The Age of Plenty
There’s a surging current of alarm that we’re headed for a food doomsday by 2050—that the world’s food-producing capacity will crash before population peaks at 10 billion. Don’t you believe it! Smart technology and better management policies will let us feed the hungry hordes to midcentury and beyond.
Scroll down to browse more than 20 stories that examine the link between technology and food, including views from experts like Keith Fuglie, Nathan Myhrvold and Pablos Holman, and Jeffrey Lipton and Hod Lipson.
Or, jump directly to a particular section of the report:
We think of things like nuclear submarines and luxury cars as emblems of technological sophistication. But turn your attention now to an ordinary local supermarket in any developed country. It probably stocks 15 000 to 50 000 different products, including items like organic red quinoa and Tahitian vanilla beans.Read More
In the produce section are about 100 different kinds of fruits and a like number of vegetables. The packaged food section has snacks that are scientifically formulated to trigger addictive responses while retaining their freshness for months, if not years. And it’s all ridiculously cheap: A typical family in a developed country spends less than 15 percent of its disposable income on food.
We are rich in food beyond all prior dreams, and yet there’s a swelling chorus of worry that we are headed for catastrophe, as population growth and climate change threaten food security.
That anxiety is misplaced. It’s true that we need new technologies to grow more and better food using fewer chemicals and less land, water, energy, labor, and capital, while causing less damage to the environment. But as we show in this issue, it’s also a fact that those technologies are now being developed, tested, or applied all over the world. —The Editors
Part I: Growing It
Agricultural Productivity Will Rise to the Challenge
We can feed a growing world for decades to come provided that we invest in research not only in the advanced countries, but everywhere
Farming by the Numbers
Precision agriculture brings computing’s accuracy to the ancient art of cultivation
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Big Ag
Selling to the world, not feeding it
+ The Checkered History of Big Ag
The Indoor Aquaponics Farm
Urban Organics plans to grow fish, greens, and maybe the whole indoor aquaponics industry
GM Foods Grow Up
With new genetic tricks, farmers could feed the planet while dodging the controversy
+ Golden Grains of Discord
Hacking Tomatoes at the World’s Greenest Greenhouse
A Dutch experimental growing facility tests the brightest new ideas in agricultural efficiency
Part II: Making It
The Energy to Create Your Food
The energy needed to create food can vary widely by type
Creating Recipes with Artificial Intelligence
IBM’s cognitive computing team takes on a new frontier: meal planning
The Better Meat Substitute
Can new and improved meat analogues help us control our damaging desire for animal flesh?
The Jargon of Junk Food
Manufactured foods need manufactured words
Part III: Tracking It
Part IV: Future Food
Half-Baked Ideas for Improving the Food Supply
Some innovative concepts just aren’t practical—yet
Chef in a Box
In the kitchen of the future, a food compositor could fabricate haute cuisine from scratch
Adventures in Printing Food
3-D kitchen printers produce hits (a deep-fried scallop space shuttle) and misses (square milk)