Applying the most conservative population growth estimates for 2050, it can be calculated that we will need approximately 109 hectares of land to feed the population using conventional farming methods (Outpost 2014). Combined with the need for additional land to house a population of 9.6 billion (United Nations 2013), it is evident that conventional agriculture or architecture needs to be rethought in order to combat the growing need for land. Cornucopians illustrate that while improvements in conventional farming methods will serve for the short term, it is only through ultramodernist breakthroughs that we will be able to find a solution (Belasco 2006), revolutionising not only how and what we eat, but also where it comes from.
Examining the future of food, Belasco presents within his book, Meals to Come: The Future of Food, three possible future scenarios: the classical future, a “prosperous future achieved through imperialist appropriation of other lands, peoples, and resources” (Belasco 2006), the modernist future, where we disregard tradition and look to simplification, automation and mass production for solutions, and finally the recombinant future, which is more of a blend of the old and the new, disregarding the harsh “take-it-or-leave-it homogeneity” (Belasco 2006) that the aforementioned futures embody. From these definitions we can safely compare our scenario to a modernist future; the adoption of the idea of food as fuel directly contradicts established eating rituals and declares independence from tradition. However, if we examine current designs related to the future of the consumption of food, perhaps a recombinant future is more possible. Where the technology utilized within our scenario would function as a disruptive innovation, a technology that gradually replaces the current convention despite being radically different (Hedberg 2006), perhaps a system not as profound as the extraction of nutrients from unconventional sources would be more feasible. To take an example, the 2013 “food printer” proposal by Philips operates by having the user feed it various edible ingredients and then combining and printing them in the desired shape and consistency, with nutritional value adjusted from an external monitor (Philips 2008). The keyword here is edible. Where our scenario is strictly chemical based, the “food printer” still extracts from conventional, that is, flora and fauna based sources.
Yet while the food printer was purely conceptual, Los Angeles architects Kyle and Liz von Hasseln have turned it into a reality, to a lesser extent, with their 3D printer SugarLab (Etherington 2013). Their design, now acquired by American manufacturers 3D systems, operates in the same fashion as a conventional 3D printer; the nozzle head spreads a fine layer of sugar, and then paints water onto the surface to recrystallize and harden the sugar (Pallister 2014). Currently, the printer is able to print in milk chocolate or sugar in three flavours: mint, cherry and sour apple, yet what is to say in the future that other food groups cannot be produced in the same fashion?
– Sam Watson
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