The future of food production will be highly personalised to individual tastes and nutritional requirements as biosensors integrate with new ‘food generation’ technologies to deliver the perfect ‘dose’ of food.
This is the view of the CSIRO’s food structure team leader Dr Amy Logan, who at Foodpro presented a range of emerging technologies that she predicts are on collision course to “revolutionise” the future of food manufacturing.
While these will help to serve the needs of the elderly or unwell, she anticipates these technologies will also have broader appeal for healthy people seeking optimal nutritional value from their food consumption.
“The concept of personalised food isn’t new in itself. People have been seeking advice on the type of food they should eat from doctors and nutritionists for many years,” said Logan.
She also highlighted the explosion of interest in health monitoring and sensing technologies such as the Fitbit and a growing selection of smartphone apps.
“We are moving away from basic [monitoring] technologies to biosensors that can be easily worn and used as part of daily life, collecting data and allowing us to respond to changes.”
But it is the development of novel food production technologies such as 3D printing that she predicts could deliver the final piece of the puzzle, integrating with these biosensor technologies and genetic blueprints to deliver targeted health solutions based on highly individual health needs.
Space food technologists are already studying the applicability for astronauts, and Logan says in a more real-world situation, ordinary consumers may one day make use of “smart pillows” that monitor their biomarkers during sleep.
Information collected by this pillow could be “sent to their food generator that is sitting on their kitchen bench, and when they wake up in the morning they will then have that food ready to go that is going to give them that optimum health that they need on that particular day,” she said.
However, there remain a number of complex challenges to be addressed, some of which are the subject of ongoing research at the CSIRO.
Developing a food material microstructure for optimum delivery of nutrients in food-body interactions will be essential, as well as a better understanding the mechanics of enhanced texture and palatability, to ensure the foods remain enjoyable to consume.
New methods of production will also bring challenges, said Logan.
Additive manufacturing methods such as 3D food printing will require food to be delivered into a ‘food generator’ in some type of capsule or tube, so safety and shelf stability must also be guaranteed.
Key to this smart-food delivery system is the “integration of intelligent manufacturing with real-time sensors that capture the individual’s needs” alongside the development of “structured foods optimised to the ideal nutrient delivery based upon a person’s genetic information”.
“Our scientists and researchers in CSIRO have recently commenced a long-term project designed to take personalised health and nutrition to that next level,” said Logan.