Dec 10, 2015 | By Alec

Ikea is one of the only furniture stores in the world that has managed to create a tradition, for as far as we can think of. For who doesn’t get a plate of classic Swedish meatballs (called Kottbullar), whenever they visit? The only problem is, and the climate conference in Paris last week only further emphasized this, that meat production is one of the leading causes for climate problems. In an effort to do their bit, Ikea’s research department is looking at a several ways to make the meatballs more environmentally friendly, including 3D printing.

The problem itself is fairly simple – according to some estimates, the global meat industry and all those animals spew more greenhouse gasses – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide and so on – into the atmosphere than many other industries or transportation methods. All those meatballs that are annually being consumed by the Ikea-shopping audience are thus part of the problem, though Ikea innovations could also have far-reaching consequences for other meat producers.

Perhaps a bit surprisingly, Ikea is also well-equipped to deal with these problems. They have the a future-living design lab called Space10  based in Copenhagen, Denmark that is testing all sorts of innovative technologies to improve our lives. Their latest project is called ‘Tomorrow’s Meatball’ and is essentially a visual exploration of what the Ikea meatball could look like in a few years from now – a decade or two.

The project is led by Bas van de Poel and Kaave Pour of Space10, and they reveal that this ‘menu’ could deal with any upcoming global issues and any technological innovation that is forthcoming. The result is an intriguing list of foods made from powered essentials, artificially grown meat, bug-made meatballs and even efficient 3D printed shapes. “We used the meatball's shape and size as a canvas for future foods scenarios, because we wanted to visualise complicated research in a simple, fun and familiar way. There’s hardly any culture that does not cook meatballs - from the Swedish meatball, to Italian/American spaghetti meatballs to spiced up Middle Eastern kofta,” says Kaave Pour on the Space10 website.

While these options might look disgusting or pointless, the Ikea specialists further argue that it will be a very real issue within a few years – and not just due to global warming. The UN predicts that food demand will increase by 70% over the next three decades or so, due to growing populations and dwindling supplies of fresh water and nature. "It's quite difficult to picture that in the near future we will be eating insects or artificial meat. But, with the increasing demand for food, we need to start considering adding alternative ingredients to our daily menu. You could say that Tomorrow's Meatball gets people a little more familiar with the unfamiliar.” -says Bas van de Poel.

While algae or bug ‘meat’ balls might not look so appetizing, 3D printed, laboratory-grown meat might just be the ticket. Not only could it make meat more interesting through interesting shapes and culinary creations, it would also be contributing to a more sustainable future. The only question is: will we all have a food 3D printer in our kitchen by 2040?



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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