Focus

Satisfied and Healthy: The Major Trends

By Lilo Berg, Illustrations: Miriam Bauer

Vertical Farming

By 2050, 70 per cent of us will live in cities, and this is where our food could be grown, too – not on level ground but in multi-storey greenhouses with plants sprouting in artificial culture media on the various levels. The arguments in favour of high-rise farms include low water consumption and proximity to consumers. One of the downsides is the high cost of artificial lighting. Apart from some projects that have already been implemented – such as Aero- Farms in the US city of Newark which largely cultivates greens and herbs – there are numerous design studies for vertical farms all over the world.

Already off the drawing board: multi-storey farms growing fruit and vegetables in inner cities
Already off the drawing board: multi-storey farms growing fruit and vegetables in inner cities

3D Food Printer

The first food printers are already on the market. Depending on the device, you can build up pancakes, pizza, pasta, gummy bears or marzipan figures layer by layer – hamburgers and consorts are in the pipeline. The printers are fed by cartridges of dough or pureed foodstuffs. The exact food mass can be individually composed by computer – probably in accordance with personalised nutrition in times to come. For people with chewing and swallowing issues, the 3D printer could soon offer more appetising, need-oriented purées.

Insects

Crickets, locusts, mealworms and the like are rich in highgrade protein, unsaturated fatty acids, micronutrients and vitamins. In 2013, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization called on people to eat insects, but in many countries they are very hesitant. In the western world, however, increasing amounts of insect flour are being used, particularly for animal feed.

Aquaculture

Very soon, the bulk of edible fish will be grown on commercial fish farms. Aquaponic farms, where fish and plants are cultivated in a closed-loop nutrient cycle, will become more common. And the use of wild fish to produce the oil that feeds aquacultures could become largely unnecessary in future – thanks to ersatz oil derived from algae.

Gene optimisation

New molecular biological procedures that facilitate the precise removal or modification of genetic building blocks are establishing themselves more and more in plant research and hybridisation. Unlike classic genetic engineering, which is contentious in the food sector, they do not involve introducing “foreign” genes. One example is the CRISPR/ Cas method: plants hybridised in this way are usually indistinguishable from naturally or traditionally cultivated plants.

The sausage banana: will genetic optimisation one day produce such hybrids?
The sausage banana: will genetic optimisation one day produce such hybrids?

Personalised nutrition

People respond differently to food, and what is good for Peter may be bad for Paul. How these differing metabolic reactions come about and the role played by our genes is the subject of nutrigenomics. On this basis, scientists worldwide are trying to develop practical strategies for personalised healthy nutrition. The idea is that it could be used to prevent nutrition-related diseases like type 2 diabetes and generally contribute to an optimum sense of well-being. Given the complexity of connections within the organism, however, critics doubt whether such plans could be implemented.

 Cultured meat

Currently, there are two types: meat cultured from animal stem cells in the lab and vegetarian varieties. In addition to ingredients like soya, wheat, coconut oil and potatoes, the latter contain the blood pigment haemoglobin – genetically modified in yeast – that is responsible for the meaty texture and colour. At present, test tube meat is only available in the form of mince as it is still technically impossible to produce joints or steak.

published in Humboldt Kosmos 107/2017