An Edible Growth prototype. Image credit: Chloé Rutzerveld
What happens when a highly skilled designer focuses on food? In the case of Chloé Rutzerveld, who is based in the Netherlands, she set up a food concept and design business that focuses on everything from designer biohacking of food to 3D-printed food concepts. Her Edible Growth project focuses on combining aspects of design, science and technology to make our food more efficient, healthy and sustainable.
According to Munchies: “Using layers of edible plants, seeds, spores, and other microorganisms, Edible Growth creates intricate small meals that combine living mushrooms and greens with the mechanization of the most industrialized foods. In a nutshell, the Edible Growth products are composed of a nutritious base, or ‘edible matrix,’ of nuts, fruits, agar, and protein (which can even come from insects) that are extruded by a 3D printer. That matrix becomes the soil, more or less, for sprouting seeds, yeasts, beneficial bacteria, and mushroom spores to grow in over the course of five days. Finally, there’s a crust layer composed of carbohydrates and more protein, to hold everything else like a little superfood pastry.”
Here, you can see some of these concepts. The emerging field of food-focused “designer biohacking” also runs down to more basic, structural engineering of food and beverages, though. For example, The Odin is a company focused on “consumer genetic design” that sells kits for making green, fluorescent beer. The beer is based on a protein found in jellyfish that can be engineered into yeast. Customers execute this conversion themselves and the yeast can also be used to hack and morph champagne.
According to The Odin:
“Our goal with this kit is to begin to integrate synthetic biology and genetic design into people’s everyday life. We see a future in which people are genetically designing the plants they use in their garden, eating yogurt that contains a custom bacterial strain they modified or even someday brewing using an engineered yeast strain. Yeast is an integral part of our lives. It can used be used for brewing, baking, fermentation or as a research tool. Genetically Engineering yeast in your home seems like Science Fiction but is actually now reality. Using our kit you can make your yeast fluoresce and glow by inserting a gene from a jellyfish, the Green Flourescent Protein(GFP). This kit comes with everything you need to engineer a Mead Yeast we provide or your own favorite yeast that you provide.”
At the intersection of design and fanciful food concepts, 3D printing is also giving rise to many new culinary approaches. Take a look at the colorful, geometrically complex sugar-based shapes and concepts seen here, which make your local diner’s sugar cubes look downright unimaginative. Many such concepts have been shown at the 3D Food Printing Conference in Venlo, the Netherlands. Chefs have created five-course 3D-printed meals, and scientists have created 3D-printed beef.
Meanwhile, home food reactors that make food using only electricity, carbon dioxide and organisms from the air we breathe are headed our way. Researchers from Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have successfully produced single cell protein in the lab using only water, electricity, carbon dioxide and small organisms obtained from the environment. The end result is a breakthrough that, if commercialized, could result in solar powered home food reactors that produce protein and carb-packed food. The process could also be leveraged to produce food for livestock, from, essentially, nothing.
The industrial design and 3D printing communities may also want to pay attention to personalized food fabrication. It is an emerging field that has great promise. Dr. Amy Logan, a team leader for dairy science at The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), has just launched a three-year study into the personalized fabrication of smart food systems. Logan’s research team will focus on instantly available diagnostics and how 3D printing or similar technologies can fabricate genetically targeted food to correct deficiencies. The diagnostics may leverage, of all things, human sweat.
Hacking the basic building blocks of food is inevitably going to intersect with hacking our bodies for more optimal health outcomes. “I think the future of food will go in multiple directions,” Chloe Rutzerveld has said. “It’ll all be very high tech and monitor the body.”