Ongoing campaigns have highlighted the sad fact that perfectly edible but ugly-looking fruit and veg is not making its way onto supermarket shelves purely because its skin is blemished or its shape is abnormal. Quality has been equated with visual perfection instead of nutrition or taste. Now, 3D printing may be able to help.
44% of all food wasted is fruit and vegetables. The rest is made up of 26% grains, 15% meat, and 13% roots, tubers and oilseeds.
As much as 30 percent of edible fruit and vegetable crops are rejected for sale in South Africa even before being shipped to supermarkets, simply because of the way they look. Food that does make it off the farm is vulnerable to damage during processing and a further percentage is rejected for the spots or marks it picks up along the way to the end consumer. Broken down it looks like this: in the food supply chain in South Africa 26% of food wastage happens during agricultural production, 26% during post-harvest handling and storage, 27% during processing and packaging, 17% during distribution and retail, and 4% at consumer level.
With the current drought we’re experiencing in Cape Town, possible food shortages are top of mind. As food designers, we’ve been thinking about possible solutions to transform ugly fruit and veg into something new and valuable.
From waste to a customised nutritional dish
In the near future, 3D food printing could allow consumers to print food with customised nutritional content, tailored specifically to their individual dietary needs. So instead of eating something mass-produced, a person could soon consume something designed for their particular needs and tastes, on demand. Imagine the next ‘ready-to-eat’ meals as cartridges of food printed into shapes determined by downloadable designs.
3D printing could be a perfect vehicle to reduce food waste. To experiment with the medium, we designed Salad 2.0. We cooked down a batch of unconventional-looking fruit and veg that would have normally gone to waste into concentrated vegetable or fruit purees. We added gelatine to allow us to print the concentrate into a range of 3D, colourful jelly shapes high in nutritional content. Imagine serving these to children who don’t want to eat their fruit and veg.
This face of jellies contains the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of fruits and vegetables on one plate.
1 cartridge (50ml) of juiced ugly apple
1 cartridge of pureed ugly strawberries
1 cartridge of pureed ugly tomato
1 cartridge of pureed ugly carrot
1 cartridge of pureed ugly baby marrow