Future of Food: Responsible Production
As the world grows to nearly 10 billion people in 2050, demand for food is expected to grow by more than 50 percent. Meanwhile, planetary boundaries are already under pressure, and the food and agriculture sector is a significant contributor. Scaling the current food system is therefore not an option. More effective and responsible production practices are needed.
The first step: a look at 2025
Imagine it is 2025. From her living room in Paris, a consumer is looking at the virtual shelves of her usual supermarket. She wants to cook a healthy, nutritious and eco-friendly dinner tonight. The certifications on some plant-based burgers give her insight into the supply chain of the burgers. The quality, fairness and environmental impact of the burgers are transparent as the full value chain is fully traceable. The raw materials of these burgers are grown at a vertical farm in the periphery of Paris that produces maximum yields with minimal resources. On this farm, sensors are measuring the amount of water and fertiliser that a crop needs, and drones subsequently provide exactly this quantity. On the adjacent field robots are harvesting the crops and preparing these for transport. Meanwhile, electric vehicles are transporting raw materials from another field to a nearby climate neutral production facility where these are processed, packaged and transported to consumers. Across the globe, vertical farms like these are widespread in areas of high population density, providing a fresh food supply produced within planetary boundaries.
Urgency for responsible production
The above 2025 scenario would be a first step into the right direction, but the change that is needed to prepare for the future is of much larger scale. By 2050 the world’s population is expected to reach 9.8 billion people1 , and wealth is expected to increase, causing demand for food to increase by more than 50 percent2. While there is an urgent need to scale, we are rapidly reaching the limits of what the environment can endure.
The figures below show 2050 estimations of increase of consumption per region, and increase in planetary impact. To meet the challenge governments and businesses across the globe need to take action.