What Will Food Systems Look Like in the Future?
Laura Del Vecchio
GreenForce Staffing @ unsplash.com
According to recent research, the entire food system accounts for around one-quarter of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and it is estimated that agriculture, forestry, and land use releases 18.4% of total GHG to the atmosphere, with 5.8% coming from livestock and manure. Animals, particularly ruminants such as cattle and sheep, due to a digestive process called "enteric fermentation," produce methane as a by-product, consequently beef and lamb tend to have a high carbon footprint.
Also, the current global population is about 7.9 billion people, and it is growing around 1.05% per year, with an estimated increase of 81 million people being born each year. On the same note, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the world's farmers will have to produce about 70% more food to feed the world's population by 2040. This means that addressing issues such as hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition in all its forms (e.g., obesity and poor nutrient intake) in the targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda while tackling the effects of Climate Change, will become a draconian challenge to take on in the years to come.
Despite global efforts to develop innovative agricultural practices and tools to increase food production efficiently, recent research by Cornell University reveals that global farming productivity is 21% lower than it could have been without Climate Change. To add stress to these figures, NASA's scientists ran an analysis using their climate model simulations to determine the potential future of the agriculture industry in responding to Climate Change and the growing world population. The results projected worrisome events.
According to research outcomes, the link between rising global temperatures and deficient crop health and productivity is explicit, suggesting that the longer duration of heatwaves and droughts, as well as changes in rainfall patterns caused by Climate Change, affected the length of growing seasons and accelerated crop maturity. In their words, "you can think of plants as collecting sunlight over the course of the growing season. [...] So, if you rush through your growth stages [...], you just have not collected as much energy. By growing faster, your yield actually goes down."
Although the research does not contemplate future changes in farming, the predictions highlight that current agricultural practices collide directly with a climate crisis. However, not everything is lost.
In an effort to draw solutions for this staggering scenario, Envisioning, together with GIZ, created the project "The Future of Food," a project where we take a close look at the impact of emerging technologies in the agrifood sector. The project contains an interview with Andrew Wallace, co-founder & CEO of Chanzi, an East African start-up producing protein from waste, and Bjoern Theiss, head of the Foresight department at Evonik 's innovation unit Creavis, and a Future Scenario that discloses future trends of food systems in the year of 2050.
You are now invited to visit the project and glimpse what is next in the food production chain.