An Effort to Create A Stronger and Sustainable Food Security Using Technology

Two decades ago, the prospect of consuming lab-grown meat created from meatless ingredients might sound absurd and out of the question. But apparently, today’s technological development has made all of this possible. In recent years, the growth of the food tech industry has been increasing at unprecedented speed. We’ve known SuperMeat – a Tel Aviv-based company that created chicken meat directly from cells, ensuring a sustainable and animal-friendly process. Innovo Pro is committed to bringing novel plant-based protein components to the global food industry to develop healthy, flavorful, safe, and sustainable food products. Even giant fast food companies such as Burger King and McDonald’s have started allocating funds to be invested in food technology to bring vegetable meat onto their table. 

Amid the global food security being challenged by the environmental crisis, the expansion of food tech companies and increasing investment in it has brought a spark of hope to avoid future food crisis threats and eventually achieve Sustainable Development Goals 2: to end hunger and all form of malnutrition. The involvement of technology in developing food supply chains creates an opportunity to extend food usage and, at the same time, reduce waste of food products, resulting in a more sustainable food system. Not only does it generate an immense heterogenous food diversification, but the impact of technology adoption ranges from nutrient improvement and personalized diets to food traceability and environment-friendly packaging. Indeed, the food revolution is underway, and the possibility of altering food consumption behavior that could enhance food security looks promising these days.

Current Global Food Security Challenge

Food security is not a static concept. Since it was brought up in the mid-1970s, there have been changes towards the notion reflecting the development of policy thinking and its complexity. World Food Conference firstly defined food security as the availability at all times of adequate world food supply of basic foodstuff to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices. This definition more or less emphasizes the dimension of food supply at both global and national levels and price stability. In recent years, the meaning of food security has been evolving, and it has started including human rights dimensions. Food security is not only about its physical availability but also accessibility, utility, and sustainability. It is explicitly concerned with sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets an individual’s dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Food security has become a prominent global issue, especially with the increasing food demands due to the rocketing global population. The current food system is said to be unable to ensure food sustainability and eliminate hunger worldwide. In 2020, The World Programme anticipated that 690 million people or 8.9 percent of the global population, did not have enough food to be healthy. Moreover, the pandemic covid-19 has exacerbated food insecurity and hunger in 2021 as the number of people going hungry in 93 countries amounted to 957 million people. This escalated percentage indicates that achieving zero hunger goals by 2030 proved extremely challenging with the current system. 

As our food supply is dominated by agricultural and livestock products, which are climate-sensitive, its security is also being challenged by climate crisis and industrialization. The rising global temperature invokes environmental problems such as extreme weather, drought, and more frequent natural disaster, which directly impact agricultural and livestock productivity. The current industrialization pace has also decreased productive land due to land transfer for factory construction. It means that there would be fewer lands that can be used to produce food sources. As a result, 50 percent of food production is at risk, and around 21 percent of agricultural output has been lost since 1960. These challenges would need to be addressed; otherwise, food scarcity in the future would be inevitable. Despite pessimism about global food security, technology comes with ground-breaking solutions that look heartening. 

Securing Food Supply via Technology: How is it Possible?

The rapid growth of technology has changed the rule of the game in numerous sectors. When we are nearly desperate to maintain the stability of food supply amid declining agricultural and livestock productivity to fulfil the continuously growing demand, technology offers innovative ways out. Several innovations involving technology and science are expected to play a significant role in addressing concerns related to the four dimensions of food security, including availability, access, utilization, and sustainability. The emergence of multiple start-ups, such as Farming 4.0 that integrate digital solutions into farming systems is one example of how technology could enlarge the availability of food supply. International initiatives such as Nutritious Maize or Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance tries to conduct genetic modifications to create plan variant that is more adaptable to climate change – more tolerant to drought, herbicides or diseases, and higher yield. All these efforts are made to construct a way agriculture could produce more using less. 

Technology adoption is gaining popularity, and its development is noticeable in various dimensions of food production. Not only is it affecting agricultural sectors, but different new menus are also coming onto the table, creating more diverse food options. Biotechnology finds a way to make gene-edited food, which is considered a giant leap in strengthening food security. Meat, eggs, and other protein sources are now possible to be produced in the lab, and it started to gain higher demands, disrupting the traditional food market. Its growing popularity made start-ups like Beyond Meat increasing in values by fivefold in less than two months after being listed on NASDAQ. Non-dairy milk produced from plants such as almond, soy, or coconut successfully secures a place alongside traditional dairy milk. Mainly, in the US, plant-based milk valuation is growing by 60 percent and claims around 12.5 percent of market shares. 

It must be admitted that technology which was once perceived as the opponent of nature – has made all the innovations above possible. Even though those discoveries are mostly still in development and not yet applied globally, the prospect of what technology can do related to food supply is promising. Technology made it possible to genetically modify plants so they can adapt to environmental changes. It helps create more nutritious food sources. And more importantly, the innovation made so far, are trying to address the concern of creating more sustainable food security. In the end, reflecting on how technology works with the food dimension recently, it looks like achieving zero hunger by 2030 is still a viable goal.

Wahyu Candra Dewi
Wahyu Candra Dewi
Graduate student in International Relations at Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia. Interested in digital transformation, environmental issues, and human security.