AGRITECH & FOOD TECH: Leveraging Technology to Feed the World

One of the biggest challenges of the coming decades is how to feed a growing world population despite limited scope to expand agricultural land and reduced labour supply due to urbanization. And all of this is coming against the backdrop of unpredictable and extreme weather patterns arising from climate change.

It is a herculean task; a study at the University of Washington forecasts that the world population, currently at 7.8 billion, could peak at 9.7 billion in 2064 – that is an additional equivalent to almost six times the USA’s current population. To sustain current food consumption patterns, therefore the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations predicts that food production would have to rise by a whopping 50 per cent.

The massive environmental impact makes this scarcely sustainable. Agriculture is the single largest user of freshwater, accounting for over 90 per cent of global annual freshwater consumption, while single-handedly generating 18 per cent of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Too many harvests can also lead to soil degradation.

Consumers are already doing their part. Concerned about the carbon footprint of their food as well as their health, they are becoming more discerning. Healthy eating is a priority for many, and preferences are undergoing a seismic shift.

To meet these challenges, agriculture and food industries have to adapt, the former by delivering more food from fewer resources, and the latter by producing healthier food via methods that are less harmful to the planet. Demand for tools and solutions to increase productivity and boost profits has increased as it is clear that technical innovations are needed. Technology-driven solutions offer the promise of feeding a growing global population while limiting the burden on the environment.

Let’s take a look at some of the innovative agricultural methods offered by two companies – AgriTech and Food Tech, which aim to optimize crop yields and efficiencies, and satisfy consumers’ new demands.

AgriTech: This Company offers technical solutions from farm to table that increase crop yields while reducing stress on the environment. Here are some of the strategies the company is using to deliver more with less, such as increasing yields on agricultural lands; controlled environment farming; and supply-chain efficiency. 

Hopefully, these innovations will become increasingly widespread become long: 

  1. Precision Farming

Satellite imaging, drones, sensors

Smart irrigation and soil technologies

Data analytics with artificial intelligence and big data

Internet of Things and connectivity

 

  1. Gene Technology

Disease and pest resistance

Biofortified plants

Plant phenomics and smart phenotyping (Phenomics measures the phenotypes, i.e. the physical and biological traits, which can be produced by a plant as it develops and as it responds to its environment).

 

  1. Controlled Environment Farming

Greenhouse and Indoor farming technologies\

Vertical farming

LED lighting systems

Aeroponics and hydroponics

 

  1. Supply Chain Efficiencies

Direct farm-to-consumers (meal kit delivery, e-groceries)

Waste reduction technologies

Crop waste reuse

Cooling and storage solutions

Cold chains

Smart packaging

 

Food Tech: Alternative proteins will continue to gain popularity as healthy dieting gains momentum around the world. Here are some FoodTech strategies aimed at delivering more with less in this area: 

  1. Shelf Life Enhancement

Edible coating (of plant products)

 

  1. Alternative Proteins

Look-alike: Cell-based or lab-grown meat; plant-based dairy, meat, fish, eggs

Non-look-alike: Products made from beans, soy, mushrooms, chickpeas; algae and insects

Plant-based meat substitutes which replicate processed meat products such as burgers, chicken strips or sausages, are a particularly interesting innovation. These are often made by altering pea proteins or fermented mycoprotein, also known as fungal proteins, to recreate the texture and appearance of real meat. This is a testament to the genius of companies such as FoodTech.

Feeding a growing population in the face of shrinking farmland worldwide and the all-too-common extreme weather events that are wreaking havoc on food production is an enormous task. Technological advancements in both the agriculture and food industries can help mitigate these problems. These two companies and the industries they represent will see important changes over the coming years. Companies like AgriTech and FoodTech that innovate and bring their solutions to the mainstream, and those that adopt new technologies early, will be in a good position to reap the benefits of their forward-looking strategies.

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