"We are eating into the future", says Global Foresight Network founder

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"We are eating into the future", says Global Foresight Network founder

With global food demands expected to double by 2050, businesses within all food sectors are exposing themselves to high risks of extinction, unless they start to deviate from heavy reliance of oil based fertilizers, the overuse of water systems and the mining of soil. This is the view of Global Foresight Network founder Michael McAllum, as told to delegates of the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Australia-New Zealand Fresh Connections 2013 event in Sydney this month. At www.freshfruitportal.com, we give a summary of his talk on the future of food production and innovative ways to make it more sustainable.

McAllum said current projections showed a snowball effect when it came to global renewable energy use for food production.soil 1

"We are eating into the future. Right now, if we just do business as usual, we'll use up half of next year's renewable resources. And next year, we'll use up half of the following year's," he said.

He added that protein development was the backbone of a viable food industry, but the footprint of its creation was currently far too high.

"Under current projections, by 2020 two-thirds of the world’s grain will be required for protein production. Every business, organisation and value chain will have to change – and it's not optional."

It is predicted that the current centralized and efficiency-based models will shift to become distributed networks based on relationships and cooperation across entire value chains.

"We started to see outbreaks where our city and countryside form around these commitment communities and they will create new values for our connections. It's a relationship based model."

Australia, like many other countries, is lacking in innovation of such structures while the country's distribution systems are still "pretty clumsy and far too costly".

"With a high-cost society like Australia, we might need to rethink our distribution systems instead of focusing on better and more efficient production."

He said growers needed to start thinking about their systems under the idea of "agroecology".

"Agroecology says that you need to start creating production systems that think like ecologies.

"This is not theoretical. It's built on practice and it’s tough on people who spent 100 years based on a system that was fed by cheap oil."

The emergence of these new distributed networks will create better cost-efficient transaction costs, faster information and knowledge flows, designed from the customer backwards.

"People need to really understand what their customers want and re-connect with them – 'Do you really understand what they think about your products and the taste that you provide?'

"The power is now truly in the consumers hands, armed with Twitter and all the rest of it. I expect it to be extremely customized for me and what I want."

While such diverse networks expected to outperform economies of scale systems, the industry is still faced with inherent challenges from fast food chains.

"35% of all foods that Australians eat have no nutritional value. The number is 45% amongst children," McAllum said.

"To explode this sector, businesses cannot afford to sit next to people who are offering something like that.

"We need to argue very persuasively with consumers, that buying our kind of food, which is slightly more expensive, is significantly better for you."

He emphasized that creating such pathways was made easy and was already available through current technology and network capabilities.

"While the challenges are substantive, all the technologies and proven case studies that show that a better way is possible already exist. What’s required, is a new will and a philosophy that properly respects the food we create."




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