Challenges & opportunities
Developing sustainable food systems
After a prolonged decline, world hunger appears to be on the rise again according to the UN Secretary General’s 2018 Sustainable Development Goals report. More than 800 million people worldwide are undernourished. 150 million children under age 5 are too small for their age and 50 million have too low weight for their height.
Any existing concerns about growing food shortages have been further increased following the locust outbreak in East Africa and the global spread of COVID-19. Especially as some countries are moving to restrict their export of agricultural products, one of the most important challenges is how countries can develop sustainable agriculture that ensures sufficient quantities of highly nutritional food.
Establishing sustainable agriculture requires us to look beyond aspects of nutrition and food security, however. We also need to consider the environmental, social, and economic dimensions of agricultural practices. In particular, sufficient attention should be paid to securing protein sources as more consumers are seeking sustainable food with less environmental impact. Hence, there is a growing challenge to provide plant-based meat-like foods (PBMs), cultured meats, and land-based aquaculture as a means of protein intake.
Technological innovations to realize sustainable food systems
The realization of sustainable food systems depends on many factors that need to be addressed, including soil and land use, breed and farming, and harvesting. For each of them, technological innovation proves to be a critical enabler.
What innovations can help secure soil nitrogen sources and reduce environmental impact, for example? Which technologies enable improved cultivation management, automation of farming operations and increased production? And how can energy savings be achieved in harvesting and distribution?
Achieving sustainable food systems is not just a matter of how food is produced, however. Aspects related to marketing and consumption should be addressed, as well. Which gains to expect by deploying technological innovations for ensuring traceability of produce or re-using food waste, for example? And how to control excess food intake to reduce the amount of food loss?
In conclusion, technological innovation creates opportunities for all these challenges related to production, marketing and consumption of food. In particular, emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things or Big data can help develop monitoring capabilities and platforms to support the development of sustainable food systems.