The future of food manufacturing is 3D printing

SHIFT ONCE DAILY Edition 009

Over the last two weeks I have given more than passing consideration to where food comes from. And importantly the journey from paddock, to processing, to plate.

Just last week I volunteered to be a coordinator for my local ‘bulk buy’ food hub. The emphasis is very much on non-processed foods and direct purchase from the primary producer.

I find the concept compelling for many reasons, none the least that farmers (including dairy) are receiving fairer prices.

Then today: I found myself on a disconcerting and confronting tour of a food research and testing laboratory in Melbourne.

Before entering the food pilot lab we were required to remove any jewellery and adorn full protective clothing — disposable coats, hair and shoe nets.

Save for a morgue I have never been inside an environment more sterile.

This environment where food is developed — the nutritional material that gives us life (!) — felt cold and dead.

Oh the irony!

A far cry from my veggie patch in Heathcote.

But of course occupational health and safety is paramount, especially when it comes to the manufacturing of food and public health. After a recent bout of food poisoning, I am not contesting that.

Towards the end of the tour we were introduced to a 3D printer, the likely future of food manufacturing. The future of the global cookie and cake industry.

I was shocked.

Certainly I see the value of such technology in being able to feed thousands, if not millions with little impact on the earth’s natural resources.

And if we really do colonise Mars, or even the Moon, as physicist Stephen Hawking suggests we should, food technology will be critical to human survival in alien worlds.

But today I couldn’t help but wonder, if the origins of food are increasingly in a lab and not from the earth, what are the long-term implications for human health?

Does it matter or do we accept it as ‘progress’?

It begs the question, how much do we REALLY know about what we eat?

Does it matter?

I think it does.

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