Updated: Feb 7
Food. We can't live without it, and we're going to see a lot of changes to it over the coming decade or two. A recent report from the World Economic Forum highlights current and predicted challenges in global food supply. Currently, 30% of all food produced is wasted, 800 million people are chronically undernourished, climate change threatens 25% of crop yields, and the human population is due to reach 10 Billion by the year 2050. In addition, 75% of investment in new food production technologies happens in the Western world, resulting in unequal access to new solutions.
Today we're looking at where food technology is trending, and the types of choices that our society is going to have to make about what we eat. With genetic modification of existing crops stalled and new innovation a challenge in this area, other solutions are needed, and below we've highlighted those that appear consistently in our reading.
The flexitarian diet is the diet to feed 10 billion people and maintain the health of the planet. It signals a big shift away from meat towards nuts and plant-based proteins, along with plenty of vegetables. The diet's predicted health benefits are many, and it's good to see some serious achievable solutions being proposed and tested.
A common complaint that meat-eaters have when it comes to mostly plant-based diets is that they don't often feel 'full' if meat is not eaten as part of a meal. However new research reveals something interesting - that men actually feel fuller after eating vegan burgers than other types. It seems that gastrointestinal hormones are released that produce a feeling of satiety, and this is due to the vegan meal itself. Interesting.
The efficiency of food production continues to increase as technology improves, and robotic farming is set to explode. In an industry usually offering seasonal work in often challenging working conditions with low pay and efficiency, we can expect robotic farming to become more commonplace. Low-skill jobs will be lost, but more specialised technical work will likely emerge as the robots need operation, programming and maintenance. One to watch.
The big news at the moment is alternative proteins. With more and more articles describing the destructive effects of animal agriculture, plant-based foods are becoming big business, and meat alternatives have a far lower environmental footprint. The articles explains how the 'impossible burger' "... has a carbon footprint 89% smaller than a burger made from a cow. A new analysis found that the burger also uses 87% less water than beef, uses 96% less land, and cuts water contamination by 92%."
Not only that, but this technology is being developed to the point where it's not possible for consumers to tell the difference between Burger King's beef and impossible burgers. This has led to Impossible Foods becoming a rising brand, together with its competitor Beyond Meat, whose IPO may give it a 1.2 Billion Dollar valuation.
Beyond Meat is working on similar projects as Impossible Foods, with Del Tacos newest meat taco being 100% beyond meat, and also forming a strategic partnership with Subway to produce the Beyond Meat Subway Sub.
There appear to be plenty of opportunities for students to explore trends around the future of food, and identify opportunities to work and do business in this area. Investigations into alternative proteins as a food source, business models, entrepreneurship, science and data in agriculture, emerging jobs, analysis of job shortages, the list goes on. Enterprising teachers can look at modifying learning programmes to include this while still meeting learning objectives, and principals and governing bodies can provide the conditions for this to happen within schools. Parents can also have conversations with their children and lobby schools to set up future learning-focused activities or groups - students can also lobby their politicians about food-related causes.
Given the work that's being done, there is optimism when it comes to the future of food, but we have a long way to go, and important discussions and actions need to happen, and fast. Thank you for joining us this week. We welcome any and all feedback and comments, and please contact me with any questions or suggestions you have.