Technologist, 23 June 2014
From lab-hatched eggs to caterpillar croquettes, the food of the future may not be familiar, but that doesn’t mean it won’t taste good.
Methane becomes protein-rich feed
When food turns to gas it can be embarrassing, but what about the other way around? Denmark’s Unibio certainly aren’t shy about blowing their trumpet, claiming they have solved the world’s food problem by turning methane into protein. Globally about 140 billion cubic meters of natural gas is released at oil-extraction plants and burned each year, releasing 6 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Unibio have other plans for the gas. Their fermentation system uses methane-guzzling bacteria to turn the gas into a protein broth, which is dried into protein-rich pellets. These can be used to feed fish, pigs and even humans.
Bugs worm their way onto your plate
Grubs up! In March 2014 University of Wageningen entomologist Arnold Van Huis published The Insect Cookbook. Just a gimmick? Perhaps not: the Dutch scientist was one of the authors of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2013 report on edible insects and the future of food and feed security. Nor is he alone: Julene Aguirre Bielschowsky of Ento, a London-based company trying to persuade us to make a meal of maggots, says crickets taste of sausage, locusts are like pecans, and wax worms evoke pistachios. Sourcing ingredients could be harder, but Ento envisages a future network of urban farms in disused spaces.
CRACKING THE PERFECT EGG
A California start-up leaves out the chickens
Hampton Creek Foods has had enough of the poultry industry. The California start-up’s solution is to forget about the chickens and make eggs in a lab. After almost 1,500 trials of plant substitutes, they believe they’ve cracked it. Their egg-free mayonnaise has already passed the taste test: in February 2014 the company announced it had received $23 million in funding. Another appetising endorsement came from backer Bill Gates. “They’re amazing,” he said. The best bit? Because the eggs were hatched in labs, for the first time vegans can have their cake and eat it too.
EXTREME URBAN FARMING
Roquette from London’s Tube
Talk about tunnel vision. Two British farmers are trying to grow their veggies without sunlight, 30 metres below street level in a London Underground bomb shelter that was last used during World War II. Zero Carbon Food uses LED lights and hydroponic growing systems to raise herbs and leafy greens in the tunnel; they are then sold locally, reducing food miles. Zero carbon, really? And what about powering the LEDs? “All power to the site is coming from a green energy supplier,” says co-founder Richard Ballard. Even celebrity chef Michel Roux Jr. of La Gavroche has parted with his greens and backed the venture.