Industrial farms, biotech firms and global mega food corporations emerged over the past decades to provide safe, reliable and low cost foods for 7.2 billion global consumers. With efficient operations and large budgets for research and development of new products, “Big Ag/Big Food” has undoubtedly helped to mitigate hunger and increase nutrition around the globe. But large-scale industrial agriculture and food production has also been part of the global environmental and health problems, contributing to climate change, soil erosion and over-consumption. Entrepreneurs in various countries, some supported by Silicon Valley high tech investors, have come up with intriguing new ideas to feed a growing global population with environmentally and socially sustainable methods – or no animals at all.
- New protein sources: This is the new frontier: generating protein without raising and slaughtering cattle, hogs, sheep or chicken. What sources of protein are more abundant and do not emit methane into the atmosphere? How about insects and jelly fishes, of course.
- New start ups like Exo, Six Foods, and Bitty Foods ave already launched snacks with protein powder derived from crickets. If consumers in the North Western hemisphere can overcome their gag reflexes, a big new market beckons to be explored.
- Climate change also has a huge impact in the oceans: warmer weather and surface water temperatures prevent oxygen to get into the deeper waters, especially in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, which causes the death of many fishes we love to eat. Those species that survive with less oxygen: octopus and jelly fish. Jelly fishes are actually highly nutritious, providing first rate protein and collagen. Several companies have invested large resources to use jelly fishes for nutritional supplements and increasingly in food.
- Laboratory Meats. Ever had a 3-D printed steak? Bioprinting is the latest fad to create meat without violating animal welfare. A new venture Modern Meadows, financed by Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel, is betting on acceptance on meaty dishes, served on the Star Trek or on the Jupiter mission in 2001 Space Odyssee.
- Nanotechnology: Many scientists agree: the use of advanced nanotechnology could make food production and packaging safer and prevent cross-contamination and the transmission of food-borne illnesses. It’s just that consumers are still wary of the unknown side effects, if there are any, to manipulate micro-molecules that are 100,000 times smaller than a human hair. Nano-particles or compounds can have different physical and chemical properties than larger version of the same compounds, which allows them to function in different manners guided by quantum mechanics. Sounds too much like science fiction? Certainly to some consumers. A backlash in recent years have prevented food companies to use nano-technology in production processes and packaging, but with new labeling laws in the EU, consumers may feel safer using food products containing nano-particles, as long as their features and benefits are well explained.
- Efforts to eliminate food and packaging waste: Every restaurant, retail store and consumer in the developed, wealthy world is guilty of wasting food. Whether it’s taste, transportation, storage, expiration dates or a lack of smart inventory management – more than a third of all food produced on the globe is wasted. That provides a huge strain on lesser developed countries where hunger is still a norm for many families. In addition, plastic waste from packaging pollutes oceans and landfills. Reducing food and packaging waste through technology, communication and “attitude adjustment” will be a major trend in the next 10 years.