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Kombucha was just the beginning. This designer wants to create a bacteria-based food industry

Less cows. More cultures.

Kombucha was just the beginning. This designer wants to create a bacteria-based food industry
[Photo: Ronald Smits Small/courtesy Marek Głogowski]
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The experience of eating out with friends looks very different these days, if it happens at all, due to social distancing measures. Designer Marek Głogowski, a recent graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven, wants to change the actual food you eat too.

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Głogowski’s thesis project, Plurality Now, is a conceptual “metabolized restaurant” that challenges consumers to reconsider where the food they eat every day comes from. He does this by offering up new menu items: food derived from bacterial cultures and made solely through fermentation and molding techniques. (He also researched two other techniques that produced a kind of yellow flour, but he ended up nixing them for his dinner—they required lab equipment with a $1 million price tag.)

[Photo: courtesy Marek Głogowski]
It makes for an adventurous meal, even if it sounds a bit spartan: crunchy fermented crust, metabolized umami stew, cellular dumplings, and a sweet culture for dessert. But made with some less familiar ingredients, of course: T. pallidum, A. orzae, B. subtilis, and L. acidophilus, to name a few.

[Photo: courtesy Marek Głogowski]
The big-picture goal: Głogowski hopes the consumption of food derived from bacteria can introduce new food chains and shift people away from a reliance on industrial agriculture, a driving force behind climate change. Głogowski also wants people to think about how they can be “human bioreactors,” that is, environments for bacterial growth themselves, through their gut, and how the bacteria in their microbiome can affect the nutrients and calories they absorb from food.

[Photo: courtesy Marek Głogowski]
Głogowski’s vision is already underway, albeit with a narrower scope. There are probiotics such as yogurt; Activia has been around since 1987. And more recently kombucha, a fermented tea, has become so popular it’s a cliché. The popularity of probiotics shows in the numbers, too: The global probiotics market is expected to grow to $78.3 billion in 2026. (The market had a value of $47.1 billion in 2018.) Fermentation isn’t just a fad.

[Photo: courtesy Marek Głogowski]
Głogowski says the recipes he used for his dinner are pretty easy to replicate should you want to try some bio-based meals of your own. He recommends the “Noma Guide to Fermentation,” by Danish chef Rene Redzepi, as a source for at-home recipes for miso, kombucha, vinegar, and more. View more of Głogowski’s work here.

About the author

Lilly Smith is an associate editor of Co.Design. She was previously the editor of Design Observer, and a contributing writer to AIGA Eye on Design.

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