Future of Food and Agriculture

The future of food: experts predict how our plates will change

Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University

Unless there are big changes within the next 20 years, I foresee a two-class food system. One class will eat industrialised food produced as cheaply as possible at the expense of its workers and natural resources. The other will enjoy home gardens and locally and sustainably produced food, at greater cost

Richard Branson, British Entrepreneur

Twenty years from now companies like ‘Beyond Meat’will be making foods that taste just like meat but eliminate the need for cattle and other animals. This will result in us consuming 35 times less lamb and 15 times less water and could be as much as 20 times less costly.

Ray Kurzweil, Futurist

Today over one third of usable land is devoted to agriculture. Vertical agriculture will free up almost all of this.

Agriculture is today a major contributor to pollution of all kinds including 50% of antibiotic usage, one third of freshwater pollution with nitrogen and phosphorus, and almost all pesticide found. Vertical agriculture will be able to recycle all nutrients, capture all pollutants, and require no use of antibiotics and pesticides. Production will be decentralised allowing food to be produced near the location of consumption. Food can be healthier, for example, meats with anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats can replace saturated fats. The massive animal cruelty of today’s factory animal farming will be eliminated.

Mark Bittman, Food journalist, author, and columnist for The New York Times

There might be some fancy footwork but a 3D printed cheeseburger will still be a cheeseburger.

Master Chef Trainee to cook your dinner

A Chinese university has deployed two robot chefs which can cook a meal in about four minutes and feed 500 hundreds people in one hour.

These two robots can make over 2,000 different kinds of dishes independently. It can ignite the fire and put cooking oil and all the ingredients all by itself. Now, 70 percent of the dishes in the university canteen are cooked by the robot chefs. Besides saving manpower and materials, the cooking fume emission has also decreased 50 percent.

A consumer version of the robo chef for homes may be available as soon as 2017 after it finishes training under MasterChef champion Tim Anderson. You can select and tailor your recipes to suit your needs by adjusting the time you have, listing your allergens, how many calories you want to consume, the type of food, and even what equipment you’d like to use.

And you don’t even have to worry about managing multiple equipment in your kitchen as the consumer unit will come up with built in refrigerator and dishwasher.

Our perspective

Agricultural revolution (10,000 B.C.) is considered an epoch as it marked the transition from hunting and gathering to beginning of settled life and led to the emergence of civilizations. The second agricultural revolution coincided with the introduction of mechanization of farming due to Industrial revolution and also led to the introduction of new crops from trade with other regions and dramatic improvements in outputs, such as crop and livestock yields.

In the last century, we proved the Malthusian catastrophe prediction (human population growth would outpace food production, which would lead to societal ruin) wrong. This third agricultural revolution was largely aided by technology as huge progress was made in plant genetics, intensive farm mechanisation, improvement in infrastructure (irrigation and distribution), modernisation of management techniques, and use of synthetic fertilisers, and pesticides.

We are witnessing another agricultural and food revolution led again by science, which will be marked by self-sustainable, large scale genetically modified as well as organic, foray into urban agriculture, factory production and customised home grown (printed) food.

We believe that the future will create more surplus in agriculture with application of robotics, sensors, genetics and data sciences bringing down the prices of food. However, agriculture will be less resource intensive and practiced sustainably. Vertical farming, food factories, local production and urban agriculture will free up space and time required from farm to plate and consumers will also be able to print diverse food at home customised to their taste and calorie requirement.

Food business will flourish with better and adequate food to all with decreased wastage. People will spend less and less time cooking their food and the trend of eating out and consumption of processed but healthy food will continue to increase.

Agriculture and food will be an interesting and gainful small business, often intertwined with decreased wastage. People will spend less and less time cooking their food and the trend of ‘eating out’ food (eaten in a restaurant or getting it delivered at home) and consumption of processed but healthy food will continue to increase.

Gazing through the crystal ball

  1. Grow your own organic food! It will be healthy, cheaper and seasonal by default. It’s possible in any sunny space at home.
  2. Start cooking, for self and family. Everyone should cook. It’s also far easier than ever. Learn to cook.
  3. There would be tremendous new opportunities in the food business. Try it out for personal and professional gains.
  4. Intensive farming will also be an interesting urban micro-business opportunity.

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