Do you remember the TV show Star Trek: Next Generation, where they used a replicator to make something out of thin air? One can say we something like that now with 3D printing. A German retailer will offer Berliners 3D fruit gum sweets and restaurateurs already ask for laser-engraved sushi. But before we taste “pilot” dishes of 3D pasta, Nutella and cookies, let me ask you: is 3D printing just a cool fad or is it a strategic instrument to tackle the increasing global food scarcity? Is it “nice-to-have” or connected with the #2030NOW #SDG Goal-2 “Zero hunger”?

German retailer will offer Berliners 3D fruit sweets. Is this something important on its own?

I do have an answer. It’s not enough on its own. The real issue is larger: over the last decade world grain reserves have fallen by one-third, and world food prices have more than doubled, triggering a worldwide land rush and ushering in a new geopolitics of food. By 2050 the world’s population will reach 9.1 billion; with an estimated requirement to increase food production by 70 percent globally to feed an additional 2.3 billion people (explore this subject in the ICT and the Future of Food and Agriculture study produced by Ericsson in collaboration with Imperial College London).

Mankind seems to have exhausted our resources. Intensified cultivation for growth brings biodiversity unbalance. Organizing larger farm sizes for cost synergies leads to quicker land degradation. Increased food demand means higher energy use and water consumption, plus more waste and more pollution.

It seems we need to discuss how to transform the entire food industry and not just what we think about 3D printing! With this in mind, I find it extremely important that on September 22, 2015, the Internet of Food signed the charter letter provided by the Internet Society (the world’s independent source of leadership for internet policy, technology standards, and future development). It is the first Special Interest Group for Internet of Food!

This affiliation marks the beginning of the important work and cross-industry dialogue we need to have about future infrastructure, distribution, co-creation, safety policies and even food texture and consistency, as well as overall standards for the digital world of food. The group has even started with some interesting ideas, such as 3D printers for food in kitchens! I see it as an important step for food companies; countries in debt; over-populated cities; families with reduced disposable income; new startups and the whole ICT industry. There’s always hope when people set co-creation platforms for the common good.


Note: this post first appeared on the Networked Society Blog (as ERICSSON INDUSTRY WATCH)