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.

This Hong Kong Food Startup Is Employing the Elderly

Combating food waste and unemployment at the same time, a Hong Kong food startup is hiring the elderly to package frozen dinners. The startup – created by entrepreneur Kenneth Choi Man-Kin – uses organic produce from urban farms, ensuring that local produce isn’t discarded due to its short shelf life. The company also provides a way for Hong Kong’s growing elderly population to earn wages and support themselves post-retirement.

The Complex Filtration System of Manta Rays

Researchers at California State University have discovered that manta rays possess a complex filtration system that separates food from unwanted particles as they swim through the water with their mouths open. The manta ray’s filtration system avoids clogging, and scientists think that systems modeled after them may prove useful for filtering microplastics from water or filtering beverages.

Preserving Biodiversity through Farming

The Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute is home to more than 62,000 species of native plants that can be cultivated. Instead of only storing seeds, the EBI also works with local farmers to preserve plants through use. At least 40,000 more varieties of plants are preserved as farmers grow them in their fields.

Making Farming in Space Possible

The plant hormone strigolactone may allow future space colonies to farm in space. Although the soil quality on other planets has few nutrients, this hormone encourages plant growth through mycorrhiza – a symbiotic relationship between fungi and plant roots.This process enables plants to grow even in poor soil, creating the possibility for farms on Mars.

A Lamp that Helps Grow Plants Indoors

Architecture studio Bjarke Ingels Group and lighting brand Artemide have collaborated to design a lamp that helps plants grow. The lamp changes colors to emit lights of different wavelengths, depending on the plant’s stage of development. Intended for indoor plants, the lamp can also be adjusted to provide pleasant, ambient lighting for people.