3D-printing with living organisms "could transform the food industry"

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers: food designer Chloé Rutzerveld has developed a concept for "healthy and sustainable" 3D-printed snacks that sprout plants and mushrooms for flavour (+ movie).

Edible Growth 3D-printed food by Chloé Rutzerveld

Rutzerveld's Edible Growth project consists of 3D-printed shapes containing a mixture of seeds, spores and yeast, which will start to grow after only a few days.

"Edible growth is exploring how 3D printing could transform the food industry," she says in the movie. "It is about 3D printing with living organisms, which will develop into a fully grown edible."

Edible Growth 3D-printed food by Chloé Rutzerveld

Each of the basket-like 3D-printed structures, which Rutzerveld presented at Dutch Design Week 2014, contains an edible centre of agar – a gelatinous substance that enables the seeds and spores to sprout.

Edible Growth 3D-printed food by Chloé Rutzerveld

As the plants and mushrooms grow, the flavour also develops, transforming into what Rutzerveld claims is a fresh, nutritious and tasty snack after only a few days.

"As it comes out of the 3D printer you can really see the straight lines of the technology," she says. "But as it develops, you can see organic shapes. You can see the stages of growth and the development of taste and flavour."

Edible Growth 3D-printed food by Chloé Rutzerveld

The aim of the project, which Rutzerveld developed in collaboration with the Eindhoven University of Technology and research organisation TNO, was to investigate ways that 3D printing could be used in the food industry.

"By 3D printing food you can make the production chain very short, the transport will be less, there is less land needed," says Rutzerveld."But also you can experiment with new structures. You can surprise the consumer with new food and things that haven't been done before."

Edible Growth 3D-printed food by Chloé Rutzerveld

In particular, Rutzerveld wanted to find a way that 3D printers could be used to create fresh and healthy food at home.

"A lot of people think industrialised production methods are unnatural or unhealthy," Rutzerveld says. "I want to show that it doesn't have to be the case. You can really see that it's natural. It's actually really healthy and sustainable also at the same time."

Edible Growth 3D-printed food by Chloé Rutzerveld

However, Rutzerveld's project is still at the research and development stage and she admits it will be a long time before anyone is able to 3D-print her snacks at home.

"It will take at least another eight to ten years before this can be on the market," she concedes. "The technologies really need to be developed much further."

Chloé Rutzerveld
Chloé Rutzerveld

This movie was filmed in Eindhoven at Dutch Design Week 2014. The music in the movie is a track called Family Music by local hip hop producer Y'Skid.

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers is an ongoing collaboration with MINI exploring how design and technology are coming together to shape the future.

Dezeen and MINI Frontiers