What will be the demand in future of food? Within the next 30 years, we will add another 2 billion people to the global population. This will increase the demand for food by large amounts. But the challenge is not just that we will have more mouths to feed! We also see a fundamental shift in the diets around the world. The population as a whole will become more prosperous. They will then demand higher quality foods. The future food will also be different. They will eat more prepared foods and expect to eat more proteins.
The result will be that the food demand in the next 3 decades will double. Also a 50% increase in protein demand and an unprecedented increase in the agricultural output is required. In parallel to this trend we are also seeing more crops diverted to feed and fuel uses. The limited land availability and a chronic limitation on fresh water resources are serious hurdles. In fact, lack of access to fresh water will be one of the greatest challenges in the next few decades.
Today while we still see improvements in farming techniques, fertilizer use, and crop protection our progress has slowed. Based on analysis of historical yield improvement we came to this inference. We may expect the yields for corn, rice, wheat, and soy – the four crops which account for about two thirds of globally harvested food calories – to grow only by 38% to 66% by 2050. Much less than what is required.
So, the big question is – Can technology provide a path for future of food?
Consumers are more in touch with their food and food preparation. The new generation of people are influenced by the celebrity chefs, cooking shows, and over 30 million videos on food on You Tube. They discuss food on social media. As a result young people are getting back to the land and driving increased production of organic, artisanal, and local foods.
Will Agriculture provide the next Silicon Valley?
Innovations in digital technologies such as advanced data analytics, predictive modeling, and robotics are making farms more efficient. Biotechnology advances in genetic engineering will help us create better and more abundant foods. Both financiers and farmers have now many reasons to be very optimistic about the potential of AgTech. With the right technologies delivering the right data at the right time, farmers can optimize their process. This improves the use of inputs and improve productivity.
The new technology brings about digitization of farms. With this it is possible to see moisture level, temperature of soil, and much more in real time. They have already happened in the US mid-west. This combined with local weather data with agronomic models will pave the path of the future of food production.
So the questions we are left pondering are: what will be the breakthrough innovations in agriculture? How will we better utilize our limited land and water resources? Will consumers accept these new age technologies? And, how will we make new innovations available to the people at bottom of the economic pyramid?