I like to share the visible and hidden challenges of feeding the future. According to the United Nation, the world population is projected to grow from the existing 7.3 billion in 2015 to 9.7 billion in 2050. The increase in the number of populations means that we need to have a method to ensure we are able to feed 2.4 billion more people on the globe, on top of stopping hunger.
Example of some of the current dilemmas are many of our lands are no longer suitable or available as agricultural land (transformed into modern buildings and cities), decreasing amount of available underground water, decreasing the crop yields due to pest and diseases and climate changes. These factors are further complicated by the decreasing amount of farmer, working to farm and grow the crops and the livestocks.
Then, there are another question. What happens to the food we grew today? Just as an example, USDA estimated 30-40% edible food are wasted. How? Food can turn into waste, from the moment it was harvested. The crops and livestocks are living organism. Although they may seems lost its live during harvesting processes, the crops and livestocks are subjected to natural chemical process that affects its safety and quality. The natural chemical deterioration process continue to occur unless the condition for the process is not favorable for the reaction, usually through temperature control such as refrigerations.
The damage crops and livestocks then, are rejected as waste and ended up in the landfill. Further, waste can occur during processing as food companies rejects food products that are not in-compliant with the specifications. At the consumer level, the food may not be consumed before the expiry date and dispose extra foods into the garbage. Some consumers are confused regarding best before date and expiry date when discarding food. Food with best before date can be consumed after the labelled date as they do not possessed health risk. A simple quality check for food with best before date is recommended to ensure that the food texture and taste is almost similar to those that have not exceed the best before date.
Designing the future food also means looking at the aspect of nutrition and the socio-economic and cultural perspectives of the locals. Nutrition are an important aspect for growth and sustaining life's requirement for building strong communities. The origin of nutrients are from our land, that are either absorbed directly by the plant or indirectly by the livestock through their feeds. In another word, food grown on the land with poor nutrient, will ended up having poor nutrient value and vice versa. Are we getting the most nutrient out of our crops?
The importance of local foods are highlighted due to carbon footprint. However, certain local foods that belong to the developing countries such as cassava have poor nutrient but that is what the locals consume. Instead of substituting the local food with nutrient dense food, fortification with nutrients missing in their common diet such as iron and iodine provide nutrients using an acceptable food vehicle for the locals. I think the saying "there is no where like home" also refers to the social-cultural uniqueness of the local communities that we live in. These uniqueness can be preserved by adapting to the local communities that we wish to place a nutritional intervention strategies.
The imbalance family income also affects the affordability for food resulting hunger and consumption of food with low nutritive value. These are concerning as it particularly linked with wasting, underweight and stunted growth. Meanwhile, some higher income family prefers to consume more meats as they have more spending power. Access to fast foods and food that contains high fats, proteins and refined carbohydrates also contribute to the current food situation. Coupled with the lack of exercises, many non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases are linked to poor dietary habits.
Some other novel introduction of future foods include lab grown meats and insect farming. In certain countries, insects are commonly consumed as food. In fact, insects are categorized as a good source of protein. Lab grown meats are still under testing but would you give it a try? Can it be a substitute to the current option?
In conclusion, designing the future food model is very specific to each community as every communities is unique. There is no one model fit all, in designing the future food models. Changes in dietary habits and the sustainability of our food production system along with the current and upcoming food technologies play an equally important role to define not only the quantity of food to feed the future but also, the quality of future foods from health and community perspective. I am pretty sure that I have not share them all. Please provide more comments on other consideration to feed more people.