The future of food lies in sustainability and that takes engineering
4 Mar 2022
Engineering knowhow and the latest biotech can solve the dilemma of producing sustainable food and reducing costs, asserts adi Projects’ James Sopwith but it will require innovative approaches and public acceptance...
With an ever-growing population, our dependency on resources such as food, water and nutrition has become an increasing pain point. Manufacturers must contend with an age-old dichotomy: how to speed up and improve product quality whilst driving down costs and reducing negative environmental impact.
Animal agriculture poses great implications for our planet, with farm livestock producing more greenhouse gases annually than cars and vans; UN Food and Agricultural Organisation 2018 data suggests EU farm livestock were yearly responsible for the equivalent of 502 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Leaving aside indirect greenhouse gas emissions the sector is responsible for approximately 9% of all UK greenhouse gas and 37% of global methane emissions.
As net zero ambitions edge ever closer, combined with increasing interest in alternative meat-free or plant-based diets, food manufacturers are keen to push forward with cleaner, more efficient and more nutritious production methods that don’t harm livestock or our environment.
Biotechnology has the potential to provide us with safe, healthy and nutritious food through chemically infused technology. New cellular food production methods limit our dependency on ‘natural’ resources and the development of animal tissue in bioreactors, provides a safer and more sustainable source of protein, that could fulfil the appetite of the world’s projected population of 9 billion by 2050.
But with a rising skills shortage impacted further by the pandemic, manufacturers are at more of a loss than ever before in meeting their production needs.
We’d therefore urge manufacturers to put their faith in those companies which can offer specialist support at scale, 360-degree partners that both invest in the future of engineering as well as offer expertise across every major market sector, ensuring no break in the supply chain.
At adi, we’ve spent years incrementally adding to our skillsets, keeping our ears to the ground to deliver over 30 specialist engineering disciplines, including leading solutions to the food and beverage market. By taking this approach firms can put themselves in a prime position to take advantage of the next wave of food trends, as rises in veganism, and demand for plant-based foods have already challenged manufacturers to adapt.
But while the UK market for meat substitutes is already worth more than €400 million, a recent suvey revealed just 24% of people polled said they would happily try cell-based agricultural products. So, despite plant-based foods and meat alternatives showing up ever increasingly on our supermarket shelves, it seems the verdict is still out on food that perhaps still has the sour tagline taste of ‘genetically modified’.
Food innovators no doubt hold the key to transforming our lives as we know it, building a more sustainable future that reduces our dependency on ever-more frowned upon tactics in meat production. Science has come a long way, but it is now time for manufacturers, consumers and the world of engineering to come together to collaborate and be ready for the next wave of food revolution, which despite some opposition, is already engineering a better future for all.
JamesSopwith is managing director of adi Projects, a division of the adi Group