Future Harvests – The book is coming soon!

 

The editing of my book “Future Harvests – The next agricultural revolution” is about completed. All that is left to do is developing the cover and start the publishing.

I have already received orders, even before the book is out. That is quite a good sign. And a great surprise for me.

If you wish to be updated automatically when the book is published, just subscribe in the sidebar window on the right.

To describe the topics addressed, I have posted three short promotional videos on YouTube. In previous articles (The fun of writing this book and The next agricultural revolution), I had already given an idea about the content of the book.

Video #1: The Fundamentals (duration 2:37) – Introduction to the background and fundamental principles mentioned in the book “Future Harvests – The next agricultural revolution” to achieve food security for 9 billion people in 2050. Topics such as demographics, the shift in economic power, the control of food  and food security strategies are reviewed. Sustainability, innovation, efficient market driven food production and strong leadership are required.

or click here if video does not appear

Video #2: The Actions (duration 2:12) – A short review of some of the actions mentioned in the book to achieve the objectives. Solving the water challenge, finding new land for production, urban farming, hydroponics, farming the desert, rebuilding fisheries and developing aquaculture further are all possibilities.

or click here if video does not appear

Video #3: The Questions (duration 3:08) – A sample of some of the questions raised in the book. They cover technology, land deals in Africa, improving yields, restoring soil fertility, change in consumer needs, organic farming, risks of conflicts, biofuels or meat are some of the topics presented.

or click here if video does not appear

If you know someone who could be interested by the topics on this page, please pass it on!

German agriculture Minister says “Eat less meat!”

Ilse Aigner made that statement during the “Green Week” held in Berlin early January, one of the largest shows about food and agriculture in the world.

This is quite remarkable to hear a Minister of Agriculture making such a statement, based on the recommendation of the German Nutrition Society that indicates that 300 to 600 grams (that is about 11 to 22 ounces for our American friends, who usually consume this amount in less than two meals…) of meat per capita per week is enough for a person to cover their nutritional needs. Yet, her statement was linked to environmental concerns, since it is fashionable to blame meat production for climate change issues.

From a nutritional point of view, this recommendation is correct. That is all we need. That is less than most of us want, but that is a very different topic. I had addressed this, mentioning that 30 kg per capita per year (equals 600 g per week) was plenty,  in my earlier posting “The future price of meat and fish: up” a few months ago,. I also mentioned that if we ate only what we need, the West would free a quantity of meat large enough to feed a population as large as China’s.

It is unlikely that the Minister’s statement will change consumption patterns any time soon, but the future price of animal protein will. Considering the feed conversion ratio of farm animals and the increased competition between human consumption, animal feed industry needs and biofuels, the production cost of meat will increase. Feed is the main cost in those productions. Further, the amount of water required by farm animals and the manure issues that still linger with intensive animal husbandry, will add to the price pressure.

There is no need to become vegetarians, but the days of gluttony are numbered.

Copyright 2010 – The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

World meat consumption up by 21.3% between 2005 and 2015

According to research from GIRA, meat consumption will increase by 21.3% during the period 2005-2015. Two third of the increase will take place in China only!

Poultry and pork show the strongest increase.
Poultry will increase with 24 million tonnes to 105 million tonnes (+29.6%).
Pork will increase with 21 million tonnes to 125 million tonnes (+20.2%).
Beef will increase with 8 million tonnes to 70 million tonnes (+12.9).

Reducing waste works – The example of Hormel Foods

Hormel Foods issued a press release yesterday about their packaging waste reduction program, and the amount of packaging material that they saved is simply impressive. Reduction covers cartons, paper sleeves, thinner glass jars, plastic trays or shrink-wrap.

Not only this program has a direct effect on the packaging of Hormel products, but it indirectly also saves a lot of resources, such as a significant reduction of paper fiber, less trailers on the road using fuel and less petroleum for plastics of all sorts.

The only detail that do not mention in their press release is the money savings. You can be sure that they would not go through all this effort if it was not bringing significant savings.

Economy meets environment and vice-versa. This only proves that common sense and a clearly defined strategy deliver positive results.

Yes you can! You just need to want to!

Click here for the complete press release from Hormel Foods

Getting closer to lab meat

Dutch researchers have extracted cells from a live pig and put them in a broth derived from the blood of animal fetuses. After the cell have multiplied, the researchers have obtained a mass of muscle tissue.

The texture is obviously not what they are looking for, but they are optimistic about the possibilities.  They have not tasted it, but I think they should have, just to show that they believe in the quality of the meat. Nonetheless, they expect that such meat could be on the market within 5 years.

This project is backed by the Dutch government and by Stegeman, a Dutch subsidiary of Sara Lee that produces sausages and deli products.

After all, if such meat goes into processing, grinding and soaking, the physical properties of the meat do not have to match “true” meat, and it could be a good alternative to meat from a slaughtered pig. A cost analysis will be necessary to see if this indeed has a future. Moreover, it is quite interesting to see this project backed by the government of a country that produces and exports a lot of agricultural products.

Click here to read the article from Meat International

Uruguay, the quiet leader in beef?

Here is an interesting article about how Uruguay works towards a healthier future.

Not only does the country invests a lot in renewable energy but it works in improving its beef, too.

Uruguay’s  100%-traceable, hormone-free, grass-fed beef farming is offering many answers to the concerns of today’s consumers, and the system rewards the farmers doing the right thing, too! Read the article at http://www.benzinga.com/36898/hamburgers-in-montevideo

Not the largest producer, but certainly among the smartest.

Study on waste production in meat and fish supply chains

A study to determine how much waste is produced in the meat and fish supply chains has been initiated in the UK by the Waste and Resources Action Program (aka WRAP) and Envirowise. The goal is to help reduce waste and save money.

To read the article from fis.com, please go to http://fis.com/fis/worldnews/worldnews.asp?l=e&ndb=1&id=34467

This confirms the issue I mentioned in my article “More action needed on food waste

Humans and robots will work closely together in meat and poultry plants

The level of automation in processing plants have increased continuously over the years and the statement made above makes some sense.
This article from MeatPoultry.com reports of an interview with Jeff Burnstein, president of the Robotics Industries Association. Although there is no specific details of things, if any, that may come, other examples in other food industry can be an indicator of future possibilities.
Something to follow on.

Feeding the world in 2050 – FAO coming summit

This question seems to keep many people busy, and this article sums up a number of conclusions drawn by the FAO about the subject.

The information that I find the most interesting is their estimate of the percentage of the world population living in cities, moving up from 49% today to 70% by 2050. Expressed in number of people living in rural areas, this means a drop from roughly 3.2 billion people today to roughly 2.9 billion people in 2050, or around 10% less! This clearly indicates that the future of food supply is not with small farms, but that large units will have to do most of the work in order to feed everyone.

When it comes to their estimate of a necessary increase of 70% of agricultural production to meet the food demand, I have some reservations about their expectations. I doubt that with such a tight supply, people will eat as much meat and animal products as they claim. I believe that money will talk and meat being more expensive that they expect, the diet will probably include relatively more vegetal products and relatively less meat than the numbers that they present.

As I showed at the end of my previous article titled “Price of fish and meat: up”, a healthy readjustment of the Western diet will free a lot of food to feed many more people. As per today, we already are much closer, theoretically, to be able to feed these 9 billion people than we think. I say theoretically because the main problems are:

  1. Guaranteeing access to food through proper infrastructure, which in large part rests on the shoulders of politicians, and
  2. Ensuring that people have enough money to pay for food.

For those who claim that we need three or even four Earths to deal with the problem, clearly, their assumptions are based on having the whole world on the American diet, but that will not happen. We have only one Earth and that will not change. Other things will, though.

Health and environment as growing drivers of food production

Health concerns will gain more importance in the future in the decision process of consumers when they buy their food.
More and more, we can hear and read about concerns and even rejection of the current production systems. Although this bad publicity is not always based on the most objective facts, it has been able to find a growing audience.

It must be true, it was in the newspaper

It must be true, it was in the newspaper

Since most consumers have little or no knowledge of agriculture and food, their only source of information is in the popular media. On the other side of the discussion, the agri-food industry is not getting through, because its message tends to be too defensive and too technical. Unfortunately for the industry, errors from the past (for example, the use of DDT) or cases from other industries (for example, tobacco) contribute to cast a shadow on its credibility. As I wrote my previous article “Less controversy thanks to transparency”, the agribusiness will achieve much more by opening up and having consumers visit their premises so that they can tell what they saw. They must organize more Open House days.

Therefore, for now, consumers have a certain perception of how food is produced, and it is not so relevant to argue whether this perception is correct or not. Perception simply is reality, and consumers act according to what they believe is true.
A little bit of this...There is a growing concern about environmental and health aspects of food production. About the environment, you can list very diverse things such as the depletion of wild fish stocks in the oceans, the interaction between aquaculture and wild fish stocks, manure and smell of intensive animal husbandry and impact of manure on soils and drinking water, deforestation of rainforest for ranching of beef or about growing GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). On the health side, consumers worry about food poisoning due to bacteria, such as E. Coli, listeria, campylobacter and salmonella, but also about residues of pesticides or antibiotics, as well as they worry about the use of hormones in animal productions. As the discussions get more animated in the US about the reform of health care and the cost of obesity, more and more people are wondering about whether the fast food diet is a proper one. Next to this, animal welfare is a growing concern by more and more consumers.
The answer to many of these worries has started to appear in the last few years with the growth of the organic market segment. When we see the growth and the performance of a retailer such as Whole Foods, there is no doubt that organic foods have a growing audience.

The concerns about the environment are forcing retailers, food service and businesses involved in the production chain of food to make changes. Some of the actions they have taken can be seen as marketing or PR, but they also have become mainstream. Just a look at how many restaurant and supermarket chains have already implemented sustainable seafood programs indicates how serious this change in consumer attitude is. Fast food chains are also actively working on reducing their environmental impact and set standards on where they source their meat, based on environmental concerns, such as no beef from ranches deforesting the Brazilian rainforest.
In the past, we have seen some examples of production methods that had to be abandoned, simply because no solution to cope with environmental problems could be found. This has been the case in The Netherlands where the level of intensification caused such manure surpluses and risks of animal disease to such a point that after many years of looking for viable technical solutions in vain, the government decided that the size of the national herds had to be reduced.
Similarly to what happened in Europe over the last decade, we can expect that much stricter rules in the use of antibiotics will be applied, and I expect a similar trend to a progressive elimination of the use of hormones in animal husbandry. About animal welfare, there should not be any surprise the day that only husbandry systems that allow enough “recreation” area for animals will be allowed. All of the above is going to have an impact on how and where food is produced. Systems will become less intensive, and progressively we will see more techniques to improve efficiency to compensate.

Past Food?

Past Food?

As I also had mentioned in another article (Future price of fish and meat: up), it is simple logic that with more people to feed, food is going to become more expensive. However, the relative prices of various food products also need to go along their relative health benefits. Today, it looks like only wealthy people can afford a healthy diet, as the price of “good” food is substantially higher than the price of what makes a nutritionally unbalanced meal. This clearly does not work in the direction of a healthier population at large.

The way consumers think will define the way we eat and produce our food. Many changes in consumption patterns, in production systems and in product offering are under way. I will get back later with more details on what my views are on this.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.