Only Food 3.0 will feed humanity efficiently

Only Food 3.0 will feed humanity efficiently. The transformed agriculture brings many challenges: regulatory, legal, quality processes, certified market controls, consumer protection, sustainability and green policies, change models for urban farming, including talent from the tech sector and diversification of all routine practices. But who’s going to drive with Leadership this industry to its future? Old minds resist taking initiatives…

Only Food 3.0 will feed humanity efficiently

Back in 2015, the Internet of Food was my conceptual blogging way to describe the agricultural transformation and evolution. Yes, also this sector will be transformed. Big-time!

You can see across the globe unique examples of using technology to increase and improve farm and land production. For example, the Internet of Things can improve the quality of the wine. See the below video, on how winemakers use Ericsson’s IoT technology (it was a project to work for).

Already in India, Digital agriculture empowers farmers. The technology makes farming sustainable. Smart sensors. Water use precision. Saving costs. Example: companies like CropX are using sensors to detect moisture in the soil and help farmers create irrigation systems for crops based on soil moisture and temperature; this customizes water applications to the soil.

An inefficient process to feed humanity

We need innovation and new thinking. Currently, the process of feeding humanity is costly, slow, inefficient. A difficult ‘cycle’ to fix: we need to change what we eat, how we dispose of a huge volume of remains, and why farmers and producers push for more production (draining natural resources and costs).

The world will need to produce 70% more food in 2050, in order to feed the growing population, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Technological innovation in farming is nothing new. In the 1800s we had grain elevators, chemical fertilizers, and the first tractor. Fast forward to the 1900s, when farmers start using satellites to plan their work. Smart agriculture is already becoming more commonplace among farmers and is becoming the standard.

We are towards Farming 3.0

John Deere (one of the biggest names in farming equipment) has begun connecting its tractors to the Internet to display data about farmers’ crop. The company also pioneers self-driving tractors, so farmers can perform other tasks and increase efficiency. There will be more “hacking the farm”.

To export Greek olives to Sweden you need 3-5 days of transport. To send French wines to the U.S. you need 2.414 km. There you have issues of food safety, quality preservation and increasing costs. Nearly half the food’s cost is the travel cost.

But imagine instead, growing all of our food, in a huge vertical farm downtown the city centre, or nearby to a lake to minimize transport cost, increase quality, secure freshness, and production efficiency. Yes, that means possibly to ‘sacrifice’ imported French wine. Such farming solutions can generate yields that are 200% above normal.

Challenge: genetically engineered foods

If we need more food, and more efficiency solutions, the new issue is “What food do we grow?”. The discussion has opened some years ago by a push of American producers.

The main claim here is that we have the capabilities to modify crops to match the available environment. Then the ‘preachers’ of genetically engineered food argue that technology gives us the ability to make plants resistant to infection, or more resistant to drought or cold. Is it true? Tested and controlled? Nobody seems 100% sure.

But in every society’s issue, there are more angles to think and consider before making judgments. The 33% of the Earth’s non-ice landmass is used for raising livestock -a massive amount of land- and global demand for meat will double in the coming decade. Are we hurting the planet? Irreversibly? Growing an entire cow for having a steak?

Agriculture is not crop production as popular belief holds – it’s the production of food and fiber from the world’s land and waters. Without agriculture it is not possible to have a city, stock market, banks, university, church or army. Agriculture is the foundation of civilization and any stable economy.

Allan Savory

So the problems and challenges are many:

  • The world will need to produce 70% more food by 2050 – what kind, format, ways, costs?
  • The agricultural transformation will happen – producers need synergies, scale, and efficiencies
  • Nearly half the food’s cost is the travel cost – technology will be used more (in which direction?)
  • Challenge ahead: What food do we grow, to meet all the above challenges?
  • Which is the most sustainable way to optimize water, soil, energy, land footprint, nutrients and, importantly, taste?
  • What is the role of Food (FMCG) companies in all this?

A new kind of Farming (type 3.0)

To solve all the above challenges a new workforce is needed, to blend-into agriculture and really push for innovation. The days of simply owning a giant land size are over (means nothing), if you don’t have a future-looking plan.

First, we should start working under the “direct-to-consumer” marketplaces. You know, outdoor farms need so much acreage, so they’re usually far from most of their customers/markets.

Secondly, we should start considering the indoors food growing with a tech setup that permits efficiency and quality. That will give more employment opportunities to young farmers, but to an ‘army’ of new Talent, programmers, codes, smart-grid experts, quality controllers and more. Check the example of Bowery Farming, the first indoor farm.

Third, in the age of data, technology is needed to track tasks such as watering, seeding and harvesting with software solutions stored in the cloud and accessible only by the farmer’s team.

Four, we need champions of sustainability, to lower environmental impact, fuel emissions, and related costs. Environmental champions like AeroFarms which grows flavorful, healthy leafy greens in a sustainable way. These new farmers use data and artificial intelligence to operate more efficiently. They stay small and close to population centres (their promise is to feed more people while doing less environmental damage).

Closing

They say for transformation, “see the future before it becomes your present”. European regulatory framework, but most importantly agriculture routine mindsets don’t see change. EU is still today financing old-minds, old-crops, and ways of working. National governments don’t care for the evolution; the usual political agenda is for tomorrow at max. Then, food companies are in the same trap. The few I’ve worked with don’t have a future roadmap, that takes a lot fo consumer education, shifting demand to new types of food and lower their huge cash-out budgets.

The transformed agriculture brings many challenges: regulatory, legal, quality processes, certified market controls, consumer protection, sustainability and green policies, change models for urban farming, including talent from the tech sector and diversification of all routine practices.

But who’s going to drive with Leadership this industry to its future? Old minds resist taking initiatives…

I’m letting you think: do we need more land or more brains for positive disruptions? Let me know your views.

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