Gear up for 3D printed food
You're hungry? Not up to preparing a meal? No worries! Just enter your menu choices into a computer and your dinner appears before you.
Yes, that is the future of food and no science fiction. The day is nigh when the developed world would be sending a 3D food machine to a country hit with famine instead of shiploads of grains.
While we chew on such possibilities, 3D printing is already mainstream in the developed world, and making food this way is also starting to be tested.
The origin of 3D printing dates back to the early 1980s. And the first experiment of 3D printed food started back in 2006. Although the technology is still in its early stages, it was well-tested and promises to revolutionise the way we eat.
Some of the potential benefits of 3D printed food include a personalised menu for people with health conditions like allergies or dietary restrictions, catering to individual nutritional and palatable needs. It would be immensely beneficial for people trying to lose or gain weight or improve their overall health.
It would prevent food being wasted as only the exact required amount would be printed. It would also prevent overeating. In addition, it would also be more affordable in terms of offering ingredients with a price range to choose from.
However, there are certain challenges that need to be tackled before 3D printed food becomes mainstream. These challenges include availability of 3D printing machines, materials used to print food and more research to ensure health safety.
Despite the challenges, the future of 3D printed food looks promising, revolutionising not only the way we eat, but also by making food more personalised, nutritious, sustainable, and affordable.
Nasa is already using 3D printed food for astronauts in space with ingredients available in space, such as wheat flour, soy protein, and powdered eggs. Some restaurants in the developed world are using it to create customised desserts and snacks.
The Modern, a restaurant in New York City, offers a 3D printed chocolate chip cookie that is made to the precise specifications of the customer. There are companies that are developing 3D printers that can create food for people with specific dietary needs.
Redefine Meat, an Israeli company, is developing a 3D printer that can create plant-based meat, which looks and tastes like real meat with the Israeli prime minister sampling it with a nod recently. More importantly, plant-based meat is expected to reduce global food shortage in the future without compromising on nutrition and taste.
Food Ink, a company in the UK, offers the best experience of 3D food with everything 3D printed, including the utensils. A Japanese company has created a standardised cube form of food using 3D printers, much like the food eaten by Mr Spock on Enterprise, the starship. And plans are underway for a sushi restaurant that would offer edible cubic printout.
So, could 3D printed food become our food of the future? Only time will say as much of it rests on the plausible availability of affordable 3D printers and the outcome of the ongoing research on its health benefits.
What we eat today has a long history of innovation, collaboration and technology, and would no doubt leave our prehistoric ancestors starstruck. With the galloping advancement in technology, the future of food leaves much to the imagination.
We need to bring together policy-makers, scientists, engineers, farmers, chefs, entrepreneurs, and all other stakeholders together to create a better food system. Adopting to change and being futuristic is key to survive in the rapidly changing world that we live in. Can we visualise a scientist heading the food ministry of Bangladesh?
The author is founder and managing director of BuildCon Consultancies Ltd