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The Future of Food Manufacturing

With the world's population likely to rise to nine-billion by 2015 - how can we feed the world?

9Feb

The next forty years will be filled with challenges for the global food system. It's not implausible that earth's total population will rise to nine-billion by 2050. To add further pressure to food manufacturers, many people are likely to be wealthier than they are today, creating further demand for specialised foods that will require new and inventive ways for producers to churn out quality food in a much shorter period of time.

Arguably however, it's the issues facing production that threaten to be the most damaging for the global food system. The effects of climate change are likely to accelerate, with competition for land and water also likely to intensify. Due to this, there's likely to be a period in which organisations adapt to these issues, which despite being positive, will expose the food system to an array of economic and political pressures.

It's important to not lose sight of the fact that today's food system is fraught with misgivings. Starvation continues to be one of the world's most prolific killers, and with almost two-billion people lacking the correct nutrients to live life to its fullest, food is still a scarce resource in many nations. If you contrast this with rising obesity levels both in North America and Western Europe, then there's a clear unbalance that must be resolved.

Additionally, many of the systems used to harvest food are unsustainable and a direct contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. A heavy reliance on fossil fuels as well as an erosion of soil, have meant that the environment is being affected by the way we produce food.

When faced with the problem of producing more food in the past, we've turned to deforestation as a way of making room for more farms. According to The National Geographic 'trading tropical forest for farmland is one of the most destructive things we can do to the environment, and it's rarely done to benefit the 850 million people in the world who are still hungry'. Above all else, deforestation must be avoided at all costs.

Instead, it's essential that we fill the 'yield gaps' which have emerged in farms all around the world. Turning these less productive farms into successful hubs can be encouraged through the use of high-tech, precision farming systems, which can increase the outputs of these farms ten-fold. It's been reported that over the next 25 years all food production will come from existing agricultural land - the tools are there already, we just need to make use of them.

Above all, it's imperative that technology is used to make the faming process more efficient and there's no doubt that our capacity to do this will only improve as the decades go by. Tackling waste is also something which should be looked at - imagine if all the food that restaurants threw away was actually eaten or if we all tried that little bit harder to make sure nothing we bought went out of date, there would be a lot more food to go around, which in itself, would be a great starting point.

Addressing how we feed the world will undoubtedly be a major issue over the next decades. It should however be seen as a joint effort and not something which is entirely in the hands of policy makers. We're running out of space, so it'll be essential that we leverage the correct technologies to feed the world.

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