The Future of Our Food

The Future of Our Food

By 2050, earth is expected to reach a population of around 9.7 billion people. At the current population of 7.3 billion and already struggling to provide food to every corner of the world, how are we expected to deal with this additional 2.4 billion people? According to the Food and Agriculture association (FAO), the production of agricultural good and products “will need to increase by 70%” (FAO, 2009). If you consider that majority of the new population will live in urban areas in developing countries, additional land will need to be developed for either housing or agriculture to produce the necessary food.

In the past, this is how things would have been done. Tearing down forests for development of farm land and then developing perfect agricultural land for housing was never frowned upon in previous years. We are at a point where our agricultural expansion cannot and should not continue just for the sake of “increasing production” when we should be looking at keeping the land that we have right now and buckle down on increasing yields.

So what is the solution?

In North America, we have the luxury of having an industrialized agriculture market. Giving farmers access to the latest technology advancements in machinery and sustainable agricultural practices. Engineers and Agriculture students are focussing on newer ways to prevent soil disturbances, high precision agriculture to reduce runoff and reduce costs of nitrogen applications, and even autonomous tractors to do our work for us. There is, however, a major issue with the “decline in Government spending on public agricultural R&D as well as a surge in R&D spending by the private sector” (USDA 2016). If we expect to at least double our food production by 2050, we need to continue to advance technologies that allow us to increase yields, without creating more agricultural land. Not only does the industrialized agricultural countries need to continue investing in the R&D part of the industry, but need to contribute to other developing countries agricultural industry as well.

Mechanization of developing countries agriculture practices can be beneficial in several ways. The implementation of these technologies will allow for much higher yields, which in turn will prevent the need for further development of agriculture land and prevent further destruction of ecosystems. Previous practices of fertilizer applications as well as other spraying necessary for the growth and protection of plants has been unregulated and uncared for allowing for major run off of nitrogen and other chemicals into local water systems. In present day practices, with the advancement of technologies, farmers are using GPS and electronically driven tractors to apply mixtures of nitrogen and other chemicals based on their soil nutrient levels. This reduces the amount of runoff drastically and prevents unnecessary damage to ecosystems and local waterways as well giving the plant exactly what it needs, nothing more or less, creating a much more sustainable means to agriculture and saving farmers money.

At the end of the day it is up to all of us to progress with new technology and methods that allow for increased sustainability of agriculture. Whether It is in the advancement of mechanized agricultural machinery, new innovative tillage methods or newer ideas such as Urban Barns that would greatly reduce distance from producer to customer. It is not only up to society to press the further investment into these ideas, but also up to the engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs that must utilize these investments as best they can to come up with innovative ideas to grow more food, with less or equal amounts of land.

References:

“CAFF15 | Forum on Canada’s Agri-Food Future.” CAFF15 | Forum on Canada’s Agri-Food Future. Dep. of Land & Food Systems, UBC, 07 Oct. 2015. Web. 13 Feb. 2017. .

“FAO’s Director-General on How to Feed the World in 2050.” Population and Development Review 35.4 (2009): 837-39. FAO. Web. 11 Feb. 2017. .

Folley, Jonathan. “Feeding 9 Billion.” Feeding 9 Billion – National Geographic. National Geographic, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2017. .

“U.S. Agricultural R&D in an Era of Falling Public Funding.” USDA ERS – U.S. Agricultural R&D in an Era of Falling Public Funding. USDA, n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2017. .

3 responses to “The Future of Our Food”

  1. florencebieler says:

    The introduction catches our interest and successfully announces the problematic. The author proposes a clear solution to the growing food demand, which focuses on innovation and technology. Specific examples are given however, the references are not always present. The information is often common knowledge to engineers and agrologists but isn’t to all readers, hence the importance of proper referencing.
    The author also mentions the major drawback that slows down our progress in precision agriculture, which is the lack of funding in public agriculture R&D. As an improvement, the author could mention other obstacles such as corporation lobbies. Finally, the author succeeds in identifying actors who should act upon those issues.

    Overall, I think the article states the opinion of a professional who clearly has a scientific background and well-structured ideas. As much as I agree that improving technologies and focusing on innovation would help to feed the growing population, I also think that there’s many more aspects to this problematic that should be taken into account. There’s a limit to how much we can improve yields with technologies if our soil is poor and worn out. Therefore, in my opinion, a focus on ecology and biodiversity should also be a priority.

    • David-Alexandre Bédard says:

      First of all, the article is partly neutral according to the solution to feed the additional 2.4 billion people. The main idea of the article is clear where it suggests to invest in technologies and development as to increase yield rather than increases the area cultivated at the expend of the ecosystems. Isn’t it a question of food distribution rather than production deficit? Otherwise, the points made by the author are from pertinent sources. The comparison between past methods and actual techniques of addressing the solution as to increase yield is very well described which help to understand that the new era now initiated. In other words, the arrival of GPS, variable rates and automatically driven tractors are excellent examples of developing technologies to address the issue. The environmental benefits merged to the benefits of the yield increases towards the end of the article makes readers aware of the power of such technologies. Nevertheless, the author pin pointed the concerns about the future of our food. Another sector that could be interesting to develop could have be the crop sciences, for instance, GM crops or breeding techniques.

  2. Julie Major says:

    I would argue that groups have actually been defending forests and ag land for decades. I was expecting an explanation as to what the issue is with public vs. private funding of R&D? You talk about increasing productivity in developing countries through mechanization, which is fine. But I think we’re very far away from GPS-driven tractors, on farms which currently are the least developed! Just an actual rototiller would be a revolution in many places, and ag development in poor countries is much more complex than just providing technology. I think that the existence of technology is one thing, and access to it is another (and the latter is the actual issue, which you did not address). Similarly when you talk about hunger, an important concept is that of access. Regarding your last sentence, I don’t really see an issue with people who come up with and use technology, asking for further investment in it? Your sentence, to me, says the general public pushes for more investment but those who are directly involved should do more…I would say it’s rather the other way around…

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