Advances in Food Innovation

Innovation and Technology in Agriculture and the Environment

The past decades have resulted in unparalleled progress in food technology, driven by innovation that spans across disciplines as diverse as agriculture, big data and machine learning, and materials science. This intense course will cover different aspects of innovative paradigms to optimize and adapt existing processes as they pertain to the production, distribution, and consumption of food. Participants will explore groundbreaking insights at the interfaces of traditional disciplinary boundaries and receive practical training in creative methods, innovation, and entrepreneurship through a variety of interactive learning experiences. 

Integrated around key concepts in food, participants will be exposed to multiple perspectives in engineering, technology, and science. The course encompasses both scientific and entrepreneurial aspects, including startups in the food industry and creativity by world-leading chefs.

This course focuses on four fundamental areas that underpin food innovation: 

  1. The application of advanced technologies, such as new materials, data, and machines, in both conventional and unconventional agricultural production
  2. The use of data and modeling to improve the production and distribution of food by enhanced precision by using nanotechnology, biotechnology, and other cutting edge engineering solutions, combined with large-scale data analytics and simulation
  3. Food access and distribution, including new technologies for preservation and presentation and the use of unconventional ingredients
  4. New and creative methods at the interface of science, engineering, and the arts that will push the boundaries of conventional methods to generate new tasting experiences.


Lead Instructor(s): 

Markus Buehler


Jun 18, 2018 - Jun 21, 2018

Course Length: 

4 Days

Course Fee: 





  • Open

It is highly recommended that you apply for a course at least 6-8 weeks before the start date to guarantee there will be space available. After that date you may be placed on a waitlist. Courses with low enrollment may be cancelled up to 4 weeks before start date if sufficient enrollments are not met. If you are able to access the online application form, then registration for that particular course is still open.

This course has limited enrollment. Apply early to guarantee your spot.

Participant Takeaways: 

  • Network with peers and leading researchers, innovators, investors, and entrepreneurs from across diverse backgrounds and gain insight into the critical role of interdisciplinary innovation in the food industry
  • Explore the role of nanotechnology, materials science, and data science in agriculture and food production (e.g. essentials of advanced technology such as drones, robotics, and remote sensing)
  • Gain insights into the food marketplace for entrepreneurial endeavors, including an overview of key business principles, how to market new food products, who to market to, distribution systems, and more
  • Understand new methods to integrate farming with supermarkets and restaurants

Who Should Attend: 

This course is highly interactive and immerses participants into key frontier technologies with hands-on participation. It is designed for people working in food-related industry roles, such as VPs, directors, or managers of R&D; research scientists and engineers; chefs and restaurant owners; and government administrators in food areas (U.S. or overseas).

Industries that would benefit from this course include chemical, machinery, environmental, commodity production (agricultural), seed manufacturing, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, venture capital, and agricultural non-profits including cooperatives. The course will be particularly suitable for members of the food innovation space including food startups, restaurants, and innovative distribution solutions.

Computer Requirements

Laptops or tablets are reccommended for this course.

Program Outline: 


9:00-10:00 am: Introduction & overview (presentation of course objectives, background information, and other pertinent information)
Markus J. Buehler, Faculty Director, McAfee Professor of Engineering; Director, Laboratory for Atomistic and Molecular Mechanics, Department Head, Civil and Environmental Engineering

10:00-10:30 am: Exchange—Attendees provide informal introductions to colleagues

10:45-11:00 am: Break

11:00 am-Noon: Overview lecture: Opportunities and challenges in ag and food innovation
Chandra Madromooto, Professor at McGill University and Visiting Professor at MIT

Noon-1:00 pm: Lunch

1:00-2:45 pm: Advanced chemical sensors for food security and resilience
Tim Swager, Professor of Chemistry at MIT and Director of the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation

2:45-3:00 pm: Break

3:00-4:00 pm: Overview of the MIT Food and Water initiative, innovation, and technical projects
John Lienhard, Director of the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS)

4:00-5:00 pm: Bringing a plant-based restaurant to market

T.K. Pillan, Co-Founder, Veggie Grill and Partner at Powerplant Ventures

5:15-6:30 pm: Reception for all participants and families

6:30 pm: Adjourn


8:00-8:30 am: Setting the stage: Review of Monday lectures and outline of Tuesday program
Markus Buehler

8:30-10:00 am: Nanotechnology innovations in agriculture and food
Michael Strano, Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT

10:00-10:15 am: Break

10:15-Noon: TBD

Noon-1:00 pm: Lunch and bus transfer to the MIT OpenAg Laboratories (Middleton, MA); food provided

1:00-4:00 pm: Laboratory and interactive lessons—MIT OpenAg Laboratories: Control environment design, actuated sensing, control automation and data-driven resource, energy, and biologic optimization; open-source agricultural hardware, software, and data common
Caleb Harper, Principal Investigator and Director of the Open Agriculture (OpenAG) initiative at the MIT Media Lab

4:00-5:00 pm Transfer back to MIT Campus


8:00-8:30am: Setting the stage: Review of Tuesday lectures and outline of Wednesday program
Markus Buehler

8:30-10:30 am:  Interactive session with participants: Presentations by participants (optional), interactive case studies

10:30-11:00 am: Break

11:00 am-Noon: Interactive session with participants (cont’d)

Noon-1:00 pm: Lunch

1:00-2:15pm: Disruptive innovations in the ag industry and broader impacts
Geoffrey von Maltzahn, Co-Founder and CIO of Indigo Agriculture

2:15-5:00 pm: Interactive, creative session with two Michelin Chefs
Andoni Luis Aduriz and Dani Lasa, Chefs at Mugaritz Restaurant, Spain (


8:00-8:30 am: Setting the stage: Review of Wednesday lectures and outline for Thursday
Markus Buehler

8:30-10:30 am: Major strategies and innovations at Nestlé (the largest food company in the world)
Stefan Catsicas, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Nestlé

10:30-10:45 am: Break

10:45-Noon: Research and development in crop science
Andrew Percy, Bayer Crop Science

Noon-1:00 pm: Lunch

1:00-3:00 pm: Lecture: Materials science innovation in agriculture, food security and food safety
Benedetto Marelli, Professor at MIT and Co-Founder, Cambridge Crops

3:00-3:15 pm: Break

3:15-5:00 pm: Laboratory Session: Interactive, hands-on lab session on food and materials
Benedetto Marelli

5:00-6:00 pm: Concluding remarks, discussion, and certificates
Markus J. Buehler

Course Schedule: 

Class runs 9:00 am - 5:00 pm on Monday (followed by a reception from 5:15 - 6:30 pm), 8:00 am - 5:00 pm Tuesday and Wednesday, and 8:00 am - 6:00 pm on Thursday.



This course takes place on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Fundamentals: Core concepts, understandings, and tools (35%) 35
Latest Developments: Recent advances and future trends (40%) 40
Industry Applications: Linking theory and real-world (25%) 25

Delivery Methods: 

Lecture: Delivery of material in a lecture format (70%) 70
Discussion or Groupwork: Participatory learning (10%) 10
Labs: Demonstrations, experiments, simulations (20%) 20


Introductory: Appropriate for a general audience (40%) 40
Specialized: Assumes experience in practice area or field (25%) 25
Advanced: In-depth explorations at the graduate level (35%) 35