Every decision about which foods we include in the daily menu has an impact on health, on the family economy and also on the planet. Food production generates 20% of greenhouse gases and consumes 70% of drinking water. It is estimated that by 2050 the world population will be about 9 700 million inhabitants (about 2 000 million more than today) and that the production of food products will multiply by 70% to meet this demand. So that this comparison does not destroy the environment, it is necessary to change the way we understand food and make room for R&D in agriculture.
The former is already a reality in developed countries, whose citizens increasingly accept that health can not be separated from a healthy diet. What is going to come in the next few years is a real revolution in the way food is grown, which includes artificial intelligence, robotics and molecular biology.
This is not science fiction: in a short time, it will be common to prepare menus that have been achieved thanks to FoodTech and AgTech (technologies applied to the food and agriculture industry). But the changes are already taking place, as the private bank Julius Baer collects in his report FoodTech & AdTech: solutions to feed the world.
1. More vegetables, less meat
From the scientists of the World Health Organization (WHO) to those of the University of Navarre, the opinion is unanimous: the reduction in the consumption of products of animal origin and the increase in the percentage of vegetable foods are associated with higher health indicators (less cholesterol, less cardiovascular pathologies, longer life expectancy and lower incidence of some cancers). This decision also reduces the environmental impact: 15,000 liters of water are needed to produce a kilo of beef, compared to 25 liters for a kilo of lentils.
Despite the recent controversy over steaks, the pattern is unmistakable: the same report by private bank Julius Baer speaks of ‘stagnation’ in red meat consumption as a turning point after four decades of exaltation in which consumption has doubled. Confronted with the braai culture, veganism, vegetarianism and the flexitar diet positions are rising, especially among the youngest.
Something as simple as replacing beef with legumes three days a week for a year saves water equivalent to 16 Olympic-sized pools, according to estimates by the Meat Free Mondays exercise computer promoted by Paul and Stella McCartney. And eliminating it just one day a week saves greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to driving from Madrid to Cádiz (647 kilometers).
2. The era of soy yogurt
Something similar is happening with milk. Whether for ethical reasons or due to lactose intolerance, more and more citizens are enriching their coffee with oat, soy or almond milk. They also go for yogurt and tofu. The obstacle to providing less calcium or vitamin D is usually solved by supplementing these foods with these micronutrients but of plant origin.
3. Laboratory meat
“Will you eat a hamburger made with laboratory meat?” Headed the press when the first results of meat cultures of animal cells that did not involve sacrifice were announced. An achievement for the defenders of animal dignity and a benefit for the health of consumers, as antibiotics are not used by multiplying in sterile atmosphere. The challenge is to make it as tasty as farm cultivation and of course to make it affordable. According to Bloomberg, there are more than 70 startups developing all kinds of animal products in the laboratory.
Bill Gates or PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel have already invested in this promising sector. The European Commission and Bpifrance, the French public investment bank, are financially supporting Gourmey, a company that aims to replicate foie gras without using aggressive techniques against ducks. The company has already raised $ 10 million for this project. With all this, it is estimated that by 2040 laboratory meat could make up 35% of the total market.
Laboratory meat could make up 35% of the total market by 2040
However, the Julius Baer study emphasizes that plant-based alternatives to meat are expensive. A pound of Walmart factory-made beef pie in the United States can cost $ 2.85, while a pound of patty Beyond Beef of Beyond Meat costs about $ 8. To truly compete with the traditional meat market, current prices will have to fall.
4. Skyscraper-grown lettuce
Living in big cities and eating locally grown salads can get closer. In 1999, Dickinson Despommier referred to vertical farming as a skyscraper farming utopia, but in 2011 the first vertical farms began operating in Singapore, Chicago, South Korea and Japan. The crops are arranged on kilometer-long shelves next to old urban warehouses and even in containers. Instead of fertile soil, the roots are immersed in water with the necessary nutrients or left in the air and sprayed with nutrient solutions. In the absence of sun, LED lights are used.
The system – which is one of the innovations included in the Julius Baer document – has five major advantages: space saving, the ability to grow crops within large cities, minimization of pests due to the sterile atmosphere and accelerated plant growth through better ensure conditions in terms of light and irrigation, as well as optimizing the water as it circulates in a closed circuit. Among the disadvantages, a likely increase in the electricity bill and the huge investment to set up these agricultural plants (about $ 4 million).
In 2011, the first vertical farms began operating in Singapore, Chicago, South Korea and Japan
These problems mean that for the time being they are only good at producing sprouts and small green leafy crops, which are very easy to grow. But its role will be relevant in the not-too-distant future, as evidenced by the 6,500-square-foot facility built by Singapore Airlines and Aerofarms near Newark Liberty Airport (New Jersey) to operate fleets of freshly harvested pak choi and kale. to provide.
5. Do not spill anything from the fridge
The FAO estimates that a third of food ends up in the rubbish bin. WWF raises the score to 40%. Making use of the kitchen and tailoring the shopping list to the real needs of each home will help reduce this waste. The food industry is picking up the baton and providing high-tech solutions: computerized warehouses to extend food life, timely harvesting robots and sustainable packaging that extend the shelf life of food are some of those solutions
6. Smart agriculture
The technology applied to the croplands would have pleased Isaac Asimov: with the genetically modified seeds to withstand pests or droughts, drones will be added in the not too distant future that will map the country to record in real time how the plantations are progressing. , tractors with optical sensors to plant the seeds exactly at the right point or devices with scanners that detect and eliminate weeds with lasers or ultrasound, thus minimizing the use of herbicides. The developers of these technologies believe that their use of herbicides can be reduced by 90%. This will mean savings for farmers and, for consumers, food with less chemical residues.
While all of these factors and innovations are important, food and water security are the most important and decisive challenges to feed the world in the future. According to the Julius Baer report, the innovations described are mostly driven by trends in the developed world, while the problem of malnutrition occurs in developing countries.
Therefore, there is a contradiction. Currently, people in developed countries are very focused on the innovations described, but the challenges of feeding the world go further. Poor institutions, lack of infrastructure and limited access to water continue and prevent affordable access to food.
From a global perspective, increasing the quantity and quality of production combined with a reduction in input factors will be crucial for food suppliers to keep up with changing and growing demand.
About Julius Baer
Julius Baer is the leading Swiss group in wealth management and a prestigious brand in this sector on a global level, focused on providing services and advice to demanding private clients. At the end of June 2021, assets under management amounted to CHF 486 billion. Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd., the well-known private bank whose origins date back to 1890, is the principal operating company of the Julius Baer Group Ltd., whose shares are listed on the Swiss stock exchange SIX (stock exchange symbol: BAER). , and which is at the same time part of the Swiss Leadership Index (SLI), which consists of the 30 Swiss equities with the highest volume and highest liquidity.
Julius Baer is present in more than 20 countries and more than 50 cities. We have offices in Zurich and have offices from Mexico City, Dubai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hong Kong, London, Luxembourg, Milan, Monaco, Montevideo, Moscow, Mumbai, São Paulo, Singapore to Tokyo. Our customer-centric approach, objective advice based on Julius Baer’s open product platform, strong financial foundation and corporate governance culture make us the international benchmark in wealth management.
For more information visit our website www.juliusbaer.com