Food for thought: Did you know that 40% of the food grown in the developing nations is wasted before it gets to the dinner table and 40% of the food processed in developed nations is wasted after it gets to the table. Even with these percentages of waste, there is still plenty of food grown to feed the 7.3 billion people on earth today. The reason some 1 billion people are without a decent daily meal is caused by a lack of food distribution through corrupt Governments.
Wasted food, whether before the table or after the table, is also a waste of water and energy. As much as I hate to bore you with numbers, sometimes you just have to use them to illustrate the significance of what I am trying to communicate. In America, the US Department of Agriculture reported that we are wasting 131 billion pounds of food after it has been processed for the market. That is a lot of data to capture.
When a hand of bananas (a bunch) cost $1.15, people buy more than they will eat and it ends up spoiling and thrown away. The waste goes way beyond the individual banana (a finger) because you have to include the entire life cycle from land and water use, fertilizers, manual labor, transportation, energy cost, etc. And then it produces lots of methane (GHG) in our landfills, which if not captured, is wasted energy.
The greatest waste is the amount of water that is used to grow food stuff. It is estimated that we are losing 1 quadrillion liters of water from wasted foods. That is a one with 15 zeros following it. A visual of this would be about 8 times the size Lake Erie. About 80% of all the water a person uses is in the form of process food stuff. It is estimated that there will be about a 40% gap between availability of fresh water and the demand for it in the future if better water management is not observed.
As the population continues to grow, we are faced with the demand for more food and water. We can either grow more food stuff or process the existing production more efficiently (less waste). This is where food tech comes into play from growing to consuming. Every step of the cycle can be censored and data driven.
For example, the analyses of the data can determine precisely the right amount of water to use for growing the food, the exact amount of fertilizer, the terrestrial and atmospheric temperatures required, etc. These signaling systems can even sense attacks by pathogens or insects and allow farmers to make informed decisions.
Factory farms will continue to dominate the family farm environment of yesterday (where I grew up) for both crop and animals. Cross breeding has been used for centuries to improve yields of both. To increase even more yields, genetic modification is constantly being improved to provide more nutritional crops and animals in the future.
Food tech will provide our food security. We must protect the land and oceans while feeding the people. With food tech, we won’t have to choose one over the other and will be able to do both. The oceans, which consist of 72% of the earth’s surface is actually a very sensitive ecosystem but with proper stewardship, will continue to provide the world’s largest habitat and could feed a billion people a day forever.
However, there are 7.3 billion people on the earth and a few more billion on the way, so we definitely need to address food and water wastefulness through social and technical solutions.