A June 2021 episode of the Food Network television show Chopped asked chef contestants to cook with “future foods” from the year 3000. However, the ingredients were not exactly science fiction: regeneratively grown squash, pea protein milk, solar-farm honey, and water-filtering littleneck clams.
This assortment actually reflects profound ways that consumer and industry demand today are driving the food and agriculture industries to adapt to a more sustainable world.
Here are six ways they are adapting.
Although not a new concept, regenerative agriculture is attracting new attention for its significant carbon mitigation potential in a sector with some of the world’s highest emissions. By using a combination of planting and harvesting techniques, the approach helps restore soil health while capturing and storing climate-changing carbon.
The Growing Business of Plant-Based Diets
Once associated primarily with health and animal welfare, consumers are embracing plant-based proteins as environmentally responsible and sustainable choices. As plant-based food companies get leaner and more sustainable, plant-based alternative proteins that satiate both meat-eaters and vegans will likely continue to expand.
The Transition to Renewable Energy
The push for farm survival is helping drive on-farm renewable energy production. Some farmers look to renewable energy, not to fuel crop and livestock production, but as a crop itself. The number of US farms producing renewable energy more than quadrupled between 2007 and 2017, hitting 6.5 percent of all US farms.
Supply Chain Reinvention
The pandemic has highlighted the fragility of global supply chains and generated renewed appreciation for locally sourced products, including food. Between 2000 and 2015, the nation’s farmer’s markets almost tripled as health- and community-conscious consumers connected with fresh harvests and the faces behind their food.
The Increasing Impact of Women in Agriculture
Women have a growing presence in agriculture, which could add steam to the industry’s sustainability momentum. Research shows that women bring a different mindset to business in general, for example, taking a value-based approach to investing that includes sustainability.
Agtech and Sustainability
Compared to conventional outdoor ag, controlled environment agriculture facilities can produce 10 times the amount of food in the same area. Tech-minded farmers and growers are optimizing outdoor production more sustainably as well, using wireless soil sensors, irrigation software, satellite imagery, drones, and more.
For more on these trends, check out 6 Ways Sustainable Agriculture is Changing the Business of Food.