19 May 2020

The future is knocking: Global food production to be transformed using new technology

Food production

The world’s growing population and increasing human welfare will necessitate a 30-70% increase in food production over the next three decades. At the same time, the huge quantities of food needed must be produced in such a way that protects the environment and is resistant to climate change. If we are to succeed, it will require a complete overhaul of the way we produce food. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen, among others, have now created an overview of solutions that include a number of new technologies that can collectively address this global challenge. The results is published in Nature Food.

Food production

"Unfortunately, if we are to meet the growing demand for food in the years ahead, optimising our current methods of production will be insufficient. They just won’t do. A radical change is needed,” states Svend Christensen, a professor and the Head of Department at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences.

He continues: “We have identified 75 new technologies which, combined, can transform the entire food chain — from production and processing, to consumption and waste management — to meet the demands of the future for significantly greater food production, that protects the environment and while being resilient to climate change."

Together with an array of leading researchers from the ‘Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’ and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, Svend Christensen has identified a number of new and upcoming technologies that together, and each with their own approach, will be able to solve this global challenge for society. Most of these technologies are fully developed, while others are just a few steps away.

Artificial intelligence, micro-algae production and vertical farming

Some of the more well-known technologies include artificial intelligence, robotics, genetic engineering, micro-algae production and vertical farming. Others include nitrogen-fixating cereals that do not require artificial fertilizers, biodegradable polymers and the breeding of insects for animal feed and foodstuffs.

While each of these technologies are distinguished by their ability to reduce the climate footprint, there are tradeoffs that public authorities and decision makers must take a stand on. Among other things, the researchers cite the use of GMOs, as well as varying levels of access to new technologies from country to country.

"There is no doubt that this will require the support of, and large investments from, politicians, so that technologies and know-how are available in as many countries as possible. At the same time, there is a need to test and adapt these technologies in order for them to be used across the food chain, from farm to fork. This requires considerable investment and an acceptance of some of the technologies that need to be developed and adapted over many years. But this is the way forward if we are to solve this enormous challenge,” says Svend Christensen.

Public acceptance is necessary

Some of the new technologies may seem controversial to consumers. Therefore — in terms of generating public support and acceptance — transparency, clear information and open dialogue will be necessary so that consumers can become comfortable with the new ways of producing food.

The findings is published in Nature Food. 


Professor and Head of Department Svend Christensen
Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences

Mobile: +45 51 48 94 21
E-mail: svc@plen.ku.dk


Communications Officer Katherina Killander

Mobile: +45 51 68 04 74
E-mail: klu@science.ku.dk


The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) brings together leading researchers in agricultural science, climate research and development research to address the key links, synergies and tradeoffs between climate change, agriculture and food security. Read more at https://ccafs.cgiar.org