The future of food?

In 15 year’s time, much of the food that we eat will be designed by software and made by processes like precision fermentation, an Exponential View briefing projects.

Thought leader Azeem Azhar, who launched the EV newsletter five years ago, now has an A-list of innovators contributing to his weekly guide to the future.

The latest briefing from Hannah Tubb and Catherine Tucker of RethinkX says that software-led food design will drive change in what people consume. The combination of advanced computing and synthetic biology means people will be able to make any food that they want to.

For example, milk is 90 per cent water and when someone works out how to recreate the 10 per cent “we will be able to mimic milk without the need for cows”. This has already been achieved in medicine with the production of insulin.

The EV note says: “What is in front of us is a new, modern protein system. Cow meat is the first area of disruption, but there are already chicken products available and the disruption will affect most proteins (eggs, pork, salmon, prawns, etc.). There are also groups working on palm oil, sweeteners, coffee: we can produce any molecule in this way, it is just a question of what makes sense from a cost perspective.” 

As technology develops and costs fall, the benefits projected include five times less energy consumption, 10 times less water consumption and 100 times less land. Food production plants can be small and local, reducing transport costs.

But there will be fightback from the existing industry over things like naming rights – what to call artificial dairy milk, for example. And battles to be fought over nutrition. Currently, taste, texture, convenience and cost are more important when bringing products to market.

This is a briefing well worth searching out because it clearly explains the key issues that the food industry will be obsessing over for the next 10 to 15 years.

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