Our weekly serving of off-the-menu items—a few popular favorites from the week, as well as a few morsels that may have slipped your notice.

Growing Greens in the Desert

Not only is this Jordanian greenhouse in the middle of an expansive desert, but it’s also using seawater to cultivate its plants. Jordan is mostly landlocked, and as a water poor country farming already takes up more than half its water supply. However, the Sahara Forest Project greenhouse is turning to a neglected water source – the Red Sea. Solar panels on the roof of the greenhouse collect energy to desalinate the water, and the irrigation runoff helps keep the greenhouse cool.

When Robots Take your Fast Food Order

The year is 3000 2019, and a robot just took your order at the drive-through. Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard in Denver is making this a possibility, with the introduction of an AI-based drive-through system. The robot—with an amiable, female voice—began handling the restaurant’s breakfast orders last week.

Photo by Stuart Isett.

Farming in a World Without Sunlight

Engineer David Denkenberger is preparing for the aftermath of a nuclear catastrophe—a world covered in soot, and without sunlight. As a cofounder of the Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters, Denkenberger focuses his research on alternative food sources that could survive large-scale disasters. His work points towards mushrooms, strange deep-sea fish, and protein-rich bacteria as a few of these potential food alternatives.

Bacteria-Fueled Light Fixtures

This sustainable light source from Dutch designer Teresa van Dongen relies on living bacteria to produce its electricity. These bacteria act like a living battery, excreting electrons in the way that we breathe out CO2. There’s only one stipulation—the lighting fixture relies on its owner to feed it a shot of water with some acetate or vinegar once a week!