Farming is the world’s most ancient industry, founded some 10,000 years ago. Back then it was a rather simple affair and probably just supplemented food gathered from nature. Today, though, it is essential. Without it, virtually nobody would be able to eat and the world as we know it would come to a crashing end.
New pressures placed on farmers mean that the industry is being forced to change. Here are some of the biggest trends facing agriculture right now.
Dramatic Increase In Food Demand
Though you might not think it, given the news, the world is going through an unprecedented transition right now. Hundreds of millions of people are being lifted out of extreme poverty and the economy – at least on a global basis – is serving the needs of more and more people.
This, however, is leading to what researchers sometimes refer to as the “nutrition transition.” Entire populations are shifting away from their traditional, locally grown diets and adopting the Western diet in their droves. This happens every time a society gets wealthy, and many analysts expect the same to happen once people in developing countries get the money to do it too.
By 2050, the world will need 50 percent more food to feed another 1.5 billion people and support a greater number of calories. Farmers, therefore, need to keep their eyes peeled for growth opportunities.
New Kinds of Meat
The traditional meat industry has been serving up the same kinds of meat for generations: chicken, turkey, lamb, and beef. But consumers have realized that there a lot of other kinds of meat out there, all with varying textures, flavors and health consequences. As such, the deer supplement industry is booming to support wilder, more gamey meats for changing palettes. In 2020, expect to see mainstream supermarket shelves crammed with exotic meats.
Intelligent Packing Will Prove Provenance
At the moment, food labeling isn’t particularly enlightening. But in the future, the integration of smart packaging with smartphones will transform how consumers interpret the provenance of food on store shelves. Intelligent packaging will allow anybody in the supply chain to trace where a product originated, who grew it, and whether the nutrition labeling is accurate. Customers will be able to use their smartphones to garner all of this information through the cloud by scanning or “connecting to” the labels themselves.
Agriculture Will Meet Energy
Wind and solar are on an exponential cost decline, and the world simply isn’t ready for it. Before long, we’re going to see renewable energy plants sprouting up all over the countryside. In many cases, they’re going to displace traditional farming operations, partly because they take up so much space.
The US Department of Energy says that by 2020, up to 5 percent of all of the US’s energy demand could come from renewables. Given today’s trends, that’s a conservative estimate. But even if it’s true, it means that millions of hectares of agricultural land will need to be repurposed to renewable energy production.