Let us be in no doubt, food production and processing is in the midst of the biggest change since the industrial revolution.
And not too soon, society is facing some mega challenges and changes, many of which relate to food and the way we produce it. These include:
- The world is getting hungrier— with global population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050, food demand will increase by 60-70%
- The world is getting wealthier world — emergence of a new middle class increasing premium food and beverage consumption
- Customers are becoming choosier— information empowered consumers demand particular ethics, provenance, sustainability or health attributes
- Technologies are becoming transformative— advances in production and transport, machine learning, computer vision, robotics
- Our political, financial and environmental systems are more unstable— changes resulting from globalisation, a changing climate and the political forces of anti-globalisation.
- We are becoming unhealthier – for the first time in history the life expectancy of children is lower than their parent generation and decreasing, mainly due to poor diet. In Australia 60% of adults overweight or obese, and 1.7m people have diabetes (7%); which is projected to be 3m by 2025. Total health care costs set to increase as a proportion of government budgets
- Finally food production is the leading cause of the some of the earths major environmental problems. For example in Australia, 60% of land use, 70% of water use and 16% of greenhouse gases are due to agricultural production. This land use is also contributing to soil erosion, dryland and irrigated salinity and a decline in the provision of ecosystem services, such as pollination.
Recognising these issues the United Nations has developed the Global Sustainable Development Goals as a rallying call for sustainable development (you can find a progress report published in May 2019 here).
Many of these goals are directly relevant to food production and distribution, including:
- zero hunger – food production and distribution,
- good health and well-being – diet and nutrition,
- industry innovation and infrastructure – ag and food tech and transformation,
- sustainable cities and communities – sustainable food production,
- responsible consumption and production – reducing food waste and transforming into new products,
- climate action – mitigation and adaptation in food sector, and carbon sequestration,
- life below water – management of fisheries and pollution/run off,
- life on land – integrated landscapes that support food production and biodiversity
But as we know the delivery of these goals will need translation into sustainable business practises.
What are the options and potential for change in the agrifood and beverage sectors? Keep a look out for my next blog post in which I outline the top 10 predictions for trending food changes.