Top 10 Future Food Sources
The mention of ‘food of the future’ brings to mind images of Soylent Green and pellets that can be put in an oven and unfurl into a meal. Thankfully, those are not the most realistic views of what we may be eating, buy where and how we get our food is already changing. These 10 future food sources could end up in your kitchen any day now, will redefine the concept of farming and could seriously impact health in the First and Third Worlds. Oh, and don’t worry, nothing on this list is made from people.
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For those of you who are not big on flavor, there is always food in pill form. While a common detail in movies and books about the future, the ‘meal in a pill’ is actually already here, though probably not as you imagined it.
Researchers in the UK have developed a pill that provides the health benefits of eating a Mediterranean diet. According to the developers, each pill has the vitamins and minerals that you would get from eating six and a half pounds of tomatoes.
Pills such as these are considered more as vitamins than meals, and they are still in development. Realistically no one eats six pounds of tomatoes as a meal, but the potential is there, and it may only be a matter of time before you can get a roasted chicken with vegetables and desserts in pill form.
Eating meat that was grown in a Petri dish probably doesn’t sound appealing, but lab-grown meat could eventually be used to replace the system we currently have for getting our burgers, sausages and steaks.
The process we use now is incredibly inefficient. Livestock need millions of pounds of grain and other food in order for them to grow to the size we expect these days, not to mention the space they take up. Lab-grown meat does not need to be fed, nor does it need acres on which to roam.
At the moment, the meat is grown from the muscle cells of pigs and grown in a serum made from cow blood. By zapping the meat with electricity and ‘exercising’ it, the meat bulks up and becomes something more along the lines of what we’re used to.
For those who aren’t ready for lab meat, you still have time. Researchers haven’t figure the process out 100 percent, and scientists the world over are still working toward a lab-grown meat that tastes and feels like it was raised on a farm.
By 2050, around 50 percent of the world’s population will be living in urban centers, and as cities begin to take over more land, there is going to be less land to grow the food needed to feed their residents. Vertical farming solves that problem by using skyscrapers filled with floors of orchards and fields that can produce crops throughout the entire year.
In addition to providing food, these structures would cut transport costs and pollution, as produce would no longer have to be to shipped across the country.
It would also solve many of the problems facing the agricultural operations of today. Pesticides and fungicides would barely have to be used, as they vertical farm would consist of a closed off, controlled environment. Soil runoff and erosion wouldn’t be a factor as the plants would be grown hydroponically (a method of growing plants that uses water instead of soil). Finally, recycling techniques will ensure that only a fraction of the amount of water and nutrients.
We have the technology to create these structures, but at the moment most are still in the design stage. It’s a good bet that by 2070, these structures will be a common sight in cities across the globe.
Part of the problem with most fish farming operations is the astounding quantity of resources that are required to produce just a few fish. With aquaponics, farmers can save on water, space and plant food, not to mention the fact that it provides said farmers with both a source of protein and vegetables.
Aquaponics is a closed system of agriculture that involves both aquaculture (the farming of aquatic organisms) and hydroponics (a method of growing plants that uses water instead of soil).
Water and waste from a fish tank are piped into a large holding tank, when the tank fills that nutrient rich water then flows down into the gravel beds where the plants are growing. Those nutrients provide them with food, and in return, the plants purify and oxygenate the water so that it can be sent back into the fish tank.
The system supports itself, fits in a standard greenhouse and can be built with some PVC piping and plastic tubs. Not to mention, you make an entire meal with what you grow there.
Floating Sea-Based Fish Farms
While aquaponics systems are great for growing smaller fish that have already been cultivate in fish farms, nothing compares to the open ocean for growing fish. Realizing this, scientists have been working on building giant cages that travel throughout the ocean, protecting and grouping farmed fish for easy harvesting.
This type of farm would be better for the environment and healthier and more numerous fish. Unlike most fish farms, which are built in shallow waters and often lead to the waters in that area becoming completely contaminated by waste, an open water cage allows water to flow through, constantly removing waste and the food that will keep fish alive.
A variety of fish would be housed in the cage, swimming with it as it traveled. The cages even have the possibility of housing bottom dwelling crustaceans that would eat the waste produced by those fish, enabling the system to clean itself.
At this time, the cages are still in development, but researchers hope that eventually they will become the standard in fish farming, which would greatly reduce the need for coastal fish farms and make a huge difference in water quality.
Protein is a huge part of every human’s diet, but, as overfishing is depleting the fish populations and we’re running out of the space needed to maintain herds of cattle, we may have to look to alternate animals to get the protein we need to survive. That is where insects come in.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there are an estimated 1,462 species of edible insects.
To many, eating insects may seem more like the result of a dare than a dinner party, but people from over 90 countries have been living off the little critters for thousands of years. In addition, as more strain is put on natural resources, some experts believe that insects will be raised as an alternative form of protein, as they take up much less space and food than a cow or pig would.
A pound of cicadas or grasshoppers is just as nutritious as a pound of beef, so the next time you fire up the grill for a barbeque, it might not hurt to toss a few of them on the flames. Plus, what′s a grasshopper anyway but a tiny land lobster?
If you’ve ever gotten a mouthful of ocean or lake water, you’ve already consumed some phytoplankton. These microscopic forms of vegetation are tiny algae that float through the water, they number in the billions and have many of the vitamins and nutrients that can be found in land-based vegetation.
As single celled organisms, they reproduce by division, which means they can grow and reproduce hundreds of times faster than their land-bound relatives. Granted, you will need to eat quite a lot of them to get the same kind of fulfillment you would from a carrot or potato.
For now, phytoplankton should really only be taken as a supplement, but in the future, with some scientific intervention, it may be entirely possible that these tiny ‘plants’ could be a major food source.
Adding Nutrients to Deficient Crops
In some places, there are staple crops that grow abundantly and easily, but provide very little nutrition to the people who live off of them. The cassava root is the perfect example, it is cheap and grows in even the worst conditions but it spoils in one or two days and doesn’t provide the nutritional benefits other plants would.
Cassava is deficient in iron, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin E, but because 250 million people rely on this root as a staple crop, scientists have decided to inject it with the vitamins and minerals it would need to become a super-food.
They’ve already produced separate strains of cassava that have four times the protein, 10 times the vitamin E or eight times the zinc. At this point it is just a matter of time before they are able to put all of that into a single strain of the vegetable.
Thanks to this breakthrough, in the future it may be possible to turn any nutrient deficient food into one that can provide sustenance for millions.
Diversified Plant Strains
As the planet’s climate changes some agricultural areas will benefit by an increase in temperature and others will suffer. By diversifying plant strains farmers will be able to grow variations of the crop they are familiar with regardless of the changes in their region.
For decades, our wheat, corn and other staple crops have had variation bred out of them in favor of crops that are all almost genetically identical. By reversing all those years of homogenization, we will be able to continue to grow the resources we need despite any future changes to our climate.
These diversified crops will look and taste virtually the same as those that we are used to right now, but without them we will be faced with increasing food costs in Western countries and worsening food shortages in many developing areas.
Hybrid Fruits & Vegetables
Hybrid fruits and vegetables are already familiar items for most western shoppers. The produce sections are filled with hybrids such as the pomelo, pluot, kiwi, and even the apple.
All these hybrids are nothing new; grapefruits are an 18th-century hybrid that was originally bred in Jamaica, but as we have learned more about what it takes to create these combinations, we now have the ability to create even more interesting mixes.
As for the future, there are countless hybrids that can be created. Much like the added nutrients of the cassava root, we can crossbreed various fruits and vegetables to provide ourselves with more of the nutrients we might need in the future.