Designing Our Food Future

We need to create a new mindset on food and how to transform production.

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FARMERS, wholesalers, retailers and consumers all take food for granted.

More so, we take food supply and security for granted and in today’s disruptive environment taking anything for granted is naïve and ignorant – if not downright dangerous. To build the future of food tech, production methods, delivery models, business models and sustainable lifestyles and prosperity of producers, we need to strip bare the whole notion of food, how and why it is produced and what producers can expect to gain from doing it.

You will notice no mention of the word farm, or farmer, yet. Not that our farmers, their farms and farming communities aren’t an essential part of ‘thinking food in the future’. They are. But to start with a blank canvas, we really need tore-think the whole idea of food and our relationship with it. If we don’t start there, we will miss critical elements of food in the future.In other words, we need to create a new food mindset. From that, we can explore how to transform food production capability to fit the future.

The global market for food is growing exponentially.

Consumption will grow through population growth, but also because of the increased need for higher nutrition and local supply. Food produced through conventional methods is under extreme threat. Climate change and extreme weather is increasing risks associated with conventional production. Australia’s floods, drought, soil erosion, invasive pests and disease all make farming a costly nightmare for many farmers, and it is only going to get worse. Food production methods that reduce or remove those risks are becoming more prominent. From vertical, urban and warehouse farms to more efficient means of planting, irrigating and fertilising to autonomous equipment and drones to fully robotic farms, the future is now. Sugary food, processed food and foods that have zero nutritional value all add up to higher health costs– costs that no government or consumer can afford.

Watch out for an attack on such foods and the producers in the near future. The UK has a sugar tax, and “diabesity” (obesity induced diabetes) is now a focus for governments looking to reduce health costs. Which leads us to new foods.As the transition from “trash-food” to new food takes place, expect to see the likes of insect harvesting become mainstream. And to really touch your sense of food – food that thinks for you and is designed to meet your genetic means.

Let’s face it, the business models for conventional food production suck.The farmer takes all of the risk, the middle-men take hardly any risk at all, and the consumer values and bases a critical ingredient for life on price. And the price of food is only made possible because our producers are taking the lion’s share of risk. However, there are also new business models emerging, such as farm direct, collaborative branding and joint ventures, that can shift market power back to producers and enable the sharing of risk throughout the food production ecosystem – all while actually delivering better food for consumers and better outcomes for producers.

This article was originally published in Crop Gear by the Weekly Times, February 2019.

David Platt  is co-director of Resilient Futures and co-author of  Disrupted: Strategy for Exponential Change.

David Platt is co-director of Resilient Futures and co-author of Disrupted: Strategy for Exponential Change.

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