Fixing our Future Food Problem
Food has been in the news a lot lately. In the wake of a heightened global awareness for climate change, more and more reports have been coming out, helping everyone understand the problems related to food security and sustainability. Just last week, the UN issued a dire warning: Food is going to get really expensive. More than 100 experts contributed to this report which outlines how our current food system is already being impacted by climate change, and how it will get worse if we don't make any changes because land plays a central role in absorbing and emitting greenhouse gases. From a farmers perspective, many claimed they don't need to read the science - because they are living it.
For those already well informed about climate change and where our food system is headed, this was not a surprise. We are already aware that we are facing a worldwide food challenge due to increasing populations, decreasing arable land and improper distribution globally.
But there is hope.
It starts with understanding that these reports, although based on science, are also here to shape political and public opinion. These reports paint a picture of a future that is bleak, should we decide to do nothing. They aim to incite action, change policy and educate the public.
What the report doesn’t touch upon is the many solutions already being applied, and currently in the works (starting to commercialize or undergoing research & development) that will contribute to making that bleak future nothing more than a much-needed wake up call. Here are just a few areas where solutions are being developed and Inerjys is actively investigating and investing:
Local and indoor farming – I talked about this in a previous post, but essentially with these practices, we can farm more food per square foot, with less water, and without relying on arable land. And by expanding these practices we can reduce our reliance on food imports, reducing the carbon footprint related to food transportation, but also make remote communities and food-insecure countries more self sufficient.
De-desertification – Inerjys has invested in Desert Control, a nano technology that binds to a grain of sand allowing deserts to retain water and grow produce. Many other innovations in this area are being developed and we are excited by the potential to reverse the decreasing amount of arable land throughout the world.
Changing diets – Although this may be more of a North American and European phenomenon for the moment, we are seeing an increase in plant-based diets, which explains why companies like Beyond Meat has been expanding so rapidly. For all the meat lovers out there, you don’t even need to stop eating it, with innovations like lab-grown meat (you’ll get over it eventually) we can rapidly decrease our reliance meat farmers while also significantly reducing carbon emissions from the meat industry. As developing countries start incorporating more meat into diets, alternatives like these can be introduced to their markets before their reliance on meat becomes an additional barrier to address. Another interesting area is food waste reduction. With all the produce that goes to waste, new ways of reducing that waste are being explored. Still Good, another Inerjys investment is riding that wave. By rescuing leftover juice pulp and combining it with spent grains from beer manufacturers, Still Good makes delicious snacks that are upcylced and fresh.
Farming efficiency – With every challenge comes opportunity. Opportunities to reinvent older methods, optimize our approaches and get smarter about resource usage. Technologies like selective spraying for farmers leverage AI and image recognition to reduce pesticide, herbicide and fungicide usage. Better irrigation systems reduce our water usage, and more and more research is being obtained informing farmers on how to increase soil health.
Of course, we must take this report seriously. Even more, we must be careful not to project what we see in our modern cities as global trends, because our food challenge will primarily affect millions of people living in rural settings and third-world countries. But as we work to electrify rural villages, like we are doing with AESP Green Energy in Africa, and as we invest in technologies that can be applied globally, we are planting the seeds for a better tomorrow. I am confident that we can overcome these challenges, but we will need everyone’s support, and the time is now.