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Print some fish and brewis

Natural Machines’ Foodini prints a corn cob-inspired dish.
Natural Machines’ Foodini prints a corn cob-inspired dish.

If Newfoundland and Labrador plans to be competitive in value-added production of cod, it needs to keep an eye on its neighbours in Iceland and the projects being undertaken in the name of sustainability and new markets.

One project underway is exploring the potential for local seafood — particularly codfish — to be used in 3D food printers worldwide. It is a project of Future Fish, led by Matìs and fuelled by the Rannis Technical Development Fund.

Generally speaking, the food printer holds the potential to make use of seafood that would otherwise go to waste or be diverted from the human food chain — pieces that might cling to a bone after filleting, for example.

The Icelandic project uses the Foodini, a food printer created by Natural Machines. A test this summer at the Natural Machines headquarters in Barcelona used Icelandic cod surimi (a paste made from the whitefish byproduct), salted cod and cod protein isolate to create a dish called the “Salted Cod Volcano.”

The three-year 3D food printing research program is now started on the detailed work of determining the best raw materials for use in printing, preparations and generally what might excite chefs and consumers.

“(Natural Machines) developed that (printer) technology itself. But when it comes to the ingredients we’re using, as well as formulations, the cooking parameters and how it’s delivered, that’s up to us and this project,” said Holly Petty at Matìs.

Originally from Alaska, Petty completed a PhD making use of protein isolates from Spanish mackerel, and said she likes the idea of finding new ways of maximizing the use of resources taken from the sea.

“Sustainability is something I’m extremely passionate about,” she said, adding she is also driven by the possibilities in innovation.

As of this month, she will have a Foodini available at the project lab in Iceland. It will be the first for Scandinavia. The cod volcano dish required about 20 minutes to print, but that’s not to say future dishes would require the same, she said. “(And) it tastes great.”

Holly Petty, a researcher with Matìs, is leading a three-year project investigating the potential for Icelandic cod use in 3D food printing.

Carey Bonnell, director of the Marine Institute School of Fisheries at Memorial University, said he’s not surprised to see Iceland taking the lead on exploring the possibilities in the new technology like 3D printing and he is interested to see what might result.

“I would look at 3D printing as sort of a tool in a tool kit around better utilization of our marine resources,” he said.

Bonnell will be in Iceland next month, at the World Seafood Congress in Reykjavik, where he will have a chance to see a cod dish printed. A demo of the printer and the related cod recipe is scheduled as part of the conference.

“I think for Iceland, this fits with their vision. They’re in the middle right now of a five-year strategy to derive more value from the waste, the traditional waste stream of cod, than the fillet itself,” he said. “This is part of that exercise. They’ve got a number of things they’re looking at, but this is one particular area, and I think these are the kind of disruptive technologies that we need to look at.”

Natural Machines co-founder Lynette Kucsma told The Telegram the Foodini is not being produced yet for the home kitchen, but is being used by restaurants and by catering companies, and in other professional settings. A machine for use in the home is in development.

“This is a kitchen appliance,” she said, when asked what the future with Foodini might look like for the average consumer.

She suggested picturing yourself finding a recipe online, maybe for a batch of cookies, then clicking.

“It doesn’t print a (written) recipe, but it will actually print the recipe, cook the cookie, ice the cookie,” she said.

The original Foodini allows fresh ingredients to be added to empty, re-usable capsules that come with the machine. Prints are cooked after the fact. The home kitchen version will have a cook function, Kucsma said, with multiple nozzles for different consistency in foods. While maintaining the ability to use your own, fresh ingredients, the option is there to introduce pre-packed capsules to the market, including of Icelandic fish, she said.

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