The coronavirus pandemic disrupted the global food system and emphasised its structural inequity – from unequal food distribution to workers in the system going hungry. Experts are calling for a reimagining of the way we produce and distribute food so that everyone can access quality food. Despite producing more food by volume than humanity has to date, millions of people remain food insecure. Agriculture is also a major contributor to environmental degradation and climate change.
Food fraudsters have found myriad ways to trick shoppers – from cheap horsemeat sold as beef to conventional apples labelled as organic. But new rapid testing and tracing technologies may help turn the tables on food crime.
Dairies in Europe are major economic drivers in rural areas, but they produce significant waste from cleaning and processing. Wastewater and milk residue, which are typically disposed of, are now being turned into new products such as phosphate-rich fertiliser and bioplastics.
The world’s poorest – who have lost their incomes from illness or because of lockdowns – are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and, unless they receive enough support, hunger levels will soar and some countries may see rising violence, experts say.
How do you feed a city? It is one of the great questions of our time. After all, for a species that ultimately depends on plants to feed ourselves, we do tend to cram ourselves into places that are rather unfriendly towards them. Our cities are built around cars, offices and perhaps the odd park – not fields of crops.
Insects in products such as pasta or bread, microalgae, and single-cell proteins derived from wood could feed and nourish humans and animals in the future. Now, those exploring alternative proteins for more sustainable eating are working out how to make the switch to bug-based food a reality.
Robots that use artificial intelligence to recognise the health of fruit and vegetable crops and when they’re ready to harvest are being trialled to help small, organic and greenhouse farmers with weeding and patrolling for pests.
A plant disease spread by sap-sucking insects has been devastating olive and fruit orchards across southern Europe, but scientists are inching closer to halting its spread with the help of insect repelling clays, vegetative barriers and genetic analysis.
Tapping into the genetic diversity contained within the seeds of wild relatives and forgotten crop plants could help farmers decrease their dependency on global agribusiness and grow food better suited to local conditions.
Scientists are studying past conditions to understand which corals migrated to deeper waters.
A lack of knowledge about thunderstorms means we could be overengineering our tallest buildings.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.