Our basic need is food security. But how we produce food around the world has accelerated climate change. Scientists and farmers and food producers are now looking to see how sustainable production process can help to reverse this challenge.
It is estimated that by 2050 our global population will hit 9 billion with almost 70% being city dwellers. This increase is projected to require three times more resources than we currently use. So the race is on to find innovations that will feed us into the future.
The definition of food waste spans from post-harvest loss to any loss in edible food mass across the entire food chain. This is significant as much of the waste happens even before the food reaches our plate.
Around 80% of all materials are directly discarded after usage, thus highlighting the need for a circular alternative to the linear “take, make, and dispose” model of production. However, only 8.6% of the world can be currently defined as circular.
So, how much do we know about sourcing food more sustainably, how much food we waste, and what steps we can take to make a difference?
Sourcing food responsibly
Deforestation, making way for agriculture to sustain human populations, contributes approximately a quarter of all green house gas emissions.
Farming uses water intensive methods which globally accounts for 70% of water usage.
It is becoming more challenging to grow food. Impacts of climate change such as drought, flooding, rising temperatures and sea levels, have turned many parts of the planet into unproductive wastelands. This means a loss of nutirient rich soil which renders it incapable of growing food.
The cattle industry contributes 40% of all methane emissions from food productions. Rice accounts for even more land use.
Scientists and animal scientists are looking to nature to see how we can produce food which can reduce the climatic impact on the planet but also be beneficial for the climate.
Growing our own
Each of us have a choice to stop being dictated to by the food industries that encourage us to believe we need things that actually causes the disease we suffer from, and that cause environmental destruction elsewhere.
Concern for what has happened to our world, the destruction to the earth’s balance, the climatic change, the anger at our governments and the inequalities for all that have emerged, have led many people to grow their own food again.
The use of plants and food medicine has been part of all traditional cultures for thousands of years. Many communities treasure certain foods, vegetables, herbs and fruits for medicinal purposes to prevent and treat disease, giving them a strong bond with nature.
Innovating food growth
Before globalization our communities relied on local produce grown seasonally which packs all the nutrients needed for our bodies to function. But now the race is on to find innovations that will feed us into the future.
Aeroponics, Hydroponics, and Aquaponics are being explored by scientists and small scale farmers looking at indoor farming without soil or sunlight. It reduces arable land use, does not use harmful chemicals, but although it is less water intensive, it is energy intensive. At present these cannot be scaled to grow staple crops of wheat, rice and corn which need space and water.
It will take a combination of technological innovation, new ways of farming and changing consumer demand to create a shift in food production. There is solution focused experimentation to find innovative ways to transform food production into a green solution.
Revitalising the land
Data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 1 in 9 of the world's existing 7.3 billion people face undernourishment and don’t have access to adequate food and basic health care. Those trapped in poverty, food scarcity and ill health remind us of the need to change our food systems radically.
In the past 30 years many countries lacking food security contain lands suffering from natural disasters, war and displacement, resource mining, and commercial usage making it unfit for settlements, prioritising land for agricultural use for export to earn their government's foreign exchange.
In the meantime rich societies use increasing wealth to drive consumption focussing on more exotic food, over indulgence, and an increase in lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and obesity.