Guest post from Innovate UK.
What does a growing population need? Environmentally sustainable, affordable, efficient food production!
The world’s population is increasing every day, set to reach 10 billion by 2050. As a result, the way we currently produce our food is insufficient. We need to be able to do more with less!
How can technology help us achieve this? How is the face of food production set to change?
Here’s a closer look at the future of food.
How Will Technology Help Farmers?
Many people assume technology will replace farmers. However, this isn’t the case.
Rather, technology will help farmers produce our food.
Precision farming uses satellites, data and diagnostics to improve the efficiency of crop production.
Farmers can use the data collected to inform decision making. This means that we will not only have more food, but it will be produced more sustainably.
This has the knock-on effect of keeping food production affordable, as it will ensure the correct amount of water input, fertiliser and crop protection products are used.
Animals will also benefit from precision farming. Due to the increased nutritional quality, animal health and welfare will also improve.
How Can We Produce Enough Food for Everyone?
What does this improved efficiency mean for the world’s population? While crop yields will be larger and more affordable, how can we ensure everyone is fed?
Vertical farming is the process of growing crops in a controlled environment. All the necessary factors will be regulated, ensuring crops receive the right amount of light, heat and water.
This can increase crop yields by up to 500%, keeping up with the demands of the growing population.
Also, as there’s no need for soil, if vertical farming is used in combination with hydroponics, crops can be grown anywhere, such as cities.
This process uses much less water than traditional farming, and the hydroponics system allows for this water to be recycled.
LED lighting is another way to ensure we have enough food for everyone. It will allow for 24/7 growth for certain crops, such as herbs.
As well as this, LED lighting will open up opportunities to grow a wider variety of crops, as growing seasons will be extended.
Thanks to technology, optimised yields and quality are the future of food production!
Gene Editing Technology
But, it’s not all about quantity! The quality of what’s on our plates is set to improve also.
The food of the future will help us tackle certain health conditions.
With increasing health concerns surrounding food, scientific advancements such as gene editing will be able to create products everyone can eat, such as gluten-free wheat and anti-allergen nuts.
As well as this, crops can be infused with omega-3 enriched oils to give them cardiovascular benefits.
The manipulation of crop characteristics will also benefit those will diet-related illnesses, such as Type-2 diabetes, by developing low glycaemic-index foods.
Improvements to Farming Across the World
However, how can we guarantee that these advancements will reach everyone?
It’s important that it’s not only the Western world who benefit from these farming methods and subsequent improved crop yields.
But, the good news is that this technology can be applied all over the world. The future will see smarter farming everywhere, even in remote or extreme places with adverse weather conditions.
Farming in Extreme Climates
LED lights can be tailored to the light requirements of plants in specific locations, providing a continual supply of crops, beneficial in places where the climate makes growing certain fruit and vegetables difficult.
For example, the Inuit in Canada find it difficult to have year-round crop production due to the cold temperatures. Vertical farming and LED lights could falsely replicate the climate needed.
Developing countries will also benefit, as LED lighting can be controlled to counteract the adverse weather conditions that make crop growth difficult. Also, more food can be produced for less.
Due to new farming techniques, we will not only be able to produce more food, but this production will be sustainable and efficient. We need to meet the demands of a growing population, and technology will allow us to do so.
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