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The Future of Food:  How Will Foods Be Grown in 2050?

by Agritech Digest
How will food be produced in 2050 - Agritech Digest

A futuristic view into how food will be produced in the coming decades, through advancing technology.

Oyewole Okewole

Food will be produced in ways that will have to address the current challenges experienced in food production and farming today. These challenges, occasioned by low agricultural productivity in developing nations, the global effect of climate change, infrastructural deficits, weak technology inclusion in farming, and poor biological varieties among others, will lead the charge on how food will be grown in 2050.  Furthermore, realising ‘zero hunger’ in the light of these challenges coupled with the growing population will be one of the greatest hurdles of the century to be crossed.

Clearly, our current food production systems are not sustainable. One or more of these systems; transiting into sustainable practices, building resilient food production systems, increasing productivity, expanding land areas under cultivation and/or utilising technology as an optimisation tool will have to suffice. This does not exclude addressing areas such as challenging farming demographics, rural depopulation, economic viability of farming and repositioning the unique scenarios of food production in different regions of the world. The labour shortage for food production will also be addressed because the manpower-to-food production ratio will drastically reduce as machines and robots powered by technologies will take prominent roles in enhancing our food production abilities. 

By 2050, all the necessary data and information about foods produced will be comprehensive, detailed, and made available to customers or any other stakeholder as deemed fit. This will include crop planning, animal behaviour and health, weather patterns, quantities of chemical inputs, regulatory compliance, and many more. In addition, post-harvest and processing parameters will drive the entire food production, supply, and value chain processes.

Drone technology will become an integral part of food production. We should see unmanned aerial vehicles hover on farms at various scales and locations to collate real-time data, spray insecticides, herbicides, fertilisers, and other chemicals to the farms, as well as perform many other on-field applications to grow our food. 

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Drones used for on-farm activities

(Read also – The Future of Food: What Factors Will Drive the Food We Eat in 2050)

The chemical and biological process that takes place in growing crops and rearing animals will pretty much be the same. However, crops, for example, will be increasingly grown in controlled environments to optimise outputs, provide resilience to climate change, and enhance food production in perhaps buildings that were once resided or vacant in urban areas.  

Smithsonian Magazine reported sometime in July 2023 that empty office buildings are being turned into vertical farms in Arlington, Virginia, United States. Vertical Farms – a type of controlled environment agriculture – will be profoundly dependent on technology. More developments will be discovered in Light-Emitting Diode (LED) lighting and will permit crop growers to develop specific light characteristic requirements that are tailored to the needs of each crop, which will lead to improved photosynthesis and consequently increased yields.

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Empty Offices turned into Farms

In addition, technologies for vertical farming will integrate sensors that monitor humidity, moisture, temperature, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, and the colour of developing fruits, while providing substantial operations for technologies in the form of artificial intelligence and robotics for ventilation, watering, harvesting, abnormalities, and so on. The goal is to optimise water, energy, space, and labour usage, and embrace an all-season cultivation system.
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Vertical Farm 

In some other forms, skyscrapers and multi-level storey buildings will be built and utilised for both crops and livestock rearing. The reasons for this include increased efficiencies in production, labour, space, a healthy environment, cost, and many more. Typical examples are storey buildings constructed in China for pig houses. Reports by Pig Progress show a 26-storey pig house construction in year 2022 while another 9-storey building for pig housing is constructed in China according to another report in 2017.
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A 12-storey pig farm

(Read also – The Future of Food: What Will We Likely Be Eating in 2050?)

More of the food crops will be cultivated in the air or mist environment, thereby eliminating the need for soil or any other aggregate medium. The air will be a medium of supply of nutrients. The plant roots will be suspended in the air and sprayed with a nutrient solution at determined periods. This method of plant growth is known as Aeroponics. More foods will be produced by combining farming enterprises in an integrated process. This is to ensure a closed, circulatory system of food production. Often, the wastes generated by one of the production centres will be used as input into another production system. 

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An example is the Aquaponics system where aquatic animals like fishes and others are grown in reservoirs with a combination of a system where plants are also grown in water (hydroponics). The fish provide fertiliser for the plants while the plant roots filter the water for the fish. This system of farming and more integrated forms of farming will be explored to produce our foods to achieve the objectives of waste reuse and increase profitability. A typical example practised today is integrated fish farming which includes paddy-cum-fish culture, duck-cum-fish farming, fish-cum-poultry farming, fish-cum-pig culture, and many others.
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Animal farmers with large flocks currently detect health, feeding, and management issues often too late, thereby increasing the potential for disease outbreaks. By 2050, the advancement in sensor technologies will increasingly enable farmers to produce food for animals so they can track the state of their health. The data collection mechanism will be able to capture evidence of possible illnesses earlier. Animals will be reared with little or no disease outbreak because farmers will better understand illness trends and successful treatment protocols. Livestock mortality will be greatly reduced or completely avoided altogether.

Food will be produced in unexpected places. More people will cultivate a percentage of their daily food intake. Backyard farming, sack gardening and home gardening will become centre stage, as increased awareness begins to brew on personal or family food production. Crops will be cultivated in used containers, tyres, sacks, etc. Available spaces will be utilised for farming purposes while restaurants and eateries will largely operate by growing part or completely their foods within the premises of the restaurants or at other locations. 
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Food produced in sacks, used containers

Food will be produced in such a manner that waste will be greatly limited and productivity maximised with little effect on the environment.  The future of foods grown will be achieved entirely in smart ways. Indeed, there will be interesting times ahead.

Oyewole Okewole. Agricultural Project Development Specialist

Cover Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

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