In this recent Article, the authors describe the future of food in a way that captures the massive change driven by one future scenario: in this case, Food 2.0. Setting aside the changes likely in the form of lab-grown meats and 3D Printed foods, this story is more fundamental: it’s about farming. The article describes the current state of the industry, mostly one in decline.
The authors describe how they witnessed firsthand the systemic problems with the food industry for decades. They conclude that three things need to happen for any long-lasting, positive change to take place: growing things differently, changing the supply chain and distribution channels, and merchandising differently. Vertical farming, precision agriculture, and farming automation are just some examples of how we will grow things differently. This shift negates concerns about synthetic or natural pesticides, seasonality of traditional outdoor farming, and weather-related issues due to climate change such as droughts and floods.
The second piece of the story is how we get food from point A to point B. We will likely grow or print food close to where it is consumed. This represents a re-coupling of production and consumption – something that we pulled apart long ago. What happens to logistics and distribution when we pull it back together? All these Dots are Connecting in ways that transform multiple aspects of society. Although these indoor farms cost more today, we’ve seen this story before. The cost of the technology that drives them will come down sharply.
This is one small example of a future scenario that drives a broad set of implications. On the one hand, we may realize a world of Food Abundance. On the other, a series of unintended consequences that could drive other societal issues. All the more reason to track these scenarios and Map the Path of Innovation.