NATURAL MACHINES’ FOODINI. THE 3D FOOD PRINTER.
The world is digitalizing not just in communication and and in the tech industry, but also in the way we make food. 3D Printing that normally happens in the largest food manufacturing, will soon be available in our homes and this is what Natural Machines is working on. Natural Machines is a Barcelona based company focused on innovation, by integrating the world of 3D printing with Artificial intellicence and food. Their machine is named Foodini, a compact machine that propels design, efficiency and personification to the next level. Lynette Kucsma founder and CMO of Natural Machines will share with us in this interview the purposes, functionalities and evolution of her company and Foodini.
What was it that drove you to start natural machines & Foodini?
Lynette Kucsma: Firstly, we saw an issue within the food industry, to meet the macro trends of people wanting to know what is going into their foods and allowing them to have options. Our vision is for Foodini to become a common kitchen appliance, since 3D food printing isn’t that crazy because we’re all practically eating it already since manufacturers are doing it for us; that is taking the food, pushing it into machines and shaping/ forming them. We want people to move away from processed and packaged foods. How? By tapping into the macro trends of people always asking where their food comes from and what exactly goes into it, we’re allowing you to take control and answer that yourself.
Most people are stuck with the espresso machine concept where you buy the machine and coffee capsules. This is the opposite of what we do. We provide the capsules, so you can create and place your fresh ingredients yourself. Another misconception of blending the foods is that it mimics slurry foods (i.e. baby foods.). The nozzles we provide enable you to form different textures.
That is really interesting, because nowadays people are becoming more aware of their foods and bringing a tools that enable people to do that is a great opportunity for people to take control of that process in their own homes.
LK: I am very passionate about what we do and yes food is a passion for us, even though I don’t have a background within the food industry, but I have it in tech and taking very complex technologies and making it simple for people who have needs for them, is my speciality. My food input into the company is based on personal experience; I have a passion for food like most people about eating healthy, but the question is what is eating healthy? We accommodate for that because we don’t believe that there’s a one fits all diet for everybody; which doesn’t exist.
The future of food is going to be accumulated by customization, so in terms of a 3D printer for food, we’re talking very specific customisation because the Foodini is more than a 3D printer because it employs IOT (Internet Of Things). This means data. You can do things like print a dessert that stops printing once it hits a 200 calorie limit.
Of course, your kitchenware and your clothes are going to become smarter, imagine you went for a 5km run in London and the weather is grim (not uncommon) and you need vitamin D or more iron in your diet, you’ll be able to print a breakfast bar that’s specific to your nutritional needs.
This is not much different than buying a breakfast bar from a manufacturer/ retail store, but now you can expand that into thousands of variations because you’re increasing or lowering your nutritional limits, in the foods you’re printing.
In marketing the idea of personalisation is huge for organisations and consumers as well, so that’s perfect for the people who are really focused on health. There is not one fit for all diets, because bodies and metabolisms are diffident. It is greatt to have something that is completely adjustable to their needs.
LK: People tend to get nervous about the data concept or everything becoming robotised. But if looking at Foodini from a kitchens appliance perspective it’s no different if you want to make a tomato sauce tonight using a food processor to chop up tomatoes with a knife, because one is automated and the other is manual; in the end both fulfil the same purpose, but one does it more efficiently. Its good from this perspective but with the data, that’s optional. Whether you want to use it for simple making, its fine if you’re also on the data side and want to ensure you’re getting the right macro nutrients that’s also fine, we’re giving you the platform to do both.
Right now, we’re working with hospitals in the US, Foodini is used for patients that have difficulty chewing or swallowing properly and the fact that patients are usually provided mush, is quite off putting to them, they lose total interest and end up feeling sick. A downward spiral upon not being able to use nutritional food to help recuperate is disappointing. The printer helps to make the food more visually attractive and eatable.
There’s a second phase of the project that’s coming into play. Patients having their diets monitored on their intake of nutrients, can have their required drugs printed into their foods, as some are compulsory with a meal. For instance USA FDA – Food and Drug Administration – approved 3D printing of drugs and they’re trying to promote it. Customised drugs with foods can be monitored with data by doctors, so they can see what’s happening and allocate further prescriptions and procedures.
IN THE PHOTO: MADE WITH THE 3D FOOD PRINTER: “THE SPIRALLING TOWARDS A HEALTHIER LIFE ” PHOTO CREDIT: NATURAL MACHINES
Do you think the Foodini is an ideal method for decreasing waste disposal?
LK: One of our investors is from NYC, they’re focused on circularly economy investments only. We fit in that because we help lower food costs along the value chain, so not only do we help decrease food waste in your home by enabling you to print required amounts rather than printing unnecessary amounts.
Most people have their on perception of of “good food” and “bad food”. How do you face this mentality problem?
LK: In some supermarkets they have an ugly bins where the goods are placed due to their looks and are discounted, even though that pepper or cucumber is the same nutrition and taste profile as its neighbour on the shelf. Taking a lot of those and re constituting them to be 3d printable is better than wasting them. Since there’s the talk of the world population exploding in the next couple of decades and how do we feed the world a lot of answers say: we could feed the world now if we stop throwing away so much.
When you look at it from the futures perspective your kitchen is going to become more intelligent, when you have some spinach left in the refrigerator it will say, ‘this is good for another day or two, your Foodini can make recipe recommendations since its connected to the internet based on your food preferences to use the spinach.
The information processed by Foodini will be stored in silos once the company develops and expands, all so you can utilise your foods.
“WE COULD FEED THE WORLD NOW IF WE STOP THROWING AWAY SO MUCH.”
The topic of automation has already been covered in terms of Foodini enabling people to do things easier, not replacing them, but does it also allow for people to expand their skill sets?
LK: Foodini allows you to be creative, in essence we’re giving you permission to play with your food, to test your creativity and give you full control. But the other criticism we get in a couple of years people won’t know how to make food, as they’ll press a button and they’ll get food automatically. It’s like the concept of people reading the headline but not the text. People always ask us why we called it a 3D food printer:
- That’s what it is
- I noticed if I called it anything else, it wouldn’t generate as much interest
- I understand why people come in negative because when I first thought of processed foods additives and preservatives
We turned it round on its head, and the reason why we still call it 3D food printing is because we’re 4 – 5 years old, the industry is young and there’s a big educational process that needs to happen with consumers and it gets competition started.
We’re opening the door to having a conversation with people to reverse the image, as long as people are learning we’re interested in maintaining that.
The utopia of Foodini using data is that it saves you from having to think too much about what you need to eat and when what etc it transmits data with kitchen appliances (e.g. refrigerator) which then creates actionable information for us.
“WE’RE GIVING YOU PERMISSION TO PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD, TO TEST YOUR CREATIVITY AND GIVE YOU FULL CONTROL”
Are there any challenges that Foodini is likely to come across and what is the next big step for Foodini?
LK: Challenges we’re talking tech, so there’s always challenges. People ask when Foodini is going to be done and the answer is never because the fact that matters is the IOT device connected to your mobile phone is going to be updated with the latest and greatest, it’s the same thing with Foodini since is uses IOT we can update it regularly.
Some of the challenges we face since we allow people to use their own ingrediencies, makes it super challenging for us, so our competitors are making prepared food capsules, because if they know what you’re making all the time they can start making variations. Hence why we use AV and AI.
As for what’s next there is more, since were not a one hit wonder, there reason we’re pursuing home kitchen uses right now is because we’re targeting professional kitchen users. We know our market research we need to one additional piece of functionality to break into the home kitchen user market: and that is the capability to cook. So right now, in the device that were shipping you can heat the initial food capsules and keep track of their melting point e.g. when making mash potato or with meats you’d have to take that out the printer and use other methods of cooking. Next version you’ll be able to do everything. So imagine we just passed Xmas cookie season: you go on Pinterest and want to make it, well feature a print button so you’ll be able to print the cookie, cook it and ice it without even even touching it.