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The Future of Food: Understanding the perspective of “Generation Y” – PART ONE

Article 13 recently hosted the second in a series of futures workshops (with SAMI Consulting) which bring together industry experts, professional futurists and representatives of Generation Y to explore the Generation Y Perspective. This second workshop focused on the Future of Food and the ‘drivers’, the ‘trends’ and the ‘bends’ as we look forward to 2020, 2030 and 2050. To receive a copy of the final report and/or register for future Generation Y events please

In the first of two blogs, we share some of the emerging insight and findings from the workshop

Step 1: The uncertainties. We  began by scoping the questions and uncertainties which Generation Y feels will shape the future global food system…

1: The human population in 2030: How big will the population grow? How will we deal with the growing ‘grey’ population? Will ‘south to south’ replace ‘south to north’ migration (e.g. increasing movement between developing and emerging economies)? Will ‘suburbia-ism’ reverse urbanisation?

2: The global geopolitical system: How will global and regional conflict impact global food chains? Will this uncertainty trigger a resource scramble in Africa?

3: Our relationship with food: How will the increasing affluence in the BRIC and MINT economies impact food consumption? Will globalisation herald an ever-great variety and innovation of foods or a global ubiquity (e.g. the cheese burger)?

4: Growing enough food within ecological limits: How will more frequent and severe weather events affect food supplies? Will water scarcity, decreasing soil fertility and droughts make some land uncultivable? Can we address the loss of farming skills?

5: The sources for our food: What will the public’s reaction be to synthetic biology and new food technologies? How will farmers grasp the digital technology revolution to optimise cultivation? Will new models of production emerge e.g. indoor, vertical, small-scale farming?

6: Technology and food: Who will we trust in a truly social world, where rumours and news spread instantly? How will developments in 3D technology and demands for personalisation influence our food habits? 

Click here to see the full picture of the questions and the uncertainties identified.

Step 2: Building the scenarios. In an era of such uncertainty, it is implausible to predict one single future. Instead the delegates were asked to identify the two key questions which are the least predictable and therefore the most critical to understand when building robust scenarios for the future:

1) Question 1: Will the food system in 2050 be global or local?

2) Question 2: Will behaviours and values have adapted to the challenges of the food system by 2050?

Based on these two questions, four scenarios were developed.

  •    "Medieval": At one extreme, by 2050, there exists a deeply unequal, almost feudal, global food system. On one side of the fence, a small minority of the population have access to ‘too much food’ - with new ‘lunchtime’ private healthcare ‘treatments’ mitigating obesity-related illness. Meanwhile a significant portion of the world is employed growing cash-crops for the global food and energy-markets - reliant on often insufficient subsistence agriculture for their own nutrition.
  •    "Global Scramble": In this scenario a series of environmental and political ‘shocks’ drive up food costs, yet despite costing more, behaviours remain the same (overconsumption and waste). This results in genuine fears of ‘not enough food on the shelves’ and a global scramble for land by corporations and nation states and rapid new innovations in food technologies. For some of the world’s population more nutritious food is available, but food becomes more expensive for all.
  •    "Global Adaptive Values": A massive water contamination crisis, news of which spreads rapidly via social media, triggers a global public outcry for disclosure by corporations and governments regarding water availability and protection. This galvanises multi-stakeholder forums to advance new models to ensure the protection of basic human resources based on a new ecological values system.
  •    "Local Living": Triggered by global instability and deep distrust of global food chains – a new model of production and consumption has taken hold. This future is epitomised by the emergence of fresh, local “farm shops” which allow consumers to see and feel their own food, picking their own vegetables and catching their own fish.

COMING SOON! The four scenarios are currently being shared with experts from the Strategic Planning Society (click here to register), to add further depth and also examine the different implications, we will be publishing the final scenarios in August.

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