The future of food - Thorne Widgery

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has produced a report entitled The Future of Food 2040, which paints a picture of farmers using the latest technology and adapting the way they run their business to reflect consumers’ tastes.

For example, the NFU predicts that there will be ‘vertical farms’ of salads, fruit and vegetables and less meat production to reflect the decline in meat consumption, while what livestock exists will be protected by ‘virtual fencing’.

­As one of the report’s authors commented, there needs to be a debate about food and how we produce it. She added that the report is a reminder to the Government to make domestic food production a strategic policy in all policymaking.

As the NFU spokeswoman said, while some of the predictions may seem far-fetched, others are in their infancy, with technologies currently being developed that can care for crops on a plant-by-plant basis and this will be commonplace by 2040.

According to the report, the global revenue for agricultural robotics is estimated to grow from $3bn in 2015 to $73.9bn in 2024, with driverless electric tractors, remote sensors and harvesting robotics potentially able to replace manual jobs and create greater efficiencies.

Meanwhile, in the field of crop science, it says the use of biotechnology in food production will be “ubiquitous” in 20 years, particularly through genome editing to breed plants with enhanced disease resistance, stress tolerance, improved feed conversion rates and better nutritional content.

In addition, the report predicts the rise of the ‘health agenda’, as well as greater demand for more diverse diets. This could mean that in-vitro meat and insect protein may well grow in popularity, depending on advances to make these protein sources more palatable to consumers.