About soil, plant factories and how digital, technology and food becomes the future.

Early February I published version 4 of my PowerPoint presentation about sustainability on Slideshare. This presentation gives an overview of the biggest 5+3 global challenges. In the next decennia these 5+3 challenges will determine the politic, economic and social playfield.

The five global challenges are, according to me:

  1. (too) many people on this earth. Of four million people 10.000 years ago to almost 10 billion is a stronger growth than our earth can handle. This topic can’t really be discussed politically.
  2. A shortage of minerals, especially phosphate (fertilizer shortage that is), to feed the population. Two years ago I made a film with Tinkerbell about this. #safeourchildren.
  3. Oil – needed for the agro food complex – will run out sooner or later. Let’s put it this way: it will become expensive through shortage.
  4. Approximately we have two global hectare per person.
  5. And of course especially the availability of freshwater.

I think issues 4 and 5 are solvable. Freshwater can be produced for free with technology. This will indeed take up some energy, but as from 2020 that energy will be free of charge anyway. In short, this is not the main issue. And farmland will be needed for a long time – certainly for westerners who consume a lot, eat a lot of meat and to top it off spill a lot – but in the long run we can ‘take to the sky’ (vertical farming).

No, a huge shortage of minerals – phosphate at the top – is what I consider one of the bigger problems. Even more so now we can’t talk about birth control and ‘fewer people on earth’. Minerals are at this moment still connected to fertility of farmland. Fortunately the topic (fertile) soil is getting higher on the agenda. Recently a nice overview report about this subject has been published: The Soil Atlas 2015. This report is written by the Heinrich Böll Foundation (Berlin), and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (Potsdam). Highly recommended!

Meanwhile the Dutch television VPRO is promoting tonight’s broadcast ‘Tegenlicht’ (Backlight). I love this program and for sure will be watching tonight. The subject is Digital Food”. Of course, food is ‘atoms and molecules’ and will never become ‘bits and bytes’, but I get the essence. We migrate to the 6th cycle of Kondratieff and one this is certain: our food will become more ‘technological’ in the future. I do believe that is true.

The future of our eat-system is about vertical farming, food-printers, Soylent and other products. Also about Beeter and Ojah, AMAP, pascalization and PurePulse. Food made in ‘factories’ with new sustainable (physical) technology. No more ‘back to basic’ farming, or only organic. But neither old-school large, larger, largest.

Sustainability is about resilience, in which technology will become more important. The WUR – classic in old-thinking – is wrong. Outsiders make the future and oil tankers can sink. That’s what history teaches us.

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