3d printers

Algae and 3D printers: Chile’s innovative approach to feeding children

Dehydrated “cochayuyo” seaweed, instant mashed potatoes and hot water: these are the ingredients of a nutritious menu of 3D-printed foods that Chilean nutrition experts hope will revolutionize the market food, especially for children.

With a 3D food printer and a modern twist on the traditional use of cochayuyo, a seaweed typically found in Chile, New Zealand and the South Atlantic, Roberto Lemus, a professor at the University of Chile and several students have successfully created nutritious food and edible figurines that they hope children will love to eat.

The Pokémon figurines, or any type of animal imaginable, are all fed into the 3D printer, along with the gelatinous mixture, and the food is “printed” seven minutes later.

“We are looking for different figures, fun figures… visual, colors, tastes, flavors, smells,” Lemus told AFP.

But, he pointed out, the focus is on the nutritional content. “The product must be very nutritious for people, but it must also be tasty,” he said.

3D food printers are expensive, costing anywhere from $4,000 to over $10,000, but Lemus hopes that as technology advances, their cost will come down and reach more people.

The technology is growing in the culinary field in dozens of countries, and 3D food printers are being used to design sweets, pasta, and other foods.

Read | Chennai surgeon designs 3D printed heart valve

NASA already tested it in 2013 with the idea of ​​expanding the variety of foods that astronauts eat in space.

Chile is making progress with cochayuyo seaweed, one of the typical ingredients of the coastal nation’s cuisine, rich in amino acids, minerals and iodine, according to Alonso Vasquez, a 25-year-old postgraduate who writes his thesis on the subject.

The young researcher takes dehydrated cochayuyo, cuts it and grinds it to create cochayuyo flour which he then mixes with instant mashed potato powder.

He then adds hot water to the mixture to create a gelatinous, viscous substance which he introduces into the printer.

“It occurred to me to use potatoes, rice flour, all of which contain a lot of starch. The starch from these raw materials combined with the cochayuyo alginate is what generates the stabilization within the 3D print,” he says as he waits for the printer to finish creating a two-centimeter Pikachu figurine ( just under an inch) and a taste of mashed potatoes and sea.

The project has been underway for two years and is still in its infancy, but the idea is to apply ingredients such as edible flowers or edible coloring to the menu to make it more appealing to children.