Due to population growth, diminishing arable land partly owing to climate change, and dietary changes with people eating more meat, which in turn requires the production of more cattle fodder, the need to assess the future of food is continuing to grow. It was only in 2014 that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the world’s food supply is already jeopardised. They stated that in the last 20 years, particularly for rice, wheat, and corn, there has been a slowdown in the growth rate of crop yields.
As such, the production of food will need to be altered, it will need to evolve. This is my focus. The different evolutions in the growth and production of food, and the effects they will have in combating this growing issue. Research has already begun to show that there are a variety of steps already being taken, many using technology to aid in the process.
When beginning the research for this project, one the most interesting, and yet controversial advancements in the production of food, is the idea of ‘lab grown meat‘. This method would become an alternative for livestock meat production, and one that may prove to be worthwhile. The scientific and technological advances in today’s society has had an incredibly impact on our understanding on biological diversity, and as such, according to this article, “this knowledge has generated new ideas around food, including innovation in raw materials as well as manufactured food products (Green, 2016)”.
In regards to lab grown meat, Mark J. Post stated in an article that, “given the urgency of the problems that the meat industry is facing, this endeavor is worth undertaking (Post, 2012)”. The strength of this article, ‘Cultured meat from stem cells: Challenges and Prospects‘, is the way in which the author not only discussed the different aspects and options for lab grown meats, but also the necessity for it, thus, reinforcing the importance of finding new alternatives. As he puts it, there are at “least three motivations to intensify the exploration of production alternatives to livestock meat production (Post, 2012)”. His three motivation included:
- “With the predicted substantial increase in meat demand, we will quickly run out of production capacity”
“There is growing concern about the environmental impact of livestock breed- ing and management”
“High volume herding and slaughtering has sparked societal concerns about animal welfare and public health (Post, 2012)”
While research has shown that the motivations behind this new technology is sound, and provided the technology continues to be successful, “near endless supplies of cultured meat may be produced with a relatively small ecological footprint (Bekker and Fischer, 2016)”. There is still however the issue of convincing individual’s to actually eat it. The impact of this technology is only going to be proven successful if accepted. The article, ‘Explicit and implicit attitude toward an emerging food technology: The case of cultured meat‘ discusses the attitude towards this new technology. The article, which went into detail about 3 experiments directly related to the attitude towards lab grown meat, and the results of the experiments shows “that the explicit attitude toward cultured meat can be influenced by content based information about cultured meat (Bekker and Fischer, 2016)”.
Another article, ‘Attitudes to in vitro meat: A survey of potential consumers in the United States‘ also discussed a online survey that was undertook. While both these articles only had access to a limited pool of individuals, this specific article also noted that, with the “total of 673 participants (Wilks and Phillips, 2017)”, it was found that “nearly two thirds of the sample would try IVM (Wilks and Phillips, 2017)”. This is only a small survey size, however, both articles provide an interesting insight into the general publics view of lab grown meat.
While, at this point, my research has centred around the production of lab grown meat, and the reasoning behind it, it is far from the only new way in which the production of food has evolved. While lab-grown meat focused on growing a new source of protein, other methods attempt to update and possibly upgrade previous ways of producing food. BoniRob is an example of this, an autonomous robot, billed to eliminate some of the most tedious tasks in modern farming, plant breeding, and weeding.
The article, ‘Navigation System of the Autonomous Agricultural Robot “BoniRob”‘ extensively details this new piece of technology, stating that through ‘BoniRob’, “we have developed an autonomous agricultural robot that can autonomously perform repeating phenotyping tasks for individual plants on different days (Biber, 2010)”. The article effectively conveys how this type of machine could one day become a real “alternative to the tractors found on fields today (Biber, 2010)”. This alternative has the potential to have a very real positive impacts. The robot will reduce the environmental impact of farming by optimizing fertilization and monitoring crop growth, and It also will make farm work easier and greener by automating the weeding process without the use of controversial herbicides.
At this point, my original plan for my digital artefact has yet to change, there have just been some small tweaks in my research approach. I still plan to research and present different ways in which food production and growth will evolve over time, including both lab grown meat, but there will also now be a focus on machines such as the “BoniRob”. Each new technology is different, and that is a point I want to place into focus.
I have also moved away from presenting it in a research report format, as I feel the use of media be needed. As such, I have still yet to decide whether this artefact will be in the form of a series of blog posts, or potentially in a podcast or video essay.
Bekker, G. and Fischer, A. (2016). Explicit and implicit attitude toward an emerging food technology: The case of cultured meat. Appetite, 108, pp.245-254.
Biber, P. (2010). Navigation System of the Autonomous Agricultural Robot “BoniRob”. Workshop on Agricultural Robotics: Enabling Safe, Efficient, and Affordable Robots for Food Production.
Green, H. (2016), The future of food. Nutr Bull, 41: 192-196
Post, M. (2012). Cultured meat from stem cells: Challenges and prospects. Meat Science, 92(3), pp.297-301.
Wilks, M. and Phillips, C. (2017). Attitudes to in vitro meat: A survey of potential consumers in the United States. PLOS ONE, 12(2).