Would You Eat 3D-Printed Food Made of Insects or Algae? 

The future is here and it’s full of supply chain issues and the devastating environmental impacts of farming. If we’re going to get to that utopian Star Trek-like future instead, we’ll need food replicators. Scientists are studying how 3D printers can be used to feed the world. Researchers in Singapore engineered food inks out of algae and three types of insects. They added carrots to help with the flavor and texture. They also tested whey and soy proteins, which people already regularly consume.

Six sets of 3D printed food made with different proteins in the shape of pyramids, octopus, and sea turtles
Singapore University of Technology and Design

Like Simba when he first met Timon and Pumbaa, you may be hesitant to eat insects initially. But what if they look like specialty chocolates? The scientists 3D-printed food in pyramid, octopus, and sea turtle shapes to help it look more appetizing. Is that enough to get you to try cricket protein? What about black soldier fly larvae (BSFL in the photo above) or silkworm (sericin)? Also like in The Lion King, there’s populations worldwide who already eat these proteins that we may find unappetizing.

We saw the research on DesignTAXI. The peer-reviewed journal Food Hydrocolloids published the results. In a press release, one of the study’s authors, Chee Kai Chua, says, “The appearance and taste of such alternative proteins can be disconcerting for many. This is where the versatility of 3D food printing rises to the challenge as it can transform the way in which food is presented and overcome the inertia of consumer inhibitions.”

In a scene from the animated The Lion King, Simba the young lion tries eating bugs and larvae

If we’re going to get to the food replicators in Star Trek anytime soon, we’ve got to get working. And that means some of us will have to be guinea pigs in the meantime. Scientists have already tested 3D food printing with Wagyu beef and crispy chocolate. Working with these alternate proteins makes sense. So what do you think, would you be open to trying a fly larvae/carrot treat for the betterment of mankind?

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth. 

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