Goal 2: Zero Hunger
the future of food
From salads grown in air raid shelters to cricket-chip cookies, we meet the pioneers changing the way we eat
By hannah rochell
may 28 2021
The world’s population is set to grow by 1.9 billion people by the year 2050. That’s a lot of extra mouths to feed. And yet today, if everyone ate the diet of the average American, it would require all habitable land to be used for agriculture, and we’d still need 38% more land.
In short, if we are to feed everyone adequately in years to come, even before we take into account the environmental impacts our current food production is having on the planet, the only way forward is to adopt more sustainable food solutions. To get an idea of how we might all be eating in the next 30 years, we spoke to three pioneers about the possible future of food…
The Insect Protein Pioneers
In many countries it’s perfectly normal to eat insects. Jarrod Goldin, co-founder of Entomo Farms, explains why eating crickets is one of the most environmentally friendly things we can do.
Farmed insects are good for the environment
‘Land and water are the two primary things. The efficiency of protein and nutrient production from a relatively small footprint that can be ‘grown’ vertically, compared to the footprint you would need to grow or raise the same amount of protein traditionally with cows or hogs or chicken is really mind blowing. Also, 90-95% of the food we feed insects turns into food we can eat, whereas unfortunately with cows it’s more like 10%. An analogy I like to give is that if a family of four got about 50 grams of protein a day from insects instead of traditional meat just one day a week for a year, they would save the planet about 750 thousand litres of water. It is really amazing.’
Insects are good to eat
'Our core competence is crickets, and our runner up is the mealworm. We take the crickets, wash them and roast them, and we leave them whole or we grind them into a powder. You could add the powder to anything, that’s the beauty of it. If you were making a banana bread or anything that’s baked you can replace up to 25% of the flour with the cricket powder. Our customers are infusing the powder into things like pasta, chilli, crackers, smoothies and protein bars. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the public’s appetite for the whole roasted insects, they’re a lot of fun to add to salads in whole crunchy form, and we’ve had customers infuse them into ice cream.'
They're a healthy superfood, too
'Our cricket powder protein contains iron, B12 and fibre. It’s very high in prebiotic fibre and studies have shown that the gut micro bacteria that the prebiotic fibre grows is related to diminishing heart disease and cardiovascular problems. Just 10 grams of our powder has enough B12 for the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) so I’m more excited about the B12 and the iron as a scientist than I am about the protein. Iron anemia is the number one nutritional health issue on the planet, so insects like crickets in a powder form may play a vital role in replenishing people’s iron levels, and primarily women’s B12 levels, as well as getting our fibre issues sorted out.'
Even vegetarians are tempted?
'We have tremendous interest from the vegetarian community. What I’ve learnt is there are three tenets for a vegetarian or a vegan. Number one is sustainability, two is the effect meat has on your health, and three is animal welfare. We easily tick the first two boxes; it’s one of the most sustainable food sources that can be raised or grown and it’s extremely healthy for you. And from an animal welfare perspective, the business model relies on maximum yields. If the crickets are mistreated or their conditions are less than pristine they will cannibalise each other, the numbers will drop and our yields will go down, so they are literally treated like little kings and queens. They only live about six weeks so we harvest them about one or two days before they would die anyway. But be ready to be disappointed when you first try them because it’s really anticlimactic - they just taste like ordinary food. The look on people’s faces when they’re looking for some euphoric or weird experience and then they taste it and say ‘it tastes just like food’. Because yeah, it is food!'
The Underground Farmers
The brilliantly named Growing Underground farm is located in a World War II air raid shelter 33 metres underground, parallel to the train tracks and pavement above. We spoke to Growing Underground’s Bethany Thurston to find out more.
Underground farming uses less water
'What we do is called controlled environment agriculture, which in general uses around 70% less water than traditional farming. We grow microgreens like salad rocket, radish, wasabi mustard, fennel and coriander because they’re the most efficient and the most commercially viable; they’re small but very intense in flavour. We get a lot of demand especially from London restaurants because they’re good for decorating a plate and adding a lot of flavour.'
Growing indoors is very efficient
'We can make sure that every day is the perfect day - being able to control the weather, especially with concerns about climate change, global warming and more frequent adverse weather conditions. We use LED lighting and we’ve found it’s a really efficient way to grow indoors. We’ve done trials of new LED lights that have shown an improvement in yields of up to 100%, so you can have faster growing days and better quality. We can control nutrients in the water, and also we don’t need any pesticides or herbicides because we can really control what pests come in and out.'
Crops grow more quickly
'Our fastest growing crop is our pea shoots. We put the seeds in a very dark room and let them germinate, then once we have the shoots through we take them into the farm and put them under the lighting and in about ten days they’re ready to go. This was especially good during Covid. We can turn the farm on and off just with the click of a button; just stop growing almost immediately and the farm is back up to demand within ten days. The average farmer couldn’t just stop their crops like that.'
The future of farming is indoors
'We’re never going to replace traditional agriculture but we can complement it in cities, especially with issues like the climate and Brexit. We’re looking to eventually expand into full size crops. Our mission has always been to give local food to local people as soon as possible, as fresh as possible and as nutritious as possible. By making use of large urban spaces we can produce a lot of food and feed a lot of people.'
The Vegan Pie and Pizza Connoisseurs
With vegans and vegetarians set to make up a quarter of the British population by 2025, it’s clear that we will all be eating less meat in the future, if any. We caught up with meat-free advocates Carla and Marco Casadei, co-founders of Young Vegans.
Veganism is more than a trend
'Broadly speaking, any reduction in dependence on animal agriculture will be beneficial for the planet and help contribute positively to climate change. It is also a hugely interesting and exciting moment to be involved in the vegan food scene. A lot of highly trained chefs really struggle to embrace vegan cuisine as they cannot just fill everything with animal fats (butter, cheese, bacon etc). So in a lot of ways this new trend has shaken up the food industry in general and forced it to be more creative and more inclusive. Around 65% of the world cannot digest lactose properly... why should they all be forced to eat dairy constantly?'
Vegan comfort eating
'Our focus has always been on comfort eating, not diet. So you can tuck into one of our Vegan Steak And Ale Pies (for example) and have zero FOMO on a meat based version. This is how we will change hearts and minds and get the world eating more plant based foods. We still do some veg based pies (our Mushroom Stroganoff is outstanding) as well as a couple of gluten free options too.'
'Like with all food, anything with something meaty and cheesy will always sell well. Pretty much the only thing people really crave is something meaty, cheesy and with or without bacon. So we cater to that requirement, just make it vegan and it sells well! We also have pies like the West African Pie which is a delicious peanut curry with sweet potatoes.'
A meat-free future
'We launched our online shop back in 2017 but it became our life line in March 2020 as Covid 19 closed both our Pie Shop and Pizza Shop. Online sales shot up 1600% overnight and have not stopped since. It has been a great opportunity to invest more time and energy in positioning our products for retail and wholesale and it is here I see the largest growth and our future expansion. We will also be reopening our Pizzeria in Bethnal Green, E2 (@youngveganspizzashop) soon.... As if we were not busy enough already.'
The Alt Meat Investor
Roger Lienhard, who describes himself as a ‘serial entrepreneur’, is the founder and chairman of the Blue Horizon Corporation. Confident in the fast rise in popularity of meat alternatives, his company was an early investor in Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, both of which were pioneers and are now market leaders in plant-based meat products. Here, he explains why the world’s appetite for alt meats is the future, and how it could help with Goal 2: Zero Hunger.
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