Micro Farm is s farm in run not by humans, but microbiomes inside and outside human bodies.
The project tries to speculate a possible future scenario where people can customize whatever food they eat to satisfy individual differences of health conditions and dietary preferences. Microbiome will be the new bridge to delicacy and health since it not only plays a very key role in metabolism inside of human body, but also is able to produce eatable nutritions in a sustainable way outside of human body.
The story starts with my personal experience that I can hardly gain weight no matter how much I eat and always appear slim, well, actually skinny. While some friends of mine can easily get fat and really need to manage their weight by diet and fitness with much efforts, some other friends are anxious about their body images and talk about losing weight all the time without a real obesity issue. Meanwhile, under current industrial food production system, the global prevalence of obesity and under-nutrition has resulted in public health concerns with high rate of body dissatisfaction and unhealthy weight controls.
Curiosity drove me to discover what has caused this inequity and imbalance of diet, health and metabolism.
The answer is microbiome. Discrepancy of gut microbiome causes different metabolic status.
However, I began to imagine the problem itself, the mysterious species long forgotten by human-beings, as the cure for unhealthy, unsustainable and outdated food system of today.
Micro Farm, therefore comes into being. It's a platform providing a very new kind of food customized by user, computed with user data and created by microbes.
With powerful backstage support system (Detection Center, Ingredient Yard, Recipe Lab and Food Factory), Micro Farm is capable of shaping healthy gut-microbiome ecosystem within user's body as well as replacing high-emission food production with 87% less water, 99% less land use, 99% less air pollution and way more productivity (as is estimated in 'Microbes: Food for the future').
Micro Farm provides user with a microchip pill for real-time gut health analysis, a 4D food printer to interact with microbiome food cultivation, a mobile APP to design food, order ingredients, set parameters, and have a look at gut microbiome profile as digital twin of what inside of body. The user will be able to learn about the beneficial microbes in a characterized way and to appoint one or more as the cook of their food.
The microbes that produce nutritions and generate structure of food, will be able to rely on non-edible materials as sources, including lignocellulosic biomass, food waste and plastic, turning the terrific disasters industrial food production had caused into a new origin of delicious food for a promising future.
< Detection Center >
Over half of our bodies aren't human, but rather microbiomes we've inherited from mother's womb, daily diets, and outside environment, mostly housed in our gut. Two people at random would share over 99% of similar DNA but only up to 10% of the same gut microbes. The uniqueness of our gut microbiomes are correlated to our metabolism and blood glucose response, which are responsible for everything from obesity to diabetes and depression. In another word, even when you and your friend eat the same amount, you might take up and use different amounts of calories from the same food.
Good news is that by simply eating probiotic and prebiotics according to individual special needs, the proportion of beneficial gut microbes can be increased with an improvement of gut health and thus body health.
Detection Center receives data remotely from the wireless device attached to the swallowable microchip, which functions as a detecting and sequencing device in user's gut and will dissolve itself after expiration. Real-time microbiome profile will be sent to user's mobile phone after analyzing and visualizing through A.I. in Detection Center.
These data and the mathematics model behind them helps user better track and understand their gut health condition and the platform better predict and suggest solutions for shaping a better gut microbiome ecosystem.
Detection Center is always devoted to developing better computer model and biological chip to eradicate obesity, diabetes, malnutrition, related depression and anxiety.
< Ingredient Yard >
Ingredient Yard experiments, develops and cultivates new food ingredient for Micro Farm.
There're four kinds of ingredients as listed:
i. Essential nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, minerals,
ii. Flavoring agent: sweetness, sourness, saltness, bitterness
iii. Functional additives: thickening stabilizers, emulsifiers, reinforcing agents
iv. Live cell materials: beneficial microbes for gut health
Flavoring agents are either extracted from natural plants, or artificially synthesized in Ingredient Yard. They are not only to mimic the flavor of certain food, but also to create totally new flavoring experience.
With gene editing technology, Ingredient Yard makes sure every microbe will be harmless, edible and beneficial to human bodies. Every kind of microbes contributes to gut health in a different way — some enhances intestinal fluidity, some deals with lactose intolerance, while some others increases immune proteins. Some special edited microbes also function as a nutrition supplier, for they can grow in specific texture and generate essential nutrients in the food printer. With different preset structure of food, the pattern of microbes growth will bring different mouthfeels.
With all the work done in Ingredient Yard, each user will have trillions of choices for their health and delicacy.
< Recipe Lab >
Nutritionists, gastroenterologists and scientists work together in Recipe Lab with the help of A.I. to intelligently design recipes for different types of users.
They release the potential abilities of different microbes in proper dishes — while some microbes are suitable for ice-cream, some others play a better role in steak-like food. They consider the nutritional balance in every meal, the parameters of nutrients, flavors, additives and adjustment ranges of those are preset in every dish for better user experience. The A.I. helps to personalize the preset parameters of different users with the user's order and later feedback.
Recipe Lab also provides a safe recipe DIY kit to encourage user creatively engage in the cooking. Users will be able to experiment the flavors, fragrances, mouthfeels and nutrients with the kit. They may also share their own recipe on the Micro Farm community to gain popularity.
< Food Factory >
Food Factory had developed a series of 4D food printer for users to choose.
With every single food printer, users will be able to operate the cooking process with simple interactions. Once the user confirms the recipe data, it will be automatically transferred to the motion track of printing jets. It will start to work after the ingredients are placed properly on the back of printer's door and the printing parameters are confirmed.
A food printer is equipped with printing jet(s) and containers (the amount varies from 3 to more than 10) of the ingredients. The printing jet(s) will change the containers within the printer whenever needed to cook the cuisine. Different jets apply different printing techniques according to the inputs of ingredients, listed as follows:
i. Inkjet printing: for liquid-like inputs like sauce, colored food ink
ii. Material extrusion/FDM : for paste-like inputs like mousses, jelly, cheeses
iii. Hot-melt: for melting ingredients like chocolate, sugar
iv. Binder jetting & SLS: for powdered ingredients like flour and peppers
The printer works in three stages: firstly, the printer will create the supporting part of food with non-biological materials; secondly, the printer will print different microbes on the supporting part; finally, the microbes will grow on the supporting structure under the set parameters to form customized mouthfeel while printer finishes the final decoration.
Food Factory is currently working for interesting interactions on printers and the development of printing techniques for special models.
< Micro Farm >
Micro Farm, a farm in run not by humans, but microbiomes inside and outside human bodies.
Micro Farm, a company devoted to enabling personalized diet for both health and delicacy.
Micro Farm, a platform integrates services of Detection Center, Ingredient Yard, Recipe Lab and Food Factory, communicating with users through a mobile App. The user will be able to design and finally get his/her own food with a single App.
Micro Farm, a vision of developing harmony between human-beings and nature through microbiomes, which condition the health conditions of body and contribute to the moving forward to a sustainable food production system.
Micro Farm, not just a student project, but a wish that the future world will not collapse to ruins yet be transformed to a better place by the work of design.