Ignacio de Juan-Creix: “We believe in the fiction of design as a tool for inspiring and exploring apparently impossible scenarios”

What will the food of the future be like? How do technology, design and food combine? Plat Institute is one of the innovation centres of reference in the field of R&D&I. It is an open-code creative platform which, through research, development and education, tackles humanity’s future food problems. It does so by way of its two branches, Sci-Fi FoodLab and the Institute of Augmented Gastronomy.

Coinciding with the publication of the Delivery & Take Away Rulebook, we dedicate “In First Person” to one of the individuals that have participated in it. Ignacio de Juan-Creix is the Head of Innovation of Plat Institute. We spoke to him about food design, food technology, sustainability and the challenges of the future.

What projects are you working on right now?

We’re farmers of talent. At Plat Institute we create future landscapes: creativity is our true capital. We work in different areas and develop lines of disruptive or evolutive innovation with projects of Food Design, Circular Design and Sustainability such as Granini Growing Talent, where we place at the brands’ disposal the best talent for working together to solve real problems of the industry, or VOM Edible Cloud, where a technology for making “flying candies” has been designed.

We are also currently working in the areas of Smoking Health Research, which is a research project focussed on the 450,000 plants existing all over the world to discover if they can be smoked, vaporised, inhaled or burned and what properties they will provide that can be applied to health. Another line of research is Edible Sound or “how to eat data”, in which we study the structure of sound and the architecture of flavour. We’re giving food a voice.

And in the future? What future projects do you have on the table?

Apart from our everyday work at Plat Institute, we’re working on two more large projects: on the one hand, Foodture 2021, which we see as a great opportunity for everyone, a trending event in future food with international relevance. We’re also working on a new challenge, an international project with organisms of different countries: the creation of a hub or centre of innovation and circular design that has a strategic synergy with urban waste management, creating a system of regenerative solutions.

The Take Away & Delivery Rulebook is going to be presented shortly. What role has Plat Institute played in it?

Plat Institute presented our report on the current situation. We wanted to understand what opportunities we have facing the situation and how we can help businesses and restaurant owners through creativity. We want to contribute strategy to be able to draw immediate regenerative futures in which the planet, consumers and brands will play a joint role, as in a trophic chain where everything is indispensable.

How do the criteria of design, innovation and sustainability combine in the world of food?

For us, thinking about designing functional edible objects, applying disruptive thought and circular design, is meeting these criteria.

We see this, for example, in the Elisava’s Final Degree Projects in Food Design, guided by Mariana Eidler, of which we are co-tutors. Last year, the designer Laura Gispert created a set of edible cutlery, a functional project that applies the principles of design, innovation and sustainability.

What is the designer’s role in the food industry?

The designer has the capacity to transform a problem or a necessity into an object or system with the required functionality. Applying product design and usability design to the packaging or design of the food makes it possible to contribute beauty and health to the object, seeking to correlate form, objective, materials and functionality with a sincere, attractive and environment-friendly design.

Beyond emotion, design plays a fundamental role in the agri-foodstuff industry, which has to take into account basic principles of design, an efficient flow plan of materials and persons, logical distribution of the installations and efficient operation of the process.

The food market is in constant evolution.

Barcelona is at the summit of innovation in food design, food technology, social food supply and sustainability. At Foodture Barcelona, which is where we display the trends in an open manner, we seek to create an open space where various disciplines such as science, design and innovation come together to explore and redesign the future of food. Foodture Barcelona spotlights and unites creative minds that are leading the change in the world order of food. We also publicise avant-garde design works in the recently-launched Foodture connection platform and the 2020 edition of Spoons Exhibition.

We believe in the fiction of design as a tool for inspiring and exploring apparently impossible scenarios. Science fiction becomes the science of tomorrow, enabling us to draw and reflect on future scenarios with avant-garde solutions that are functional in the present.

And ten years from now, what will the Food Design market be like? How will we feed ourselves in the next decade?

We believe that the future can be designed. It’s an opportunity for improving the world by means of this principle, applying beauty and functionality. The present and our capacity of imagination are what determines the possible futures that can be constructed.

In the next decade we will feed ourselves in a more sustainable manner and perhaps with more types of proteins. We will eat combining delivery with videogames. Design applied to the creation of new solar protein foods, circularity and regenerative agriculture will be decisive. In any case, the most important factor is that the traceability of everything we create jointly must be as efficient as possible taking into account the fragility of our ecosystems.

This year, 2021, Barcelona will be the world capital of sustainable food. How can towns and cities contribute to advancing towards sustainable food?

In many ways. For example, by taking advantage of the roofs of buildings, generating recovery systems of organic wastes and plastics or generating new urban crop systems with hydroponics or aquaponics, which instead of Kilometre Zero will be Metre Zero.

It is totally viable to design a programme that offers a different experience in the inhabited design of ecological urban settings centred on human beings and improved digitally by means of the intersection of the disciplines of town planning and data science.

Will the food of the future be 100% sustainable?

“Faced with climate change, either we acclimatise or we acclima-die”.

It has to be sustainable to feed humanity and be able to continue living on the planet. We have to take urgent measures to care for the Earth, the air, the seas and the oceans or we will not be able to maintain a balance in our ecosystem.

It’s a question of joint humanitarian strategy. If we want to survive, we have to change our model of consumption: from linear agriculture to permaculture, from design of linear consumption to circular consumption ... and the same with everything else. Today we can change the order of things if we conceive a vision that is not short-term. We could offer a regenerative vision of all our industries, seeking models of economy and ecology that permit caring for the Earth and our own health while we continue working and feeding a possible future in which everything is better designed.

It all depends on us, on who we want to be in 2030 or 2050.

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