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Farm-to-Table App Connects Chefs, Eaters and Farmers in Phoenix

Food
Farm-to-Table App Connects Chefs, Eaters and Farmers in Phoenix

Maskot / DigitalVision / Getty Images

In Phoenix, Arizona, a mobile app is working to connect chefs, eaters and urban farmers to make good food accessible to more people. Bites | Eat With Your Tribe is a community-driven marketplace linking foodies to local chefs to plan in-home, farm-to-table dining experiences in the foodie's own kitchen.


"We want to normalize farm-to-table for everyone, everywhere. That's why there's no tip, no tax, no service charge and it's always BYOB … so that more people can experience farm-to-table in the intimacy of their own home, as humble or as luxurious as their home might be," said Roza Ferdowsmakan, founder of Bites.

The cooks represent a wide range of professional backgrounds, including fine dining, home cooking and independent eateries, as well as 40 different world cuisines. Eaters search for cooks on the app indicating the preferred date, skill level, cuisine type and budget. The ability to curate a communal dining experience, Ferdowsmakan told Food Tank, makes Bites stand out to foodies in comparison to most farm-to-table apps.

Bites also encourages cooks to source ingredients from local urban farms. "We offer transparency in terms of where the fresh ingredients come from, as each cook's profile indicates which growers and grocers they buy from," Ferdowsmakan told Food Tank. "We really want to give visibility to urban farms, micro-farms, co-ops, backyard gardens and community gardens." By shortening the food value chain, said Ferdowsmakan, Bites can help move the needle from globalized, commercial food production to localized, sustainably sourced food.

"We wanted to create a platform that empowers those who feed us and those who can serve as the powerful glue between the growers and the eaters," Ferdowsmakan told Food Tank. "[We] offer a wide selection of cooking skill levels and … lend support for students and independent eateries — mom and pop restaurants that lend character to our cities and sense of placemaking."

Bites' grassroots-driven interface also enables cooks to go beyond farm-to-table dining services. "They can offer cooking classes in your own kitchen, drop-off meals, meal-prep services and also interactive classroom lunches for kids in schools," said Ferdowsmakan.

Since launching the app in August 2019, Ferdowsmakan works with local partners including Arizona State University to increase Bites' outreach and help people understand how the platform can support the food system — connecting eaters from all backgrounds with cooks of diverse cultures, sourcing ingredients from local urban growers. "I'm interested in leveraging the power of technology to beneficially impact people and the planet," Ferdowsmakan told Food Tank. "Bites is a tool to inspire, empower and engage people in changing the food system."

Reposted with permission from Food Tank.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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