New Israeli technology aims to solve world hunger with 3D printed food

Israel 3d Printed Food

Yissum Research Development Company has brought a great deal of attention to Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the past week with their introduction of new technology capable of 3D-printing customized food. The personalization of printed food relies on nano-cellulose, which is a naturally occurring, calorie-free fiber. It is arguably the most intriguing aspect of this already attractive prospect.

Hebrew University Prof. Ido Braslavsky presented the new technology at the 3D Printing and Beyond: Current and Future Trends conference at Hebrew University on Oct. 25.

Hebrew University Prof. Oded Shoseyov developed the nano-cellulose, 3D-printing process, hailing from the Robert H. Smith Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture. He collaborated with Braslavsky, head of the Inter-Faculty Biotechnology Program as well as the Bachelor of Science Program for the Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science, and Nutrition. The technology has captivated not only the global scientific community but also the curious minds of the world as people are eager to see whether or not some one of the technologies predicted in classic Hollywood films like Back to the Future may soon become a reality.

Yissum CEO Yaron Daniely, M.D., commented, “This promising technology is an excellent example of the kind of multidisciplinary, transformational inventions that originate from our facility and from the Hebrew University in general. The ability to automatically prepare, mix, form and cook personalized food in one device is a truly revolutionary concept. The idea is to enable full control of the substances used for the purpose of creating healthy and tasty meals that can be eaten immediately. This has the potential to address a variety of challenges facing the field of nutrition, from the demand for personalized food to addressing the problem of lack of food in developing countries.”

Ideally, this technology is believed to be capable of positively impacting livability worldwide. Daniely alluded to what the United Nations has termed a global food security crisis, a perennial and increasingly detrimental shortage of food. Large corporations have been capitalizing in recent decades on the rapid progress of epigenetics to engineer genetically modified organisms, which has led to controversy in many developed countries, yet GMOs have been extolled by many African and Asian countries where food shortage is rampant.

Rose Maxwell Gidado is an agriculture correspondent for Nigerian Tribune, and he says that, “Genetically modified crops are more efficient and therefore use less agricultural inputs to produce the same amount of food.” He adds that GMO production accounts for 123 million extra hectares of land that the world would have needed to cultivate in order to produce the same amount of food from 1996-2012 without GM crops. “Controversy remains over access to this biotechnology, corporation patents on certain plant strains, and claims regarding the safety and quality of GM foods as compared to non-GM foods,” Gidado also says.

In other words, food is scare worldwide, and in countries where food is, nevertheless, abundant, people have the luxury of choosing safer, non-GMO food and protesting GMO technology on the basis of its potential hazards. Meanwhile, those in the many countries that have very few agricultural options go hungry because GMO technology is their only answer yet they lack the patents to actualize the solution. Yissum’s research project may very well circumvent the controversy thereof and, perhaps, literally solve world hunger (on paper).

Yissum has already expressed its intentions to see to it that the technology is made available for use in private homes, schools, restaurants and entire institutions and that it will be used to execute the custom orders that consumers predefine.

Shoseyov says that this will benefit the average consumer in two additional ways; it will facilitate food being prepared specifically for a consumer’s diet or preference, and it will also drastically mitigate food waste.

“We are wasting about 30 percent of the food we are producing before it goes into our mouth,” Shoseyov explains. “Simple example—when we go to the supermarket with the intention to cook something, we’re not always exact about the different ingredients that we buy. Many times the materials we buy (vegetables, a piece of meat where we cut out the fat) goes to waste.”

Shoseyov says that the 3D printing technology and process that Yissum is researching can attack the problem of food waste head-on. Meat, for example—“Only a small fraction of beef is being diverted to making steaks or burgers. Other parts go to waste—ligaments and tendons are thrown away and converted to gelatin,” Shoseyov explains. This means that the amount of substances like fat or protein can be controlled with the 3D printer itself.

Yissum has served as the technology transfer arm of Hebrew University for over half a century, and in that time, it has achieved and maintained the reputation of one of the top tech transfer companies around the globe. The company collaborated with the 3D & Functional Printing Center at Hebrew University to organize the conference, and both were supported by The Jerusalem Municipality, The Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and The Jerusalem Development Authority. Yissum’s claims, therefore, carry the weight of 9,825 patents, 880 licensed technologies and partners akin to the corporate giants like Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Google and Microsoft.


About the Author:

Cedric Dent, Jr.

Freelance journalist, Cedric Dent, Jr., has written as a domestic and foreign policy correspondent for numerous publications, a speechwriter for municipal office incumbents, and a tech writer in multiple spaces from healthcare to IT.