A professor from the University of Chile has begun 3D printing food to encourage nutritious eating among kids.
Cochayuyo (pronounced “cotch-a-you-yo”) has a long history in southern Chilean cuisine. Archaeologists discovered dry remains of the wild seaweed in 14,000-year old fireplaces at Monte Verde, a South American archaeological site on the tentative UNESCO world heritage list.
The superfood is rich in amino acids, minerals and iodine, and although no longer necessary for its nutrient qualities, is still harvested, used for family recipes, and the country exports the dried seaweed to Taiwan.
In New Zealand, where it’s referred to as “bull kelp”, it’s also been used in traditional Māori cooking for centuries.
A team from the University of Chile in Santiago have now found a new use for the historic staple.
Using 3D printing technology, the nutritional star is dehydrated, ground to an algae flour, mixed with instant mash potato and hot water, and after 7 minutes is shaped into figurines—such as Pokémon‘s Pikachu. The starch, combined with the cochayuyo alginate, is what gives the product stabilisation for 3D printing.
Professor Roberto Lemus, who worked on the experiment, told Agence France-Presse (AFP), “We are looking for different figures, fun figures, visuals, colours, taste, flavours, smells.”
But he emphasised the main focus is on nutritional content. “The product needs to be very nutritious for people, but it also needs to be delicious,” he said.
3D technology has evolved in the culinary industry, already used to design food such as sweets and pasta. NASA is also working on expanding the variety of foods accessible to astronauts in space.
These printers are expensive, however, Lemus is hoping the costs will soon decrease as the technology advances and their product will be able to reach more people.
Move over, frozen EmotiBites.
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