The Future of Food Population

The Future of Food
Changing Methods and Sources to Accommodate a Growing
Joshua LaBounty
HON 301
Abstract: As the human population grows, production of food will also need to grow to
accommodate. It is currently estimated that our production will need to double by
2050, but this growth cannot be accomplished by simply scaling up the current means
of production. This presentation will explore our options, both in alternative sources of
nutrition and alternative means of production, and how these options can be
implemented in a sustainable fashion.
Current Production
Approximately ⅓ of the Earth's’ landmass is used for the production of
In 2012, this amounted to:
○ 2,266,800,000 Metric Tons of Grains (Wheat, Rice, etc.)
○ 248,964,000 Tons of ‘Ready to Cook’ Equivalent Beef, Pork and
‘Broiler Meat’ (Poultry)
Our current production may seem vast to the untrained eye, but looks can be
deceiving. For instance, a majority of the 2.3 Trillion tons of grain goes into producing
feed for livestock. These livestock are incredibly inefficient in converting the input
grains (which could also be perfectly suited for human consumption) into usable meat.
To produce 1 pound of beef, a farmer will need 13 pounds of grain and an estimated
2,500 gallons of water. If a 1,000-pound cow yields ~600 pounds of beef, that cow
used 1.5 million gallons of water and 7,800 pounds of grain. This, scaled up to the
factory farming infrastructure we have today, means that an individual farm such as
Harris Ranch in California (with 150,000,000 cattle) could be using as much as 375
Billion gallons of water and 1.95 Billion tons of grain.
Current Production
70% of the world’s freshwater is
used in agriculture
○ Pollution from agriculture
(antibiotics, pesticides,
fertilizers) has had a
significant impact on the
Greenhouse gas emissions from
livestock account for anywhere
between 10% and 50% of total
global emissions
Some estimate that if we globally reduced our animal consumption by 25 percent, we
could reach our GHG emission goals as set forth by the United Nations.
Farming also accounts for: 37% of Methane (27 x the Greenhouse warming effect as
CO2); 64% of Ammonia (Acid Rain). By comparison, all forms of transportation (cars,
planes, trains, etc.) contributes only 13% to total global carbon emission
Ammonia in fertilizer combines with water to form Ammonium Ions (NH4+)
which evaporate into the clouds and then lower the pH of the resulting rain.
“The livestock business is among the most damaging sectors to the earth’s
increasingly scarce water resources, contributing among other things to water
pollution, euthropication and the degeneration of coral reefs. The major polluting
agents are animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries,
fertilizers and the pesticides used to spray feed crops. Widespread overgrazing
disturbs water cycles, reducing replenishment of above and below ground water
resources. Significant amounts of water are withdrawn for the production of feed.”
-United Nations FAO
Projection for Future Need
World food production will need to double
by 2050 to accommodate the estimated
population of 9 Billion people
Scaling up the current system is not
○ Would need an amount of land the
size of South America, more than
100% of the world's naturally
occurring freshwater, and would
significantly increase GHG emissions
The UN estimates that food production will need to double in order to feed the world
growing population by the year 2050. In fact, they have made their goal the
production of enough food to feed nutritionally complete meals to a population of 9.3
Billion by that same year.
Projection for Future Need
} 6.27% Increase
Total Increase: 19 Million Ha = 190,000 square kilometers
6.27% Increase
The amount of irrigated area, however, will not double by that time (nor will it increase
to the size of South America). Therefore it is apparent that we must explore additional
options for increasing the growing density of the land we already possess, as well as
the utilization of land which currently is unusable.
Projection for Future Need
40% Increase -- Impressive progress but not nearly enough to offset the increasing
demand of 9 Billion people.
These numbers represent the current agricultural yield projected forward into the
future utilizing current methods only. The increase represents boeh an increase in the
amount of available land (see the previous slide) and improvements in current
technologies (more efficient irrigation of existing land, increasing crop density, etc.)
Projection for Future Need
None of these areas have doubled either (although poultry comes closest), indicating
that if we continue to rely on traditional methods of food production we will fall short of
the UN goal.
Alternative Methods
Exploring alternate means will allow us to utilize land which traditionally been
unavailable. This includes both land which has been too rocky to farm (upon which
farming superstructures can be constructed), lands poisoned by salt and pollutants,
as well as urban areas. These so called ‘eco cities’ can transform the way we interact
with our food, and how our food comes to our plates.
Vertical Farming
Japanese indoor farm contains
25,000 square feet of growing
space, in which 10,000 heads of
lettuce per day are produced
○ Grows a special coreless
variety of lettuce to reduce
food waste by 80%
Requires 40% less power, 99%
less water than traditional
outdoor farming.
These facilities can be specifically tailored to the production of food within them, and
the environment within the facility controlled to incredible precision, allowing the
plants to grow at their maximum potential. Additionally, these facilities can be
constructed in any environment -- from the driest desert to the most polluted cities -and still produce exactly the same product as any other.
Because there are no vehicles for seeding, nor combines for harvesting, the need for
greenhouse gas spewing vehicles in the production of food is completely eliminated.
As a result, not only is the building much more power efficient, much more of this
power can come from renewable sources (such as solar panels situated on the roof of
the structure). If these farms are centrally located near to where the food will be
consumed, further GHG emissions can be avoided!
Vertical Farming
LED Lights designed by GE to
produce specific wavelength
ideally suited to stimulate plant
Entire building can be powered
by renewable sources of energy
These specific wavelengths of light used in the lighting were specially tailored to the
strains of lettuce which are being grown in the structure. They are the wavelengths
the plant can best absorb and utilize in photosynthesis, and thus promote the same
amount of growth at the fraction of the cost of traditional hydroponic methods (which
involve cost-inefficient incandescent bulbs).
Because of the self-contained design of the facility, this farm can be located in any
location in which there is working power and water. There could be a warehouse the
floor below this and office space above, and no one would be the wiser.
Eco Cities
Scaled up vertical farms can be
located within skyscrapers
Food production located within
the city, allows for little to no
transportation cost of food
○ Lowers greenhouse
emission significantly.
Solar panels along the tops of buildings will provide power to operate the LED lights
of the vertical farms of the upper floors. The food will be harvested and sent to the
middle floors for processing and preparing, before being sent to the lowest floors
where those living nearby will be able to walk in and purchase locally grown produce
all year round
Eco Cities
Coastal cities can use the
adjacent seawater in farming by
using solar distillation
○ Reduce the dependance of
drought ridden cities on
irrigated water
This can also be utilized alongside desert and tropical coasts, to grow food there
which can then be brought to market by ship.
Edible Packaging
What food must still be
transported longer distances can
be made up of a larger
percentage of food
Food can be surrounded with
skin like that of a grape or an
David Edwards -- Professor at Harvard -- came up with idea
Alternative Sources
While alternative methods of production may be able to make up some of the gap
between supply and demand, we will most definitely need to look into alternate
sources of nutrition in the near future. These alternate sources may range from
utilizing existing sources of food in a novel way (such as plant based meat
substitutes), creating and tailoring our food from its base components, and simply
trying new things.
Most every country in the world has some variety of edible insect. Thus this source of
food can be locally sourced, with minimal risk of invasive species being released from
the farming process.
80% of the cultivated mass of a batch of crickets is edible, compared to only 40% for
beef. Additionally, the amount of feed necessary to generate 1 kg of edible material is
much less than beef and pork (and marginally less than poultry). If we were to
cultivate crickets, more of the grain produced by the world would be available for
direct human consumption, which would help to close the gap between food need and
“It’s chock-full of protein, has more iron than spinach, as much calcium as milk, all the
amino acids, tons of omega 3, and tons of B12,"
-Next Millennium Farms
The GHG emissions from all insects are also lower than conventional food animals.
Note that the scale of the graphs has been normalized according to the according to
the global warming potential of CO2, so methane produced by these animals will
register 23 times larger on the scale than CO2.
Next Millennium Farms in
Cricket flour
○ Upwards of 10,000 pounds a
○ Can be used in baked goods
or as a substitute for protein
In addition to the flour, they also sell whole crickets and mealworms for consumption.
Pictured are their flavoured and packaged snack foods (think beef jerky) and the
whole crickets being incorporated into a traditional recipe. From what I’ve heard, the
cricket tacos are pretty good at the mexican restaurant nearby.
Lab Grown Meat
“A few cells taken from a cow
can be turned into 10 tons of
○ Dr. Mark Post
Could be grown in the same
vertical farms shown earlier
Lower in fat than
conventionally produced meat
This process means partially cutting out the middleman of the animal in the process of
meat production, reducing the greenhouse gasses produced by the animal directly.
Has been performed as early as 1971, but it was not until recently that the process
has begun to be scaled up to be actually consumed. On August 5th, 2013 the worlds
first lab grown burger was cooked and tasted on live TV. The reactions were
somewhat mixed. Tasters said it definitely tasted like meat, but with a distinct
absence of fat (which made it slightly drier than a normal hamburger would have
been). Tasters also admitted that it did indeed taste of meat, and not a meat
replacement constructed from plant protein (see three slides hence).
“We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast
or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”
—Winston Churchill, Fifty Years Hence, The Strand Magazine (December
Lab Grown Meat
Tissue is extracted from a living animal via a painless biopsy procedure. A chemical
treatment is used to extract the stem cells within the adult tissue which are then
removed from the rest of the cells and cultured separately. Once these cells have
begun growing, they are transferred to a ‘scaffolding’ of electrical contacts which are
periodically stimulated to stimulate the muscle. This stimulation allows the muscle to
develop some of the same features as muscle which a cow would normally develop
through exercise. From there, the food is processed just like any normal hamburger
meat: grinding it up, adding any additional flavors or preservatives, and cooking.
Lab Grown Meat
The energy use of this process is less than half that of conventional farming, and
because most of the cost comes from simple electrical devices, a larger portion of that
can be sourced from renewable energy (dropping the GHG emissions by more than a
factor 10). This could also be located on one of the floors of our vertical farm,
furthering our dream for local food production even in the confines of the concrete
The technology is still in its infancy, so growing your own hamburger is still
prohibitively expensive, but this is expected to change in the coming years.
Meat Replacements
Beyond Meat company in
○ Vegetarian meat
substitutes made from
mixtures of soy and pea
protein, yeast, and
various other flavorings.
○ ~ 7 million pounds of
substitute produced per
Since plant sources of food are much more plentiful, and can be more easily be
transformed into a vertical infrastructure, we should also focus our efforts on creating
acceptable substitutes for meat. These substitutes can eliminate the ~200 kg of CO2
equivalent being spewed into the atmosphere by beef production by allowing us to
simply process the plant matter ourselves -- cutting out the middleman, as it were.
Beyond Meats’ 25/20 goal -- reduction of global meat consumption by 25% by 2020
(which would meat the UN’s GHG emission goal).
"I tasted Beyond Meat’s chicken alternative and honestly couldn’t tell it from real
-Bill Gates
Instead of simply replacing meat, we could replace traditional sources of food in our
diets altogether. Soylent is a company which seeks to provide a nutritionally complete
‘meal’ at the fraction of the cost of normal meals, both monetarily and
environmentally. All of these supplements are derived from plants or fungi (bar the
fish oil, which can be substituted for any number of vegetable based options), and can
be produced cheaply and are already widely available. Since these are entirely plant
based, it would be possible to greatly reduce the amount of land taken up by animal
farming, and repurpose that to farming additional plant food sources
Genetically Modified Food
In addition to providing resistance
to disease/pests, genetic
modifications can increase
nutritional content of food
Golden Rice
○ Modified to produce carotene, a precursor to
Vitamin A
Similar modifications have been
done to varieties of South
American white corn and
Cavendish bananas
Vitamin A difficiency is a serious problem worldwide which can lead to Night
Blindness, skin discoloration, and complications during pregnancy (see http://goo.
gl/6L9Lat). This additional nutrient in rice can significantly alleviate this disease while
causing no change to the flavor of the rice.
Genetically Modified Food
○ Grows in extremely poor soil
■ staple food for those with
poor growing conditions
○ Naturally deficient in Iron,
Zinc, Vitamins A and E.
○ Rots quickly
Scientists have produced strains
with four times the natural protein
and up to 10 times the
Vitamin/Mineral levels.
Also reduced the cyanide-producing toxins in the roots… So that’s pretty good. The
genetically modified cassava program recently received approval for the first-ever
field trial of a transgenic crop in Africa, so we’ll be able to see within a few years the
effect GM crops can have on worldwide nutrition.
Genetically Modified Food
Salinity Tolerance
○ 7.4 acres of arable land is
rendered useless by
contamination from saltwater
each minute
○ UC Davis has produced a
strain of tomato plant which
can grow in those conditions,
potentially reclaiming that land
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