Johanna Schmeer imagines the future
of food with Bioplastic Fantastic


This conceptual project by Royal College of Art graduate Johanna Schmeer builds on developments in nanotechnology to create synthetic foods for feeding the world's burgeoning population (+ movie).

Bioplastic Fantastic by Johanna Schmeer
Decaying vitamin-producing product. Model organism: Lactobacillus

For her Bioplastic Fantastic project, Johanna Schmeer has imagined how products made from enzyme-enhanced bioplastics could produce essential nutrients as a substitute for traditional food resources that could soon run out.

"Bioplastic Fantastic investigates new types of products and interactions that might emerge from material innovations in the fields of bio- and nanotechnology," said Schmeer.

Bioplastic Fantastic by Johanna Schmeer
Nozzles emitting sugar

"The UN estimates that the world must produce 70 per cent more food (measured in calories) by 2050," she continued. "So instead of discussing how to grow more food, maybe we need to rethink food entirely."

Her proposals follow a recent breakthrough by scientist Russell Johnson, who managed to synthesise functioning biological cells made from plastics.

Bioplastic Fantastic by Johanna Schmeer
Protein producing product. Model organism: Caulobacter crescentus

Schmeer designed seven products that create the essential food groups needed for humans to survive through synthetic processes powered by artificial photosynthesis.

The items produce water, vitamins, fibre, sugar, fat, protein and minerals in the forms of liquids and powders.

Bioplastic Fantastic by Johanna Schmeer
Sugar producing product. Model organism: Cyanobacteria

"All of the product designs are based on model organisms which have similar functions in nature," explained Schmeer. "They use the functional part of the biological circuit (enzymes), and combine this with non-living matter (bioplastic)."

Bioplastic Fantastic by Johanna Schmeer
Product which extracts water from air. Model organism: Pseudomonas

The products include a series of green tubes that secrete sugar syrup and a machine that collects moisture from the air into white pouches, which can be drank from when squeezed.

"The project focusses less on communicating the exact functionality of these products, and more on the interactions, aesthetics, atmosphere, and the feeling involved in interacting with them," said the designer.

Bioplastic Fantastic by Johanna Schmeer
Product which produces airborne vitamins. Model organism: Lactobacillus

The movie produced for the project explores how people might interact with the synthetic foods.

"The loss of the natural sensuality of traditional food is substituted by a designed, artificial sensuality," she added.

Biologically inspired domestic environment and seven products which produce food through photosynthesis

The project was presented at the Royal College of Art's Show RCA 2014 exhibition of graduate projects last week. Other projects on show included a loom that can weave in three dimensions and . See more 2014 graduate projects »

Schmeer previously designed a set of traps for catching genetically modified mice.

  • Thom Haig

    Sounds great! I hear Wednesday is Soylent Green day!

  • Alicia Espinoza

    It seems like a very pretentious project to me.

    Technology applied for seeking sustainability is a much deeper task to talk about, and probably many bioplastic researchers and sustainable designers might find the use of “bioplastics” in this project as a simple excuse to make a beautiful video with no substance.

    I think she could have achieved more than just a superficial aesthetic part, by doing some more research.

    • Timothy

      I saw it at the exhibition, displayed with lots of interesting research. Dezeen just goes for the visual stuff I guess. And I think it’s not so much about the bioplastics, but about the use of enzymes in materials as I understand it.

    • Jane

      Agreed, this is just another critical design white-room wasteland.

      It looks like a speculative porn film, if only it was designed in irony. Sadly I assume it wasn’t.

      • Dan

        Haha, true. It does have a fetish feel to it, but I think that’s quite interesting when you look at how fetishised technology has become these days.

  • Lisa Donatus

    I love it. Creepy and very intriguing at the same time!

  • AVA

    Shh, I hear it’s people. Don’t tell anyone.