From the farm to the fork
The winemakers of Bordeaux consider the 2005 vintage to be an extraordinary one … perhaps the greatest in the past 50 years, according to some reports.
The winemakers of Bordeaux consider the 2005 vintage to be an extraordinary one … perhaps the greatest in the past 50 years, according to some reports. And while the combination of that year’s weather and soil (called terroir in France) in the Bordeaux region strongly influenced the quality of the grapes, the resulting wine, which is not yet available in stores, is also a product of the centuries old “art” of Bordeaux winemaking. Nowadays though-just as a winemaker may blend several different wines to create a different one-the ancient art of winemaking is increasingly being blended with modern science to provide novel approaches to the overall wine production process. Goals may include, for instance, improved yield or better controlled flavor profiles.
Driven in part by new analysis techniques and increasingly turnkey instrumentation, this blending of art and science is occurring across the entire food production chain, from the farm to the fork. Food safety (detection and identification of contaminants) may be an obvious application of the science, but similar analysis techniques can also identify the origin of food or can be used to determine the freshness of eggs (see cover and page 62). Other developments are creating added opportunities. For example, rugged optical fibers enable a spectrometer to be remote from a hostile test environment, so a portable near-IR reflectance spectrometer with a fiber probe can evaluate beef tenderness in a meat processing plant-taking the art of that assessment away from the experienced farmer or butcher (see page 83).
In a very different arena, the progress made developing turnkey ultrafast laser systems is increasingly bringing the technology to the fore. Many materials processing opportunities using ultrafast lasers are being explored, including their use to produce nanoparticles (see page 74), while other researchers are looking at the potential applications of plasma channels, formed by femtosecond pulses, that guide laser filaments over long distances and may have applications in remote sensing and laser lightning rods (see page 87).
Stephen G. Anderson
Associate Publisher/Editor in Chief