• Julian Meitanis, Director |
  • Dominik Moser, Expert |

During the “Dare to Shape the Future” initiative, Swiss students worked with the support of KPMG coaches on bold predictions regarding ESG topics (Environmental, Social and Governance) with an outlook on 2043. The following prediction was developed by Sarah Cissé from University Basel and Callia Fordschmid from University Zurich.

By 2043, emerging technologies are expected to significantly enhance global food security by optimizing agricultural practices, diversifying food sources, and predicting potential disruptions. However, the adoption of these technologies might widen disparities between wealthy and food-scarce nations and pose threats to traditional agricultural livelihoods, so it needs to be carefully balanced with socio-cultural considerations.

Prediction

The UN human rights charter includes the right to food, yet in 2023, climate change, political instability, and population growth have posed direct challenges to global food security. Based on current trends, emerging technologies are expected to positively contribute to food security by 2043.

Advanced Forecasting and Analytics

In 2043, AI models will provide precise yield predictions and extreme weather alerts based on satellite imagery, soil health metrics, and historical yield data. This information will be used to refine irrigation techniques and adapt harvest schedules. AI systems will monitor geopolitical shifts, issuing timely alerts for potential supply chain disruptions. In 2022, researchers had already built models able to provide information to food security efforts, even when primary data is not available, which in turn allows for action to be taken before a potential humanitarian crisis unfolds.

Automation

By 2043, farmers will have adopted precision agriculture. Instead of treating fields uniformly, they will be able to focus on individual areas of their fields and specific needs with real-time data. Whether a patch is under-irrigated, a section deprived of vital nutrients, or an area is susceptible to pests, precision agriculture tools will enable farmers to respond locally. This will lead to increased, more reliable yields, while respecting soils and reducing harm to ecosystems. The market for precision agriculture is expected to grow by an estimated 152% from 2023 to 2030, which promises fruitful innovation.

Diversification of food sources

By 2043, the food supply chain will have undergone a strategic shift to tackle unforeseen disruptions. Diversifying food sources will allow greater resilience against extreme weather events – like floods, fires, and droughts – or geopolitical developments, such as suspensions of critical trade agreements or wars. Vertical farming projects will contribute to the demand for food in fast-growing city populations, with limited land use in rural areas. Currently, broader adoption of vertical farming is hindered by high infrastructure and software costs, as well as high energy consumption. In 2023, the Swiss start-up YASAI AG, the Agroscope research institute, the agriculture company Fenaco, and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) launched a partnership aimed at addressing these issues. Their goal is to provide viable solutions to increase economic viability and reduce energy use while guaranteeing quality until 2025.

Why did this happen?

In 2023, 30% of the world population have faced a moderate to severe risk of food insecurity, and the situation is worse than pre-pandemic. The situation is expected to exacerbate further due to several challenges. Firstly, the world population is estimated to reach approximately 9.1 billion by 2050, which will lead to a 70% increase in demand for food. Secondly, climate-change-related extreme weather events pose a direct threat to crops. Thirdly, geopolitical tensions might lead to the freezing of crucial trade agreements and supply chains being disrupted globally. For example, the war between Russia and Ukraine has led to high uncertainty regarding grain provision in the EU and worldwide. Food security must therefore be addressed in a holistic manner. One aspect could include developing technological solutions.

Governments, businesses, and international organizations have recognized the pressing challenges in our food supply and have developed strategies to tackle them. Governments support companies in developing innovative solutions while creating regulatory frameworks that ensure these technological advances are implemented in a safe and fair way. Concurrently, research initiatives are pioneering cutting-edge technologies, laying the groundwork for widespread implementation. An example of this joint effort is the previously mentioned partnership, where stakeholders from governmental, research, and economic sectors converge, representing a united approach to address challenges.

Impact

In 2043, AI, big data, and advanced automation will have reshaped our food supply chain, improving its efficiency and resilience. Precision-driven models will have revolutionized production, ensuring optimal use of resources, reducing waste, and safeguarding our ecosystems. As we diversify our food sources and reduce our reliance on imports, we will enhance our food security in the face of environmental and political challenges. Vertical farms will cater to the nutritional needs of burgeoning urban populations, occupying less land and consuming less water.

While this digital transformation offers promise, it is not without challenges. The significant financial investment required to adopt these advances benefits affluent nations, while potentially increasing disparities with regions grappling with food scarcity. The success of these digital solutions is also linked to the quality and accessibility of data. Where data is lacking, food security remains a concern. In 2023, almost half of the world population lives in households linked to the agricultural food system, so a surge toward full automation might endanger countless livelihoods, with wider societal repercussions.

As we gaze into the future, it is clear that while digital advances can contribute to food security in a 10-billion-strong population, they must be judiciously balanced with other instruments and initiatives and socio-cultural considerations. The goal remains unaltered: a world where food systems are adaptive, efficient, and uncompromisingly sustainable.

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