Ryan Lawler

17 February 2021

2 min read

We’re on the verge of a global food crisis. Based on current estimates, the global agricultural industry will need to ramp up food production 70 percent by 2050 to meet the needs of 10 billion people around the world. What’s more, we’ll have to accomplish this feat using roughly the same amount of arable land while also attempting to reduce emissions and conserve fresh water.

An undertaking of this kind will require a multi-pronged approach that includes not just increasing the amount of food produced, but changing diets, improving supply chains to reduce food waste, and adopting more sustainable farming and livestock raising practices.

The good news is that agricultural technology is a growing field that is already tackling many of these challenges, whether it be moving farms indoors and building them vertically, using sensors and applying AI and machine learning to improve yields, adopting blockchain technology to track and manage the supply chain, or introducing synthetic or plant-based “meat” products that are better for the environment.

The future of food tech

In this issue of Component, we explore the food ecosystem and how technology is changing the way food is produced, as well as how we discover new foods, how we choose what to eat, and how food makes it to our homes.

We highlight the growth of the fake meat industry, and how plant-based and synthetic proteins are poised to become a more significant part of our diet. We go in-depth on the challenges technologists face when building a machine learning ontology to understand unstructured food content and data, and how this process can be used to connect an increasingly complex food ecosystem.

We delve into the transformation of food media, and how new media and distribution channels change the way people discover recipes and learn new cooking techniques. And we look at how the rise of ghost kitchens during the COVID-19 pandemic could change the restaurant and takeout industry forever.

Finally, we share an interview with Xiaowei Wang, the author of Blockchain Chicken Farm, and Other Stories of Tech in China's Countryside, about how technology is being applied to the agricultural industry and other parts of rural China.

A note about the artist

This month's illustrations were created by Joey Chu. Joey is a San Francisco-based visual artist traversing disciplines of illustration, design, film, and photography. She is passionate about telling authentic narratives through purposeful design. Her pursuit in the creative industry launched her opportunities to cover human experiences all over the world, tackling subjects like technology, human rights, cultural experiences, and trauma caused by natural disasters. She was awarded the Red Dot Design Junior Award and her work was featured in film festivals like Hollyshorts, Indy Shorts, and Phoenix Film Festival.

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