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The Future

4 Futuristic Food Innovations That Already Exist

We've come a long way from horse and cart agriculture. Who would have thought it; would be possible to eat nutritious algae grown under carbon-negative conditions, or grow vegetables in vertical farms in your own kitchen? Here are four futuristic food innovations that are already available today.

1. Algae: Alternative Protein Source

With traditional farming practices under growing scrutiny, the global hunt for protein substitutes has seen algae become a key focus area for researchers. Although not the average European’s first choice, plant-based proteins still account for the majority of the world’s protein intake for food and are the most common source of animal feed.1 

With algae struggling to break into this market due to its naturally confronting colour and acquired taste, scientists have worked to manipulate these factors for use in everyday food products. Neutralizing colour has allowed the incorporation of microalgae into everyday products like yoghurt and cheese, with the addition to breads and fresh pasta providing a nutritional boost without any major sacrifice to taste, texture or appearance.2, 3, 4, 5 With some species packing up to 70% of their dry weight in protein, rich in essential amino acids, cultured algae has also found itself as an efficient substitute to other plant-based proteins in farmed animal feed.6, 7

Learn how spirulina is farmed 

So, how does algae production stack up from a sustainability standpoint? In short, incredibly well. Farming algae indoors allows you to control all the parameters needed to maximize growth without relying on the uncertainty of outdoor conditions. Some operations, like Iceland’s Algaennovations have even managed to produce algae with a carbon-negative footprint. By using Iceland’s natural geothermal steam for energy in production, Algaennovations’ product transforms enough CO2 into oxygen to more than offset any emissions created in the production process.8

2. Edible Insects: Insect Protein Bars, Burgers and More

From the Greek philosopher Aristotle chowing down on cicadas to the Indigenous Piaute people using ground charred crickets as a protein-rich flour, insects have been on the menu for quite some time now.9 Despite their long-standing place as a culinary staple around the world, insects have had a tough time cracking into the mainstream European food market. Stigma and consumer perceptions may have held back large-scale production, but a number of companies have found a way around the tough sell of eating creepy crawlies.

Read our interview with BetterOrigin's co-founder for more on how insects can reduce food waste

Understanding the real-world relevance of the ‘eating with your eyes’ proverb, Essento has developed a range of insect-based products that would fool even the most sceptical of us. From protein bars, burgers and fried insect snacks, all the way to use in top restaurants like Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant, insect foods are hitting the spot for the eco-conscious in more ways than ever.10 On top of this, the nutritious, space and resource-efficient potential of insect farming – cricket production being some four times more productive per kilogram than beef -  makes the insect food space one to watch.9 

3. 3D Printed Food (Yes, it exists!)

As a relatively new addition to the tech world, 3D printing has proved to be a revolutionarily useful tool for the aerospace, medical engineering, and manufacturing industries. Recent years have seen the nifty tech integrated with the food industry – and the results have been game-changing. For the culinarily adventurous, Tokyo’s Sushi Singularity restaurant offers a Willy Wonka-esque experience by combining genomic data from samples given by their patrons to create a hyper-personalised sushi menu. Using a combination of sustainable ingredients like crickets and seaweed, a nutritionally tailored sushi dish is robotically conjured using 3D printing technology.11 

Find out more about how 3D printing can combat food waste

Natural Machine’s “Foodini”, and byFlow’s Focus 3D Food Printer are printers that also utilise data to perfectly adapt meals to meet caloric and nutritional needs. These 3D food printers also combat waste with by-products and undesirable food cuts that can be transformed into nutritious snacks.12,13

4. Vertical Farms in Your Kitchen: Growing Your Own Food

The laborious and often fruitless exercise of growing your own backyard or balcony vegetables is an experience many of us are familiar with. Managing conditions and timing of the seasons, as well as finding the space to grow and maintain herb gardens, can be enough to put most of us off. As a means to seek a solution, urbanized versions of industrial vertical farms offer a simplistic and practical solution. 

Learn how vertical farming works  

Vertical farms offer an enclosed area where factors like nutrients, light, irrigation and air circulation are constantly maintained to optimize growing conditions. Using recirculating systems also conveniently reduces the amount of water used and waste produced – providing a compelling argument over traditional farming methods. With the tiered vertical growing system cutting down on space requirements, compact vertical farms like Agrilution’s Plant Cube concept give inner city dwellers the space to a garden in their kitchen. The Plant Cube does not need soil or any added nutrients - instead, using upcycled material seed-mats.14 From start to finish, the process is no more complex than inserting the seed mats, sitting back and waiting until the pesticide-free leafy greens are ready to harvest. 

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