26 January 2012

Radical Future of Food

Food, farm and water technologists will have to find new ways to grow more crops in places that until now were hard or impossible to farm. It may need a total rethink over how we use land and water. So enter a new generation of radical farmers, novel foods and bright ideas.


....Algae are at the bottom of the food chain but they are already eaten widely in Japan and China in the form of seaweeds, and are used as fertilisers, soil conditioners and animal feed. "They range from giant seaweeds and kelps to microscopic slimes, they are capable of fixing CO2 in the atmosphere and providing fats, oils and sugars. They are eaten by everything from the tiniest shrimp to the great blue whales. They are the base of all life and must be the future," says Edwards.

Artificial meat

It looks like meat, feels like meat and it is meat, although it's never been near a living, breathing animal. Instead, artificial or "cultured" meat is grown from stem cells in giant vats.

...Much of the research into artificial meat is being done in Europe with scientists in Holland and Britain developing edible tissue grown from stem cells in laboratories. But while the first artificial hamburger could be developed next year, it might taste of nothing at all...studies show that artificial meat wins hands down in the environmental stakes, using far less water, energy and land.

New crops

Few people have heard of Zhikang Li, but history may judge the Chinese plant breeder to be one of the most important people of the century. Last year, after 12 years' work with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, he and his team developed "green super rice", a series of rice varieties which produce more grain but which have proved more resistant to droughts, floods, salty water, insects and disease.

...Green super rice, which could increase yields in Asia enough to feed an extra 100 million people, will be rolled out in the coming years....Last year more than 350m acres – about 10% of global cultivated area, or the same area as Germany, France and the UK together – were planted with GM crops, but this mainly covered only three big foods – maize, oilseed rape and soya – most of which went to animal feed.

Desert greening

Much of the world is arid, with its only nearby water being the sea. So could a technology be found to green coastal deserts in places such as Chile, California, Peru and the Middle East using salt water?
Charlie Paton, a British inventor, has a vision of vast "seawater greenhouses" to grow food and generate power. The idea is simple: in the natural water cycle, seawater is heated by the sun, evaporates, cools to form clouds, and returns to earth as refreshing rain. It is more or less the same in Paton's structures. Here, hot desert air going into a greenhouse is first cooled and then humidified by seawater. This humid air nourishes crops growing inside and then passes through an evaporator. When it meets a series of tubes containing cool seawater, fresh water condenses and is then collected. And because the greenhouses produce more than five times the fresh water needed to water the plants, some of it can be released into the local environment to grow other plants. [also see Sahara Forest]


Locusts, grasshoppers, spiders, wasps, worms, ants and beetles are not on most European or US menus but at least 1,400 species are eaten across Africa, Latin America and Asia. Now, with rising food prices and worldwide land shortages, it could be just a matter of time before insect farms set up in Britain.

Not only are many bugs rich in protein, low in fat and cholesterol and high in calcium and iron, but insect farms need little space. Environmentally, they beat conventional farms, too. The creatures are far better at converting plant biomass into edible meat than even our fastest growing livestock, they emit fewer greenhouse gases and they can thrive on paper, algae and the industrial wastes that would normally be thrown away._Guardian
It is also worth revisiting the topic of "Aeroponics," a form of agriculture that requires no soil at all, can be built up in 3 dimensions, and is very thrifty with water. Aeroponics could be used on seasteads -- using "seawater greenhouse" techniques, on space stations and lunar outposts using recycled water, in polar colonies on Antarctica -- even on submarines or undersea habitats.

H/T NextBigFuture

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Blogger Matt M said...

Move farther down the food chain and you get more volume, i.e. algae, insect, etc.

Artificial meat would probably be introduced as a filler and extender for hot dogs and SPAM and potted meat.

Also, the technology to convert cellosic plant material directly into Sugar has the possibility of impacting the food supply significantly.

Finally, we need to keep those consumers who only eat 'organic' and non-GM foods from forcing that down the world's throat - or millions and millions will starve.

Thursday, 26 January, 2012  
Blogger Leon Caruthers said...

Artificial meat is solution in need of a problem. The "environmental impact" of meat production is a farce trumped up by radical enviroleftists. If you care about the energy costs, switch to grass pasture and the inputs for feeding grain to animals vanishes.

Thursday, 26 January, 2012  
Blogger Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...


Most of the diet of grazing animals is grass or other stuff humans can't eat (cotton seed, silage). Steers get fed grain in the feed lot stage, right before slaughter. What they eat determines how they taste. Cattle and sheep are great at turning inedible plants into a source of protein for us.

Grass = gamey flavor

Thursday, 26 January, 2012  
Blogger Leon Caruthers said...

Grass = gamey flavor

Grain = industrial flavor. You've been conditioned.

Friday, 27 January, 2012  

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