• Kate Ayers

‘We have come to a point where business-as-usual is not an option’

A growing population puts added pressure on agri-food industry stakeholders to produce healthy and sustainably grown food.

Incremental changes using existing technology will not be enough to increase food availability by up to 70 per cent, which may be needed in the next thirty years, a May release said from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. The center is headquartered in Columbia. Instead, food systems require radical transformations, research showed.

Some of the 75 emerging technologies that scientists are investigating include 3D printing, drones and vertical agriculture, the release said. Such innovative options could help promote climate action and reduce poverty, for example, and could span the entire food value chain – from farm to fork.

But advanced technologies need public support and investment to work, the release said.

“Successful innovation requires a high failure rate,” Mario Herrero, lead author and chief research scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, said in the release.

Food systems are complex and some technologies, such as genetically modified crops, are controversial. Transparency and building social trust are key to transformative change, the release said.

“So, while many of these technologies could yet fail, investment in their development and testing is crucial to the future of our food systems," Herrero added.

“Our research lays out what is needed to create the essential dialogue and the enabling environment that will accelerate the innovation we dearly need.”

The study is published in the May edition of the journal Nature Food.

CIAT/Neil Palmer photo

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