We’re recently back from visiting Floriade Expo 2022, a ten-yearly international horticulture event taking place in Almere, The Netherlands. I wanted to share this idea from a display in the Natural Pavilion about how the food of the future could be customised to suit our body’s make-up and our individual tastes.
The exhibitors imagined a future where nutrient-producing microbes are grown in controlled bioreactors. High-quality food powders are produced when the microbes are drained, filtered and dried.
“Supermarkets slowly become pharmacies full of powders, capsules and liquids. These deliver high-quality carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, vitamins, fibres and minerals for the basis of each meal. Also available are colourants and aromas. Supermarkets of 2050 provide DNA and health analyses, so everyone knows exactly what their bodies need in order to flourish.” – Floriade 22
Households are equipped with Artificial Intelligence systems that offer unique recipes, tailored to the residents’ bodily needs, preferences and past behaviour. The look, feel, taste, smell and even sound of food can be customised, then prepared by a food printer. The same nutrients can be sweet, spicy or sour; crunchy or creamy; can smell of fruit, honey, bacon or fish; can be bold red or pale green; striped or speckled. Food has become a personal art form.
“New eating tools, rituals, and habits will appear by 2050. Perhaps there will be sensory dice for random recipe-development, or new ways to make meals coordinated or communal. There may be tableware to stop spherical foods from rolling off the table or mouthpieces that enhance your drinking experience.” – Floriade 22
The theorists went on to consider how a completely new food system such as this may affect our bodies, brains and behaviour. Over time, they speculated, stomachs and intestines may shrink, the appendix may disappear, and our jaws and teeth may change.
Floriade’s themes include sustainability, liveability and a hopeful future, and there is plenty to hope for in all this: malnutrition and some common diseases may be eradicated. On the other hand, there was no mention of how our political systems would need to rise to meet scientific advances in food delivery.
How far off are scientists from making any of these predictions come true, I wonder? At what cost, financial and social? Who would hold the intellectual property rights? How, by 2050, could we have the collective will to make sure such a system benefits all? Food for thought, indeed.