Food security is becoming a growing concern as the world population continues to increase, whilst available land decreases. Technology is allowing us to track, analyse, and understand the way our food system works to help reduce the amount of food waste and carbon emissions, and ultimately, feed the 842 million people who don’t currently have enough to eat.
There are a variety of examples of ways that tech is changing food:
• GMO’s – A GMO is something that has been genetically engineered to have certain traits, like herbicide resistance, pest resistance, and increased nutritional value. There are currently crops in development that are genetically modified to grow in habitats besides their native ones, in order to increase yield productivity, to feed more people. Examples of this include wheat, rice, and other grains. Fish, poultry and beef are also often modified to increase the quantity of meat by quickening the rate of growth of an animal or by adding proteins or other nutrients to the meat.
• Precision agriculture- the use of GPS tracking systems and satellite imagery is used to monitor crop yields, soil levels, and weather patterns, to increase efficiency on the farm.
• Drones – farmers can locate precisely where a diseased or damaged plant is, more accurately release fertiliser and pesticides, or take photos and have immediate information about a certain area of the farm.
• Food waste tracking – Apps such as Lecola which helps restaurants minimise waste by allowing people to get deals on food (usually ranging from 30 to 50% off) within 45 minutes of a posting at nearby restaurants are becoming increasingly popular. 222 Million Tons App gives a suggested grocery list with a user’s selected household size and meal preferences. Another innovative App called Leftover Swap matches people with leftover food to others in their area that would like to purchase cheap food and pick it up, and offer anything from pizza to produce.
• Farm locations – since the area accessible for farming is decreasing, we must come up with innovative places to grow food. The latest trend is underground; in London a hydroponic farm was built in abandoned underground tunnels that were once air-raid shelters, so that local restaurants and stores can have fresh produce and herbs.
• Access to recipes – the use of recipe sites has well surpassed cookbooks and magazine recipes. With blogs, Pinterest, food-centric Twitter accounts, and Facebook groups, sharing recipes couldn’t be easier.
These are just a few of the many ways the food industry is developing and changing as a result of new technology. With such widespread health issues resulting from the lack of availability of nutritious food for the world population, such advances are significant and we can be hopeful that as research and technology progress, inequality and food insecurity will be eliminated in the future.