South Africa’s First Food 3D Printer Turns Ugly Produce into Attractive Nutrition

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[Image: Duncan Drennan/Flickr]

Think about the last time you went to the grocery store. How did you select your produce? Did you go for the fruit and vegetables that were the nicest-looking, eschewing the pieces with spots or lumps or odd shapes? That’s what many people do – it’s been shown that most shoppers tend to avoid the “ugly” fruits and vegetables, thinking that better-looking foods are better overall. That’s not only untrue, it’s led to a tremendous amount of food waste, as unattractive produce is left on the shelf until it goes bad.

Food waste is a huge problem in the United States – the USDA estimates that between 30 and 40 percent of the entire food supply in the country goes to waste. That’s not all due to the avoidance of ugly fruits and vegetables, but it’s a large part of it – some of that ugly produce never even makes it to supermarket shelves, as companies believe, often rightly, that customers will not buy it.

[Image: Alix-Rose Cowie for Studio H]

Once the realization of the scale of food waste hits, it’s enough to make some people change their produce shopping habits, but many don’t realize the extent of the problem, or the realization isn’t enough to make them buy those twisted carrots or lumpy apples. It’s not just a problem in the United States, either. Here are some statistics from South Africa:

  • About 30% of edible fruit and vegetable crops are rejected for sale in South Africa simply because of appearance.
  • 44% of all food wasted is fruit and vegetables. The rest is made up of 26% grains, 15% meat, and 13% roots, tubers and oil seeds.
  • In the South African food supply chain, 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 the consumer level.

[Image: Alix-Rose Cowie for Studio H]

These facts were shared by Studio H, a young company responsible for the production of South Africa’s first food 3D printer. To demonstrate what can be done with the printer, Studio H collected the ugly fruits and vegetables rejected by supermarkets and customers, pureed them, and 3D printed them into more appealing shapes.

“3D printing could be the perfect vehicle to reduce food waste,” said Studio H Founder Hannerie Visser. “To experiment with the medium, we designed Salad 2.0. We cooked down a bunch of unconventional-looking fruit and veg that would normally have gone to waste into purees, and added gelatine so we could 3D print the concentrate into colourful three-dimensional jelly shapes high in nutritional content. Imagine serving these to picky children?”

Or picky adults, for that matter, who, to be blunt, often act like children when it comes to their food. 3D printing ugly fruits and vegetables is indeed an excellent idea when it comes to reducing food waste, and it’s also a way to show people how silly they are about the foods they reject because of appearance. 3D printed food itself might not save the world from its food waste problem, but imagine a campaign in which attractive-looking, delicious foods were presented to customers, who were then shown pictures of the ugly ingredients from which it came. It might be enough to make people realize that even ugly fruits and vegetables can taste perfectly fine.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Sources: Chips, IOL]

 

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