For our latest global insight piece, we wanted to shine a light on the innovative processes that are revolutionising food production, from creation to cultivation, and preservation of food products.
Increasing pressures on the industry from consumers, professionals, investors, and the climate are driving innovation in all parts of the supply chain including storage, manufacturing, and creation processes. Consumers are looking for products that taste good as well as last longer, save them money, and prevent food wastage. Climate advocates, more commonly known as the average consumer, are looking for farming and creation systems that promote biodiversity, help tackle the carbon emissions crisis, and promote environmental regeneration.
The climate is arguably one of the largest factors pushing food processing innovation, as frosts, floods, and droughts are damaging crop yields and creating global food shortages. By 2050 our planet is expected to be home to 10 billion people1, creating an opportunity to revisit the way in which we produce food. One country that has been mindful of the need to reinvigorate its farming practices is the Netherlands, an agricultural giant that is showing what the future of farming could be2. About 20 years ago they challenged themselves to produce twice as much food with half the resources3. Not only have they achieved their goal, but they are currently the second-largest exporter of agricultural products whilst also being at the forefront of sustainable farming practices. They have now challenged themselves to reduce their nitrogen emissions by 50% by 2030, yet another great mission and opportunity for innovation.
Their centrality to global food research is undeniable with fifteen of the top twenty agrifood companies in the world having main development and research centers based in the Netherlands. The Netherlands’ regeneration of the farming industry has come in many forms, tackling issues from water availability to land usage and sustainable foods. Precision farming which measures soil chemistry, water content, nutrients, and growth, allows farmers to measure the progress and growth of each plant. Using this process potato yield has more than doubled the average, producing over 20 metric tonnes per acre. Meanwhile, the Duijvestijn tomato farms harness geothermal energy to warm their greenhouses and use predatory mites to protect their plants from pests. Furthermore, their understanding of vertical farming has made them masters of efficiency4, producing the same amount as traditional ‘dirt farming’ with 1/10 of the acreage and 1/28 of the water.
The environmental benefits of combatting food shortage problems without compromising more habitats and jeopardising biodiversity are clear. Robotic engineering and seed selection is also a new process that will successfully combat food shortage problems, benefit the nutritional value of food products, and even support traditional methods of farming.
The vulnerability of crops has become more obvious in the past two months than ever before, this has led to a deeper dive into the DNA of crops, resulting in cross-breeding crops, making them more resistant to frost and other climate issues. One such grain is ‘Kernza’, developed by the Land Institute. With deeper roots for delivering atmospheric carbon to the soil and gaining much-needed nutrients, and containing more seeds that an average wheat head, this grain should help modernise traditional farms and diets.
Greater attention to and the robotic engineering of seed DNA, can also help combat and prevent crop viruses through the cross-breeding of the most resilient crops. With greater processing going into the very first stage of food production, companies and farmers are able to alleviate the pressures from other factors such as climate change and environmental monoculture. This manipulation of the plant DNA is not only benefitting the crops, but also consumers, with new super grains that have been mutated in the breeding process to present a better nutritional profile. All of this works alongside the well-trodden narrative that consumers are looking to do better for the environment and better for themselves.
Arguably one of the greatest developments of the past two years is the development of new techniques to achieve and harvest proteins that can then be used for food development. The two most notable are air protein and mycelium protein. Both processes have taken the concept of alternative protein and elevated it by focusing on the key drawbacks of other proteins like say, time and sustainability. As unbelievable as it may seem air protein (e.g. Air Protein, Solein®) is doing what is says on the tin, turning elements of air into a sustainable protein source that takes a fraction of the time to produce and a fraction of the space. Carbon-negative by design, air protein aims to combat several threats to food availability at once, namely combatting the greenhouse emissions that animal and agricultural farming practices produce. Mycelium protein development is becoming more popular with a handful of global companies harnessing the immense regenerative power of mycelium. These ‘fungi labs’ grow and harvest the mycelium which contains up to 60% protein and 12% fibre, making it an incredibly naturally nutritious form of protein. This mycelium protein contains complete amino acids making it incredibly nutritious. When combining these new protein growing processes with other sustainable movements, such as vertical farming, we can create whole new processes that are simultaneously more efficient and sustainable.
It is undeniable that whilst all of these environmental factors have meant inordinate pressure on our food systems, they have also opened the door and pushed for a improvement in our food processes. Food producers are making significant movements to make the food that we are eating more sustainable and nutritional, but there are a multitude of other ways that companies are updating their processes to respond to pressures. Taking a second look at the way in which food is stored and packaged is one way companies can extend the shelf life of products, thus reducing wastage for their customers. Likewise, methods such as freeze-drying of ingredients can help severely mitigate food wastage at the source of fragile herbs.
Challenges breed innovation and it is certain that the challenges that we have been aware of for years have already led to some fantastic innovations and ambitious targets from countries like the Netherlands. Innovation is currently focused on sustainable and regenerative farming practices, reducing food waste, and making more nutritious foods readily available; however, it will be interesting to see what challenges 2023 will present and how our food innovators respond.
For more information on other food trends and market insights, reach out to your local team here.
Singapore – Mycovation
All natural, mycelium products that are sustainable, nutritious, and definitely taste better! Asia’s first mycoprotein company is unlocking how mycelium can make better food.
United Kingdom – Farming Innovation Programme
The UK government has given £16.5 million towards research and development in farming. This funding is to drive innovation for animal welfare, harvesting, and crop yields.
Australia – Food Innovation Precinct
A state-of-the-art facility fostering industry innovation to drive business growth, develop new products and exports, and transform Western Australia’s food and beverage manufacturing industry.
United States of America – Air Protein
Turning elements in the air into sustainable protein that eliminates compromise between taste, nutrition, and climate threat. Air meat is crafted through a process similar to how beer and yogurt are made and can be produced exponentially faster than traditional meat production.
References: 1. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/article/holland-agriculture-sustainable-farming 2. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/article/holland-agriculture-sustainable-farming 3. https://dutchreview.com/culture/innovation/second-largest-agriculture-exporter/ 4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/interactive/2022/netherlands-agriculture-technology/
Please note, we are not affiliated, associated, or in any way officially connected with the brands and products mentioned within this post.