Will we soon be growing our own food in our homes?

  • 20 Nov
  • 2 min

Finnish scientists have developed a bioreactor designed to enable a new kind of food production based on cultivating nutritious vegetable cells.

Work being done by scientists at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland suggests that food production may in future be based on cultivating the complex microscopic structures of plant species. It may not be necessary to grow the whole plant – as with traditional agriculture – but only the edible cells, in a bioreactor installed directly in the consumer's own kitchen. Dubbed CellPod, the bioreactor looks rather like an electric lamp and it works along the lines of a coffee machine: you insert a cartridge containing vegetable cells, which then draw on the water in the machine to ferment and grow. What is really novel about this vegetable cell incubator is that it is designed for domestic use, with a planned weekly harvest of some 500 grams of edible material per cartridge. The researchers have mainly been working with wild berries from the Arctic region to provide the seed-culture for the CellPod, but it is quite feasible to cultivate the nutritious cells of any other type of plant in exactly the same way. The VTT team is still working to improve the results, trying especially to produce vegetable matter with a better flavour. This initiative could lead to a wider variety in the human diet, which is today restricted to eight main crops and 20 or so fruit and vegetable species. However, given the worrying predictions for climate change, the aim is also to find new ways of producing food so as to become less reliant on environmental conditions and ensure that the human race can continue to obtain the vitamins and anti-oxidants that we need.

By Marie-Eléonore Noiré