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From algae to 4D printing

Plant protein – a booming industry

In the context of consumers now more knowledgeable about the origin food and their impact on environmentit’s no wonder that plant-based foods are growing exponentially globally.

According to a report by Bloomberg Intelligence, the industry is predicted to jump from US$24.9 billion in 2020 to US$162 billion by 2030.

One of the emerging trends is plant protein. Enterprise Animal protein sellers are now expanding their offering of plant-based foods such as “plant meats” and meat substitutes, as well as vegan protein powders, to capture new markets.

Plant proteins also have economic and environmental benefits. According to a study published in the scientific journal Nature Food, meat accounts for nearly 60% of greenhouse gas emissions from food production.

“Producing animal protein is costly per kilogram,” said Professor Adhikari. “Real protein is much less expensive to grow and harvest, and is more nutritious and has less environmental impact than livestock.”

Protein from algae – the next big change

With the food industry putting more emphasis on sustainable practices, Prof Adhikari said companies are looking at algae as a potential source of protein. “Vegetable protein is already on the market, but algae-based protein will be the next big change,” he said.

In many ways, plant protein and algae protein are nutritionally similar, but algae requires less land to grow. “Algae grown in a bioreactor system (a controlled, closed environment) produce the same amount of nitrogen as plants, saving hectares of land,” said Professor Adhikari.

Similar to vegetable protein, algae protein is extracted from algae oil. Professor Adhikari and his research team at RMIT are working with companies to find out how they can best incorporate algae protein into food.

Polyphenols – a hit for healthy food

Green tea drinkers have benefited from polyphenols, antioxidant-rich compounds that occur naturally in plants.

Polyphenols are added to healthy foods or health supplements as functional foods, providing additional health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional ingredients.

For example, when a person does not get enough rest, their cells produce more oxidants that accelerate the aging process. Polyphenols scavenge these free radicals and help slow down the aging process.

Professor Adhikari explains: “Plants produce polyphenols to protect them from insects, cuts and injuries. If we take polyphenols in certain quantities, they have a protective effect, especially against oxidizing radicals”.

Although the use of polyphenols to enhance the effects of healthy foods is not new, the structural studies of polyphenols are still at the basic stage.

“Researchers are now looking at the different forms of polyphenols, looking at their properties and where we can get them,” said Prof. His research team is currently investigating the properties of red artichoke (or hibiscus), which may help treat diabetes and control obesity.

Food 4D printing – future pioneer

If you’ve heard of 3D printed food, food 4D printing is the next step. 4D printing is a process in which a 3D printed object changes its texture over time – a phenomenon that will often be triggered by environmental factors such as humidity, heat or energy from a microwave oven.

The novel element of 4D-printed food – from donuts that change shape to cookies that change color over time – is getting many people excited. But the real potential of this technology is in helping people with dysphagia.

According to Professor Adhikari, it is possible to see the future of 4D printing, such as self-hydrating pizza in the amount of pizza dough as in the movie Back to the Future 2. “This will depend on advances in hardware technology, hardware and software. software and ingredients in the future. And depending on the market – food technologists will work hard to accommodate if there is a need.”

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