By Cheryl V. Jackson, Special to Blue Sky
April 17, 2014, 1 p.m.
A chocolate confection made in the 3D Systems ChefJet Pro 3D food printer is displayed at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Robyn Beck/ AFP/Getty Images/ Jan. 9, 2014)
The World Health Organization projects the earth’s population at more than 9 billion by 2050, which means about two billion more folks will need to be fed.
The Institute of Food Technologists is on the case, bringing technology, innovation, scientists and food experts into the discussion.
The Chicago-based group on Wednesday launched a year-long initiative to get people talking about solutions to the need for sustainable food sources. The event at the Public Chicago hotel included a conversation panel that featured molecular gastronomy celeb Homaro Cantu.
Cantu showed a roomful of food scientists a “miracle berry” that inhibits the taste of sour foods, and he shared his plans to use it to make healthier foods taste sweet without additional calories or artificial sweeteners.
Chef and inventor Homaro Cantu is pictured in his former office in his restaurant Moto. Cantu set the space up as an indoor farm for growing fruits and vegetables. (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune/ March 21, 2012)
He described his indoor farm at his Moto restaurant. He discussed experimentation with making ground-beef substitute from food that cows eat – barley, corn and beets – mimicking the taste and texture of French fries using granola bars and making a tuna substitute from watermelon and spices.
He also emphasized technology.
“When people say technology and science don’t belong in food, that’s like saying we shouldn’t learn math,” Cantu said. “It’s all around us. We wouldn’t be here without it. I would have never discovered that berry without Google. That’s technology. We would never have done our indoor farm unless microchip technology got more intelligent.”
The institute’s initiative includes a film documentary and a website. The website, futurefood2050.com, went live Wednesday and eventually will include 75 interviews with scientists, policymakers and journalists. It also will include topic-related articles.
It’s part of a lead-up to observances of the IFT’s 75th anniversary. Events include a June celebration of its founding and a July 2015 observance of the first IFT Food Expo.
The group’s 18,000 members work in food science, food technology and related professions in industry, academia and government.
A woman eats a sandwich next to a 3D food printer prototype designed by the Spanish company Foodini. It is the first 3D printer capable of preparing food. (Toni Garriga / EPA / March 22, 2014 )
“We set up an ambitious goal to try and focus the discussion publicly, not just within the food science community, on how we are going to deal with feeding 9 billion people,” said Jerry M. Bowman, the IFT’s vice president of communications. “How are we going to do it sustainably, and how are we going to do it with innovation based on science?”
The group is putting $1 million into the effort, recruiting film producer Scott Hamilton Kennedy, whose Black Valley Films is researching a documentary on the subject.
“There are so many amazing and important angles to the story,” said Kennedy, who received an Academy Award nomination for his 2008 documentary, “The Garden.” “To try to scale it down to where it should be in a film is a daunting task. But don’t feel sorry for me.”
The areas likely to be explored include the ways food goes unused.
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“Part of what food science is, is not just about feeding. It’s wasting less,” Kennedy said. “There’s so much food that is produced but is wasted in that it doesn’t get from the farm to the store to sell it. And there’s waste from the store to your home. And we all know as consumers that there’s food that we waste. Some of the food scientists are working on the problem of food that we waste.”
Cantu, the chef and restaurant owner, said some tech should stay out of the mix.
“There’s good technology and there’s bad technology,” he said, “Bad technology, in my opinion, is genetically modified foods; chemicals. I’m not a fan of processed foods. At the end of the day, food technology needs to get focused on better food by the definition of the gourmand.”
He added: “The scientist is great for figuring out problems. But there should be a philosophy that comes from the gourmand — great ingredients, great flavor and local — as local as you can get.”