It might require a new agricultural revolution to meet the task. Three experts were asked by CNN to list the technological advancements that could boost food production without endangering the environment.
According to WWF, an amazing 40% of the food produced worldwide is never eaten. Some is squandered when it spoils on store shelves or in our homes, while others are lost during and after harvest, in the supply chain, and in other ways.
According to Richard Munson, author of “Tech to Table: 25 Innovators Reimagining Food,” one technique to increase the shelf life of fruit is to wrap it in an edible plant-based coating.
Munson uses the US business Apeel as an illustration. According to Munson, Apeel has developed “tasteless, odorless, invisible, and edible coatings – consisting of fatty acids and other organic compounds extracted from the peels and pulp of produce – that act as a physical barrier to keep water in and oxygen out.”
He claims that Apeel’s coatings can quadruple the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables like avocados and oranges.
Researchers in India have also created edible coatings that, according to their claims, can prolong food freshness.
Water scarcity is a major issue for farmers in areas like the Middle East, which depend heavily on desalinated sea water, as a result of climate change, which is making water more scarce in many parts of the world.
According to Dr. Tarifa Alzaabi, director general of the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), a non-profit research organization based in Dubai, more than 1 billion hectares (2.5 billion acres) of land—an area greater than China—have already been damaged by salinity.
Growing crops that do well in salty soil is one solution. She claims that ICBA has discovered a number of date palm kinds that can withstand salt and that it is successfully cultivating Salicornia, an edible plant that can be found all over the world. Alzaabi refers to it as a “desert superhero” because of its capacity to flourish in the brine produced as a byproduct of the desalination of water.
She continues by saying that the ICBA has evaluated many technologies, including sub-surface irrigation systems and hydrogels (gels that hold water), and discovered they can greatly reduce farmers’ water use.
3. Precision Agriculture
Food is produced on land of diverse shapes and sizes throughout the world, yet because of this variation, Chandra A. Madramootoo, a professor of bioresource engineering at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, claims that farmers sometimes overlook the complexity of the landscape and the heterogeneity of the soil.
Precision farming, according to him, is one option since it “enables the selection of crops, and chemical and water applications within spatially similar land and soil zones.”
lab narrative card for Interstellar
Growing crops on Mars may be made possible via food pods and vertical gardening.
Digital mapping can be used to accomplish this, with sensors and drones used to identify the many types and features of soil. Landscape features with comparable qualities can be grouped together using geospatial modeling, which use statistical models of topography and soil attributes.
This combined effort can “sequester more carbon in agricultural ecosystems, conserve water, and reduce chemical contamination in complex farming landscapes,” according to Madramootoo.
According to Alzaabi, ICBA has introduced precision agriculture technology, such as sensors and smart lysimeters (devices that detect moisture loss), to optimize fertilizer application and the usage of irrigation water. Drones have been used to collect data on the date palm plantation.
4. Animal Protein
Growing insects for food is becoming more commonplace outside of Africa, Asia, and South America, where it has been a traditional source of protein. Insect protein, millet, and fava beans are all ingredients in Nestlé’s Purina Beyond Nature’s Protein pet food, which was introduced in 2020. Black soldier fly maggots are raised by Insectta in Singapore for use in animal feed. Food waste, such as leftovers from breweries and soy manufacturers, is fed to the maggots.
Corn and soybeans are grown on poultry and fish farms using irrigation and herbicides, according to Munson. Alternatives include insects such as mealworm beetles. They occupy minimal space, coexist peacefully when crowded close together, reproduce all year long, emit little greenhouse gases or pollutants, and need little food.
using “wholescapes” as a guide
According to Madramootoo, food production is being done at the expense of biodiversity losses. He cites a number of causes, including a failure to consider the “multiplicity of adjoining ecosystems.”
Using a “wholescapes approach,” which entails producing food sustainably across all terrestrial, marine, and coastal habitats, including forests, agricultural land, and urban areas, is what he advocates.
“The benefits include the production of protein from marine resources, integration of wetlands with aquaculture systems and fish farming, and the use of forestry systems to also produce food,” claims Madramootoo, who also points out that agroforestry and silviculture (the management of forests) can improve people’s livelihoods, increase food production, aid in conservation, and increase carbon stocks.
5. City Farming
According to Madramootoo, a wholes capes strategy can be used to produce food in urban and peri-urban areas, or the areas right next to a metropolis.
“Trees in peri-urban and urban areas can provide food, provide shade, have a cooling effect, and sequester carbon,” explains the author. “Food can be grown on roof tops. We can grow food in small plots, shade shelters, or covered tunnels where frost is anticipated by using gray water and leftover electricity from residences.
“We may employ vertical farms, such as those found in warehouses or abandoned buildings, to grow food in crowded peri-urban areas. Water and expensive chemical inputs are used less frequently, and the waste stream is smaller as a result.
These kinds of vertical farms have becoming more prevalent recently. These farms are highly automated and use LEDs to produce food indoors and without soil. Nutrient-rich water is sent directly to the roots of the plants.
Vertical farms don’t use pesticides and use 95% less water, according to Munson. They generate 100 times more production than a horizontal plot of land of the same size. They provide rapid, fresh, and organic greens deliveries to nearby restaurants and supermarkets all year round thanks to their perpetual growing season and provide well-paying jobs in previously vacant sites in run-down communities.