With concerns about our ability to feed 12 billion people by the end of the century, one engineer is looking to replace conventional food with something produced by a 3D printer, and he’s getting a grant from NASA to create a prototype.

NASA backs 3D food printer to feed growing populationThe $125,000 grant gives Anjan Contractor and his company, Systems & Materials Research Corporation, six months to create a prototype.

Contractor ultimately expects to see a 3D printer in every kitchen, replacing food with powder and oil cartridges loaded into a printer to create custom meals for an individual’s diet and nutritional needs.

The 3D printers could end food waste as Quartz reports cartridges would be shelf-stable for up to 30 years.

The immediate goal of the grant isn’t as far-reaching. NASA hopes the grant, under its Small Business Innovation Research program, will yield a product that will allow astronauts to print food during long space missions.

Video of Contractor’s chocolate printer, seen here, sets the foundation for his current concept, the “pizza printer.” The prototype will print the layers of a pizza, starting with the dough, and heat the food as it’s printed. Similar to other 3D printers, recipes can be shared as software with instructions telling the printer how much sugar, complex carbohydrate and protein to mix at each layer.

Contractor has competition in the “food of the future” category. A Missouri-based company is currently researching 3D bioprinters while a doctor in the Netherlands is testing the use of stem cells to grow your future meals.

Contractor says the current food system can’t meet a growing population’s needs and people must have an open mind.

“Eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food,” Contractor said.

NASA backs 3D food printer to feed growing population