The CEO partnered with Wageningen UR and is a member of Projects LTO Noord, an independent organization, which implements projects and processes for the development of rural areas and agricultural entrepreneurs, to research the process.
3D food creates added-value to a product
Van Leeuwen presented her business model at the 3D Food Printing Conference in Venlo, the Netherlands (April 12).
“Together with my husband, we run a dairy farm with 130 cows producing a million liters of milk a year,” she said.
“We wanted to give added value to our products, including treating our own milk on the premises to make farm cheese. During my work at Wageningen UR, I discovered 3D printing of bio-plastics and with my passion for cheese I have now combined the two.
“As well as running my company, Print Cheese, I also work for ‘Projecten LTO Noord’, LTO Noord’s commercial project organization for farming.”
Prior to the launch of Print Cheese, van Leeuwen carried out a number of trials with TNO, a contract research organization based in the Netherlands, and Wageningen UR.
“Because no-one has tried to this before it made me curious to do it,” she added.
“The first test was in August last year. We tested a number of blends, although the viscosity was sometimes too low, and we discovered any air in print material had an adverse effect on the product. Goat cheese was the most successful.
The challenge is to print with two or more materials
“The degree of different shapes was tested on the third day. We discovered each cheese type needed another blend type composition, suitable for vegetarians without flavoring and colorings. Also, we don’t heat the cheese because it would have a negative influence on the taste and quality.”
According to van Leeuwen, 3D food printing appears to be in its infancy but she is ‘convinced the first households and restaurants will have their own food printers in the next 10 years.’
“We will see 3D printers that can print with chocolate, flour, sugar and pastas on-site,” she said.
“I became more enthusiastic about the initiative after the trials, and to try doing something new using my farm milk to give my products extra value.
“The challenge is to be able to print with two or more materials and diversify the shapes such as emeralds for parties or branded logos for companies. There are a lot of opportunities to discover.
“In future, we can expect to see more shapes, combining flavors and ingredients such as nuts and fruit, and additives such as vitamin and minerals.”