Did your parents ever tell you to stop playing with your food?

By Marita Cheng

Well with 3D printing, food has never been more fun. You can now 3D print ravioli, complex sugar designs, interesting pasta shapes, mashed potatoes structures, or even ice cupcakes and cookies in fun ways to bring a whole new level of science and creativity to cooking. Much like 3D printers that heat up plastic and then deposit layers of plastic on top of each other to form complex shapes with minimal material waste; the cartridge for food 3D printers is made up of potato mash, or icing, or pasta dough, which it then carefully deposits into beautiful shapes on a base plate.

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On a more practical level, you can monitor the foods you’re eating with your smartphone by just taking a picture, having the phone identify the various foods on your plate, and then telling you an accurate calorie and nutritional value of what you are about to eat, enabling you to easily keep track of what your body has and what your body needs. This process uses computer vision, which is of particular focus to companies like Aipoly (which I cofounded).

Producing 1kg of animal protein requires 100 times more water than 1kg of grain protein. Meat produced in a laboratory and not from the land will result in us being able to utilise 35 times less lamb, 15 times less water and could cost as much as 20 times less. It could free up grazing land back for wild animals, reduce water required for agriculture, and reduce methane emissions into the atmosphere. These meats currently produced in labs are too expensive for mass consumption, but as we learn how to make meat in laboratories reliably to a high standard at a cheap price, we will be able to scale this process and achieve a huge win for the environment.

As we learn to control the nature of our food at a genetic level, and construction technologies, vertical farming becomes a possibility for urban and suburban areas. Your daily commute in five years might bring you to see vertical green structures encasing vapor where temperatures can be controlled enabling greener, more sustainable tropical produce during winter seasons.

And when you’ll return home after a long day of work and need some relaxation, your meal will be cooked by a human, but delivered by a robot. Within 40 minutes, a friendly wheeled rover will be at your doorstep with a warm dish ready for you. This is a greener option and friendlier to traffic than using an entire car to deliver a pad-thai. These robots will move on sidewalks at jogging pace, but might not be flying for another few years, so you can stop worrying about raining meatballs.

But what will most benefit society is our growing understanding of nutrition. We are moving towards a society where younger generations are paying attention to their food at a nutritional level, demanding healthy fats and lower sugar. Genetics is on route to bringing us animal fats that are healthier to eat, rich in Omega 3, while maintaining similar properties. So that triple-butter chocolate cake can be as good for you as a piece of fresh salmon.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Samsung or Questacon.

Marita Cheng was the 2012 Young Australian of the Year and is a technology entrepreneur and women in technology advocate. Marita Cheng is the founder and CEO of 2Mar Robotics, which makes a telepresence robot, Teleport, for kids with cancer in hospital to attend school, people with a disability to attend work and to monitor and socialise with elderly people. As well as telepresence robots, 2Mar does research and development in robotic arms, virtual reality and autonomous mapping and navigation.

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