month. There is also the travel time to consider. Apart from these hurdles, talking about a man’s problems with his sexual organ is downright awkward. Getting the prescription filled at a pharmacy is a big deal and understandably uncomfortable. This is why men with these experiences turn to buying Viagra or Cialis online through unregulated vendors. Fake pills adulterated with other substances are also prevalent.

Erectile Dysfunction Stats

ED is fairly common. It affects about 30% of men in their thirties, and this number goes up to 40% for men 40 years old and above. Men don’t talk about it. Women find it awkward to talk about it even in the privacy of their home. This forces the issue underground and away from doctors who can help. Unfortunately, ED is an indicator of a man’s health. Heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and depression can cause ED. Men who have the condition have a 70% increase in risks of dying prematurely.

Zachariah Reitano was 17 when he was first diagnosed with ED. He was lucky that his father is a sexual health doctor who knows that ED is a side-effect of an underlying disease. The younger Reitano went in for a physical exam and collapsed on the treadmill. It was found that he had a heart condition.

He went through a heart surgery and was put on prescribed medication, which unfortunately had ED as one of the side effects. He was taken off the medication after his heart healed, but to his surprise the ED was back post-op.

Now at 26, Reitano knows the effects of ED on relationships. He had a bold idea which inspired him to establish an online system which helps men with ED. His co-founders include the co-founder of Managed by Q Saman Rahmanian, and VP of growth for Barkbox Rob Schutz.

Roman, the ED Wonder

Roman is an app that processes patient information and serves as an online pharmacy for ED meds. It is a facility where men with ED can get a prescription from doctors, and have the drug delivered to their home. It has 20 licenced physicians who provide consultations and prescriptions.

The consultation process starts in the Roman app with the patient answering a series of questions. Doctors then review the answers from the questionnaire. If the patients pass the criteria, they are sent a prescription to their home within 24 hours, in plain nondescript packaging. The doctors keep the consultation fees and pay Roman a monthly subscription. Patients can request a follow-up call by phone or via video calls. Roman encourages patients to visit a clinic near their area, offering discounts for visiting a doctor and sending them the results.

The dosage ranges from 4 to 10 doses per month, with prices from $2 to $65 per dose depending on the brand. The 10-dose monthly limit combats overuse and abuse.

Roman circumvents the stigma usually associated with ED. It also makes for a quick response to the problem. With licensed practitioners on call, everything is above board. Studies have shown that only 30% of men who have ED seek treatment, at the same time up to 80% of Viagra from online vendors are counterfeit. There is an inequity which Roman solves in a timely manner.

The startup recently raised $3.1 million in a funding round led by General Catalyst and includes Box Group, Slow Ventures, Initialized, as well as angel investors Aaron Harris of Y Combinator, Scott Belsky of Benchmark, and others.

There are other online pharmacies and telemedicine startups. However, Roman is the only one specializing on ED. This simplifies distribution for the company, as well as ensures that only qualified doctors answer all the patient’s questions.

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Digital Transformation Hampered By Lack Of Funds And Knowledge

Many organizations struggle with digital transformation. The concept goes against established ways of doing things as well as a threat to practices that have existed for many years. Limit working budgets and an unsuitable organizational culture are also barriers to achieving digital transformation.

Limited Budgets

A report from the University of Technology Sydney, sponsored by software company Civica, found out that in a survey conducted among Australian and New Zealand local government authorities the biggest percentage of respondents blamed limited budgets as the major constraint to digital transformation. Another big barrier to digital transformation is organizational culture, followed by other factors, which include the speed of changes, failure to meet user expectations, and poor and conservative leadership.

Continuous struggle with limited funding and other issues, hamper local governments in their digital projects implementation. Many LGAs have to make sacrifices with their digitization plans, pushing down their list of priorities in favor of the more immediate requirements of building or maintain infrastructures to keep the community moving. Between providing health services to the people and digital transformation, the more popular course of action will be the former. Local government policymakers both in Australia and New Zealand are aware that the electorate does not give as much attention about digitization as much as they do about healthcare.

The major reason for the lack of digital transformation intiatives is that the electorate does not deem it is necessary at this point in time. There are other concerns which need addressing and funding from the local government budget. Local government units in Australia and New Zealand are not pushing for digital initiatives for their constituencies because there is no need for it as far as their constituency are concerned. The community leaders listen to their followers in the direction their cities will take.

Organizational Culture

The survey shows that 65 percent of the respondents consider organizational culture as an impediment to digital transformation. There are many organizations that are composed of people who are resistant to change or lacking in talent and resources to drive transformation projects. When leadership lacks the knowledge and sound strategy to implement the project, it cannot achieve the goals of digital transformation. The good news is that despite the struggles, about three-quarters of the survey respondents believe that their leaders have the established strategy to potentially become a matured digital organization.

Digital transformation goals are met only when there exist a digital culture and an organization-wide mindset, led by strong leaders that can handle the challenges of promoting a digital-first environment.

The survey found out also that local government authorities are in favor of partnering with other organizations in order to achieve transformation goals. About 60 percent of respondents believed that partnering with other organizations present an opportunity for them to digitally transform. Next to partnering with similar organizations, the respondents believe with partnering with external consultancies and private organizations. Only a small percentage of the respondents believe that they should partner with the federal government in achieving digital transformation.

The survey polled more than 200 professionals from different state departments, organizational teams of local government councils, and educational and infrastructural organizations from Australia and New Zealand.

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Hyperloop Comes To India

The Hyperloop is going on a roadshow to showcase their new transportation technology. Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) has recently signed a memorandum of agreement with the Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board (APEDB) to develop their own hyperloop system. The agreement is the result of talks which started in December last year.

The India project is important not only for HTT but also for the Andhra Pradesh province. The project itself has both private and public proponents and investors. The stakeholders will be concerned with the route, making sure that this will answer the needs of the two cities as well as the surrounding areas

The bold action will develop a 27-kilometer (16.7-mile) tunnel between Amaravati and Vijayawada in the Andhra Pradesh province. This will cut down the travel time between the two cities from one hour to around 6 minutes. The first phase of the project will be a feasibility study which is expected to last 6 months and will start by October. Construction will be the project’s phase two and is expected to employ more than 2,500 people.

Nara Lokesh, the Cabinet Minister for Information Technology, Panchayati Raj, and Rural Development for the State of Andhra Pradesh, says that the Hyperloop will spur the development of IT in the form of technology parks and software clusters in the Andhra Pradesh region.

HTT has not yet created a prototype, but the company asserts that the technology already exists. As far as the Andhra Pradesh government is concerned, this is enough for them to sign off on the new technology. There are other countries interested in implementing a hyperloop within their borders. These include South Korea, United Arab Emirates, and some European countries.

Sold on the Idea of Hyperloop

HTT’s rival, Hyperloop One, has already proven their capability by building a model of the pod, the track and the tube on which the pod glides over. They have also run the pod on the track. They had a 28-foot pod on a test run reaching up to 200 miles per hour. There are other hyperloop companies in the world, as well as in universities where they are researching to make the technology better. Elon Musk’s HTT is not an exception. It is estimated that there are more than 800 engineers and technicians working for HTT, some of them on their free time for a portion of the equity.

The India project is important not only for HTT but also for the Andhra Pradesh province. The project itself has both private and public proponents and investors. The stakeholders will be concerned with the route, making sure that this will answer the needs of the two cities as well as the surrounding areas. The involvement of the Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board will help ensure that HTT will be able to meet all regulatory requirements. For the project to continue unabated, it is important that it have full government approval and support for the duration of the project.

HTT’s presence in South Korea is also on the same level as India but without any dates announced. HTT has signed a memorandum of agreement with other South Korean companies and agencies. The United Arab Emirates has been in the running to acquire their own hyperloop services as well. The country is interested in the hyperloop transport program in the same way that they have put up the highest office building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. They have put a lot of money in projecting themselves into the future.

The hyperloop is a bold idea that plenty of countries want a taste of, not just because it is fast and efficient, but also because it represents transportation in the digital age. Like the driverless cars and drone taxis currently being developed and tested, industrialized nations do not want to be left out.

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Depressed? Google Knows

Tech giant Google introduced a bold idea to help those who think they may be suffering from depression but are not yet ready to go to a physician. On the Google page, whenever there is a search for “depression,” a question will appear asking users if they want to take part in a questionnaire. This is a 9-question test that can help determine if the person is potentially depressive or not.

Google has not been spared the flack for their attempt to help depression. This has mainly come from people who think that this is another way that the search giant is invading privacy or using its data to mine information about people.

Depression is a condition that is still not well-understood by the general population. People casually drop the word, as if depression means merely being sad about something. In addition, there is a stigma to depression because it is a mental health condition. There are still some people who believe that if you can get up in the morning without anything physically wrong with you, then you are healthy.

Depression is not quite well-accepted yet because a mental health issue, something the majority of people do not yet accept or understand. Even those who may have depression would rather deny that they are suffering from it—they would rather keep the condition to themselves instead of going to a doctor to have it confirmed and diagnosed. For a lot of people, it is better to be in doubt yet live in comfortable silence than to have it confirmed that you are mentally ill and experience humiliation from peers, friends, and even loved ones.

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) in America, statistics show that one in five people will have a depressive episode in their lifetime. Of these, only half will reach out for support.

Paving the Way for Mental Health Tech

Google’s approach is discreet, yet it has the research to back it up. NAMI also believes that this is a big step forward in helping those who have depression. The test itself offered by Google is just a first step. It is recommendatory in nature, and is not binding—only a qualified doctor would be in a position to determine depression and to subsequently prescribe medication.

The assistance and support is the key. According to NAMI, it takes an average of seven years between initial onset of symptoms to the time that the patient receives treatment. During that time, there are a lot of hurdles to treatment. First off, those who have depression would usually not want to go to a doctor for a diagnosis. Even after being diagnosed for depression, the patient would often still be in denial. The stigma of mental illness is deep, often preventing the patient from understanding that the condition is treatable.

Clinical depression can worsen and last for months or even years. Getting a proper diagnosis is hard enough when the patient does not want, or is afraid, to be diagnosed. Sadly, the results of depression can get ultimately damaging, with more than one out of every ten people with depression ending up committing suicide.

Google has not been spared the flack for their attempt to help depression. This has mainly come from people who think that this is another way that the search giant is invading privacy or using its data to mine information about people. Objectively, this is one way for such a simple request for information can help an individual.

Doctors are also in a similar dilemma. Most times, the people who notice the symptoms for depression are friends and family; however, they cannot approach the general practitioner to ask about a person’s health, due to confidentiality issues. Family and friends can only ask that their loved one submit to a test from a general practitioner (GP).

Google’s simple questionnaire can streamline the process of diagnosis and subsequent treatment. While what they have is not a substitute for a proper psychiatric assessment, it could eventually lead to a person getting one. This bold idea can save more lives in the long run.

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Online Learning, Engine For Diversity?

Diversity is a big issue in the workplace, even more so today in the advent of social media and instantly sharing experiences online especially for those who are not afraid of taking bold actions regarding the topic. In fact, it has created its own momentum in efforts to bring a wider range and a more equal distribution of people, culture, sexual orientation, and race.

Admittedly, there is great demand for computer science and IT-related education, however, it is still debatable whether the students might not have been better off in the residential program.

In the past few years, there have been more discussion about race since the civil liberties marches of the 1950s and 1960s. The issue is not just equality in law, but equality in everything else, from the workplace, opportunities, education, law enforcement, and in all other aspects of life.

There have been efforts at more diversity and inclusion, especially in the workplace but sometimes the causality is in question. Understanding what causes more diversity in education or in employment can help in creating more opportunities for people of color and minorities.

Recently, a story came out stating that there is more diversity in Georgia Tech’s online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) program compared to its residential program. The online degree program had 212 enrollees, while the residential program only had 64 students.

Although the disparity is obvious, what is not is the cause. Are there more enrollees in the program because it is online, or is it due to the lower cost? The online degree costs $6,600, while the residential program costs $42,000 per year. This is important due to the more diverse enrollees in the online degree program. This also relates to having more enrollees for underrepresented minorities and women: are these sub-populations enticed to enroll because these are online courses, or because the cost is much cheaper?

There is also the separate issue about online courses, on whether there is a difference in results or learning between studying online and attending in the classroom. The only way to test this is in the ensuing employment, whether those who attended online courses have had as much success as those who attended the residential program.

Scaling Up Online Education

Images of different races of workers.

The experience in Georgia Tech is important for higher education in general. The school scaled up its online program to lower the cost of matriculation. It has resulted in an expanded enrollment, with more diversity. This can be a point to the use of online learning as a tool to increase diversity in the academe.

With today’s social climate, the more pertinent issue is how to prove that online learning can help fuel diversity. Admittedly, there is great demand for computer science and IT-related education, however, it is still debatable whether the students might not have been better off in the residential program.

Although the question of which is the better program in terms of employment output should be a separate issue, what is clear is that more students enroll in online courses, and this has allowed more enrollees from underrepresented minorities and women to avail of the program.

What is clear is that for whatever reason, whether it is due to being online, or due to the lower cost, there are more enrollees across the spectrum. This program may end up to be an agent of diversity in higher education.

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