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These 3D-printed snacks grow their own fillings

3D-printed edible shells are embedded with seeds to grow their own fillings of tasty sprouts and mushrooms.

Chloé Rutzerveld

3D-printed food has some pretty hefty limitations at the moment -- the biggest of which is that it can only create dishes out of anything that can be reduced to a paste -- which effectively rules out anything freshly grown.

Edible Growth, by food and concept designer Chloé Rutzerveld, seeks to find a way to circumvent that problem to create 3D printed snacks that are both healthy and delicious -- compared to the 3D printed sugar and chocolate confections we've seen to date.

"I want to show that high-tech food or lab-produced food does not have to be unhealthy, unnatural, and not tasteful," she wrote on her website. "Edible Growth is an example of high-tech but fully natural, healthy, and sustainable food made possible by combining aspects of nature, science, technology and design."

The snack is a sort of pastry shell -- Rutzerfeld made a paste out of insect flour for her prototypes, but a pizza crust-type dough could be used for the squeamish -- that is 3D printed on a specially designed printer created by research organisation TNO. Inside, an edible agar centre contains seeds, mushroom spores and yeast. Over a few days, these will sprout -- filling the shell with delicious flavours.

Chloé Rutzerveld

"Within five days the plants and fungi mature and the yeast ferments the solid inside into a liquid. The product's intensifying structure, scent and taste are reflected in its changing appearance. Depending on the preferred intensity, the consumer decides when to harvest and enjoy the delicious, fresh and nutrient-rich edible," Rutzerveld wrote.

The aim is to minimise waste and carbon emissions while providing a means by which users could create their own ready-made, healthy snacks -- and not just food, but food for thought about what we put into our bodies. It would also allow each user to personalise the shape of the snack -- make it bigger or smaller, or a different shape of basket.

The project is and will be on display at several exhibitions in the coming year: at the Noordbrabants Museum in s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands until April; at the Munich Creative Business Week in Germany until March; and at the Foodtopia exhibition at Museum Boerhaave in Leiden, the Netherlands. However, Rutzerveld notes that there is still some work to be done before it can be available to consumers.

"Edible Growth is at this point still a future food concept which can not be printed yet. In order to make it more research and experiments related to the software, hardware and ingredient composition are necessary," she said.