Friday, January 2, 2009

Brave New Food! Homaro Cantu on Algae, Food Printing, and How We'll Feed the Masses!

"Make enough food for everyone. That's the end game.
And to get there, we have to start thinking a little crazier about what food is."

Homaru Cantu is a Chicago chef with some bold new ideas about the future of food.

This is a very pressing question with so many new humans born every year, and the Earth's resources being stretched thin as it is. How are we to ensure that everyone will be fed?

Mr. Cantu's idea: Challenge the very idea of what makes food food! has a great interview up now.

" What is food?

Cantu: It's what enables us to live — and more than that, it's dense energy storage. If you look at it from that point of view, you start shooting two birds with one shot."

So if "food" is just another word for dense calorie storage, that pretty much means that anything that you ingest to provide your body with muscle energy is food.

By this definition, "food" can now be made in a great number of ways.

Like using a laser printer!

Sayeth Mr. Cantu:

"There's two ways to look at it. Let's say you have a food printer and eight cartridges, and grow eight crops on the roof, and that's all you need to replicate any food product you can imagine, from mom's apple pie to a cheeseburger with French fries. That would decentralize the food structure, and you'd know exactly where your food comes from."

Right now we use 3D printers to create everything from new cell phone designs to human organs. Why not just use basic food molecules in place of plastic or cells?

Print a pie! Print a burger! Print some fries to go with that!

(via flickr user oskay)

This amazing object was printed by the superstars over at Evil Mad Scientists Labs using the Candyfab. Is is made by heating white sugar and extruding it in layers.

Obviously this is a major leap from the ways food is thought of and prepared today, but keep in mind that research into what Homaro Cantu is proposing will inevitably lead to refinement, mass production, and ultimately could solve how we go about feeding our billions of brother and sister humans.

And not only that, but "food printing" will come in mighty handy when we decide to start seriously exploring both outer space and the sea bed.

Homaro Cantu is an amazing mind. When asked what he's been up to recently, he replied:
"Homaro Cantu: We've been trying to incorporate food from the green world, and started growing microalgae. You can get 10,000 to 30,000 gallons of algae per acre. It can be grown in salt or fresh water, in a whole variety of temperatures. It increases the food supply rather than depleting it, and it's a net energy gain.

For $300 we built a photobioreactor that produced 15 gallons of food per month. The idea was to take algae, process it into sushi and fuel, and deliver it it in a truck running on algae biofuel. And we're just a bunch of chefs. If we can figure this out, I don't know why others can't."

Here's an algae-makin' bioreactor in action:

In his free time Homaro Cantu works up bioreactors for sushi and fuel. This cat is an absolute hero!

Here is Homaro Cantu's site: Cantu Designs.
And here is the full interview.

For further reading, check out the amazing wikipedia entries on:

Molecular gastronomy.
Rapid Prototyping.
Algae fuels.

Homaro Cantu, for your algae-loving, sushi creating, forward-thinking ways, in addition to your research into how to feed the Earth's humans, you are the deserving recipient of the SuperForest Good Person Award:

Bravo, Homaro!!!

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