7 weird high-tech foods you might chow down on in the not-so-distant future

Instead of fresh from the farm, the future of food is lab-to-table

Whether it’s drone delivery, recipes created by A.I., or robots working in the kitchen, high tech is changing the world of food preparation and delivery as we know it.

But what about the actual foodstuff itself? After all, from the Klingon delicacy of Gagh (basically a plate of worms) to the delicious, sustainable Soylent Green (spoiler: it’s people), science fiction has long shown us that a key part of any high tech world is the wacky food people eat in it. How is technology changing what we’ll be heaping onto our plates? Here are seven examples of what our future meals may look like.

Lab-grown meat

high tech foods img 5646 2 640x427 c
Memphis Meats
Memphis Meats

You can’t see the words “cutting edge food company” without talking about Memphis Meats. (Well, technically you can, but we’re trying to establish its overall importance here!) Memphis Meats creates lab-grown meat that’s manufactured by putting living animal cells into bioreactor tanks and then feeding them oxygen, sugars, and minerals until they divide and grow.

The result? Meat that looks and, more importantly, tastes like the real thing, but without having to kill animals to create it. So far, the company’s creations have included lab-grown meatballs, chicken and duck. It’s still too expensive per pound to make into a commercial product, but that cost creeps down every day. Look for its products to hit shelves around 2021.

Seafood made from algae

high tech foods newwave shrimp

Do you want to eat like a Googler? If so, you may be interested in sampling the shrimp which have previously been served at the search giant’s famously high-end cafeteria. While these look and taste like regular shrimp, they’re actually made from specially-engineered red algae by the San Francisco biotech startup New Wave Foods.

As the startup points out, for every pound of shrimp caught up to 15 pounds of other animals — including endangered dolphins, turtles, and sharks — reportedly die. Sustainable “shrimp” would therefore represent a big step forward.

Bleedable veggie burgers

impossible burger new york
Impossible Foods
Impossible Foods

You know what would toughen up those soy latte-drinking, wispy moustache-wearing vegetarians? Veggie burgers that bleed, dammit! Fortunately, such vegetarians (which includes myself) can enjoy the animal-free burgers created by the startup Impossible Foods. Not only do they taste more beefy than regular vegetable patties, while containing no cholesterol, hormones, or antibiotics, but they actually bleed too.

The burgers are currently for sale. According to its creators, the Impossible Burger requires just one-quarter of the water used to produce the same burger from a cow, a twentieth of the land, and an eighth of the greenhouse gas emissions.

Jellyfish chips

jellyfish chips sustainable food vandmand 5 2 credit anders boe

Few things signal to the rest of the world that you work for a swanky Silicon Valley startup more than chowing down on unusual foodstuffs like jellyfish chips. While they’re not yet available to buy, tasty jellyfish chips may soon be available, courtesy of work carried out by a Danish physicist at the University of Southern Denmark.

“We developed a method for preparing jellyfish for eating with inspiration from how gels behave in different solvents,” creator Mie Thorborg Pedersen told Digital Trends. “When we immerse jellyfish in 96 percent ethanol we observe how the gel of the jellyfish collapse, in line with theories concerning gels. After 2 to 3 days we can then let the alcohol evaporate and get this paper-like jellyfish chip.”

As with other foods on this list, sustainability is the name of the game. Jellyfish are abundant compared to a lot of the other overfished seafood populations in the ocean. While there’s no commercialization on the immediate horizon, this could be a great alternate food source in the future.

Grub’s up!

high tech foods entocycle insect protein 1920

Speaking of slightly unusual sustainable food, U.K.-based startup Entocycle wants to get us all eating grubs — or more accurately the larvae of black soldier flies.

To help breed them, the company is using some cutting-edge technologies, such as growing them in smart pods which gather constant analytics about the insects and their development. While in the short term Entocycle is focusing on the animal feed market, longer term it plans to expand into the human dietary market too.

“Once people are over the ‘ick’ factor — which is only really a prevailing attitude in the west — then there is nothing to stop insects becoming part of a person’s regular, healthy diet,” CEO Keiran Olivares Whitaker told Digital Trends. “It would take a great shift in attitudes and behavior, and I think we would very much one day aim to be a part of that.”

A nice glass of algae

genetically engineered algae demo ge
Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications
Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Worried about keeping a plate of black soldier fly larvae in your stomach? No problem: you could just wash it down with a nice lukewarm mug of soupy, genetically engineered algae. That’s what researchers from the University of California, San Diego and renewable energy company Sapphire Energy have been working on — and it could turn out to be the answer sustainable farmers are looking for.

“It’s sustainable because we can grow algae on non-arable land using non-potable or even salt water,” Stephen Mayfield, director of the California Center for Algae Biotechnology at UCSD, told Digital Trends. “Algae are also more productive than crop plants so we can produce protein, which the world really needs, in a more efficient way, and stop cutting down our rainforest to grow soybeans.”

Plus it can be used as a biofuel, too. It’s like the eco-friendly version of that Saturday Night Live sketch about a dessert topping that also’s a floor wax!

3D-printed food

high tech foods collaborations 3dpritedfood

3D printed food is a broader category than anything else on this list, but no list of cutting edge food-tech should be without it. There are a number of 3D food printers available, such as the ChefJet from 3D Systems, which crystalizes thin layers of fine-grain sugar into different shapes, or pasta-maker Barilla’s 3D printer, which creates noodles using water and semolina flour.

While 3D printing with food is still relatively new, long term it should make it possible to engineer some exquisite new meals that wouldn’t be possible in any other way. Plus, who wouldn’t want to get home from the office, and just print off that evening’s meal, without having to toil away in the kitchen to make it?

Emerging Tech

Warm up or cool down with the press of a button on the wrist-worn Embr

We review the Embr Wave, a personal heating and cooling wearable designed by a team of MIT engineers that’s now on Kickstarter. Our thoughts? It’s a little bit addictive.
Smart Home

Hello Fresh vs. Blue Apron: Which meal-delivery service is better?

To save time in the kitchen, some busy people order takeout, some look to devices like slow cookers and pressure cookers, and others try home-delivery meal services. These days, you have several meal-delivery services to choose from if you…
Emerging Tech

Hope it doesn’t melt! Rocket to ISS carries vital supplies — including ice cream

A rocket has launched over Virginia's eastern shore, carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Inside the spacecraft are supplies for the ISS itself and the crew onboard, such as scientific equipment and food.
Smart Home

These holiday gadgets will make cooking your meal a breeze

Are you dreading the lengthy process of cooking a holiday dinner? Try these holiday gadgets to make the job of cooking much easier. These items will make for an easy, breezy meal.

Tips for surviving the nuclear wasteland in 'Fallout 76'

Before running into nuclear wasteland with your Pip-Boy, take a moment to consider these Fallout 76 tips. From food and water to maintaining weapons and armor, here are the things all beginners should know.
Emerging Tech

‘Super-Earth’ discovered orbiting nearby star

Astronomers have discovered a large planet circling a sun nearby to Earth called Barnard's Star. The potential new planet is thought to be cold and icy and has a size of around 3.2 times the Earth.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?
Emerging Tech

OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully tests its asteroid-sampling arm

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, launched in September 2016, is closing in on its target of the Bennu asteroid. The craft has now unfurled its robotic arm, called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), and tested it successfully.
Product Review

DJI has always been the king of drones, and the new Mavics are almost perfect

After flying both the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom for over a week, we’re convinced that these are two of the best drones that DJI has ever made.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Emerging Tech

Smarter cities need smarter addresses. And you just need 3 words

To make really smart transportation choices, more precise location data will have to be integrated with citywide transportation data. Here’s how one company is mapping the world by using just three words.
Emerging Tech

Ghostly galaxy discovered lurking on the edge of the Milky Way

A team of astronomers from the University of Cambridge have discovered a strange galaxy next door to the Milky Way. The dwarf galaxy, named Antlia 2, is dark and dim and gives out much less light than expected.
Emerging Tech

Ancient crater the size of NYC discovered under the Greenland ice sheet

A huge crater has been discovered beneath the ice of Greenland, and is thought to be the result of a meteorite impact millions of years ago. The crater is one of the largest ever discovered, measuring 19 miles across.