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

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.

Ideas and Innovation
hybrid worker

Some of our employees can work four 10-hour days. It’s really helped with balance. We’ve also created a lot of hybrid positions, such as a personal services assistant and foodservice worker role. It allows workers to pick up more shifts and cover both positions.

Ideas and Innovation
cheeseburger

We set up an interactive collaboration with our dietetics department where students worked with our culinary team to test how recipes are imagined and produced. One of the recipes they came up with was a barbecue tempeh sandwich, which they believed was a great option for vegan students across campus. We added the sandwich to our On the Go program and then expanded it to our vegan station on campus due to its success.

Ideas and Innovation
salad bowl

We have reorganized our salad bars to not only include the traditional DIY salad ingredients, but also several daily entree salads. Our students requested 32-ounce heavy glass salad bowls that have been wildly popular. The big bowls allow students to load up on their favorite salads and customize with additional ingredients from around the servery. We have seen a significant surge in usage that cuts across all groups, including athletes.

FSD Resources