Data-driven food?

Published in FSD Update

Is 3D printing really the answer to the world's food problems?

I read something a couple of weeks ago that disturbed me. Scientists are experimenting with the concept of “printing” food, using 3D printing technology. The Fab@Home Lab, at Cornell University, is testing the idea of fabricating food on a large scale. The National Aeronautics & Space Administration recently awarded a $125,000 grant to an Austin, Texas company to examine how to use the technology to create nutritious food for astronauts flying deep space missions.

According to an article that appeared on HuffingtonPost.com, Jeffrey Lipton, chief technology officer for a company called Seraph Robotics, posits that not only is the “printing” of food possible, it could be done in such a way that each order could be altered to satisfy the unique dietary needs of particular customers—the ultimate in customization.

Speaking at the Inside 3D Printing conference last month in New York, Lipton reportedly said, “Once you have the automatic collection of what you’re eating and when, you can predict, based off your activity levels, your planned diet and your health records, exactly how much and what types of food you should be eating. That’s really ultimately the long-term potential of food printing.”

NASA’s long-range perspective is to come up with a way to keep astronauts fed on missions that could take years to complete. In a press release, NASA said, “The current food system wouldn’t meet the nutritional needs and five-year shelf life required for a mission to Mars or other long duration missions. Because refrigeration and freezing require significant spacecraft resources, current NASA provisions consist solely of individually packaged shelf stable foods, processed with technologies that degrade the micronutrients in the foods.”

The goal of the NASA project is to determine whether a 3D food printing system would be able to provide a wide variety of shelf-stable items that would retain their nutritional integrity. According to an article on SPACE.com, mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor has printed chocolate and is working on the printing of—you got it—a pizza.

Keywords: 
technology

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of New Mexico’s proposed on-campus taproom has officially been approved by the school’s Board of Regents.

Construction on the $650,000 student union taproom will begin this summer and is expected to finish in August when students return to campus. The school’s food vendor, Chartwells, and UNM’s Dining & Food Services department will split the cost of the taproom evenly.

Designed by students in the school’s architecture department, the space will feature a rotating selection of beer and wine, and will also welcome guest brewers. Chartwells will be...

Ideas and Innovation
cafeteria

Three years ago, Colonial School District in New Castle, Del., started a pilot supper program at its high school. The goal: To make sure the district’s students, 57% of whom are on free or reduced-priced meals, would not be hungry when school is done for the day.

Since its inception, the program has expanded to 12 schools and now provides afterschool meals to children participating in YMCA activities. And it's just one of many such programs popping up in districts throughout the country, as operators add supper to the list of daily meals they provide for students.

Building...
Ideas and Innovation
hydroponics

We put our hydroponic gardens in a spot where students can watch them grow, but at the same time it’s safe from being tampered with. At one of our elementary schools, the gardens are in the kitchen, but there’s a window where students can look in as they walk down the hallway. Some even stop to count how many cucumbers they see.

Ideas and Innovation
food snap

We started a 50-member vegan team in response to students expressing the need for more vegan options. Between our monthly meetings, students are asked to take photos of foods they eat in and out of the dining halls to give us a true picture of the kinds of things they like and the kinds of foods that cause disappointment. This exercise has sparked a lot of conversation and given us more insight into what we could do better.

FSD Resources