OPINION: Fine dining delivered straight to your doorstep. That’s just one of the many trends we’re seeing in the food industry at the moment, with UberEats the latest restaurant takeaway delivery service to launch in New Zealand last month.
At the other end of the scale, there are billions of consumers around the world who struggle to get a meal, let alone home delivery.
How we get food to people is one thing, but the bigger question is whether or not we can farm and grow enough food to meet demand in the future. By 2050, food demand is expected to increase by 50 per cent. Although sizable productivity improvements have enabled an abundant food supply in many parts of the world, feeding the global population has re-emerged as a critical issue.
The challenges facing the future of food are significant, but at the same time the opportunity for positive change is arguably the greatest it has ever been.
We’re witnessing an inflection point in robotics, machine learning and automation. Technology is transforming how we grow, make, buy, prepare and eat food. It’s also enabling good ideas to be turned into actions faster than ever.
Take the ‘Lucky Iron Fish’ project for example, which provides a simple solution to tackle iron deficiency. A social enterprise in Canada worked out that by cooking with a piece of iron in a pot, families could gain up to 90 per cent of their daily iron intake. Starting in Cambodia, where fish are a symbol of luck, the blocks were fashioned into ‘happy fish’ so people were more eager to cook with them. A simple idea that has gone global and might just overcome one of the world’s most common nutritional deficiencies.
As we work to deliver nutrition to the world, food safety has become an increasingly important issue. Providing healthy, nutritious, great tasting and safe food is at the heart of what we must deliver.
Launched last year, the Trusted Goodness quality seal is Fonterra’s promise that when people buy our products they are buying some of the world’s finest dairy. We’re also working to have world-class electronic traceability of all products from the farm to the shelf by 2020. It means we can electronically trace every ingredient anywhere in our supply chain within three hours.
Anmum infant formula products already feature QR codes which consumers can scan from their smartphone to confirm authenticity, see where the product was manufactured, the expiry date and a picture of what the product should look like. This provides consumers with reassurance.
Milk fingerprinting also ensures a safe supply of milk. New diagnostic tests can be carried out on hundreds of samples in seconds to establish the composition of milk. We can quickly determine what product different milk is suitable for, and send it to the relevant manufacturing site to deliver the best products more efficiently.
Meanwhile in Ethiopia, we’ve worked with the country’s Food and Nutrition Society to create a fortified milk drink providing more than 30 nutrients that are essential for a child’s development. It is an affordable option for Ethiopians – one third of whom live below the poverty line.
Barriers to innovation have never been lower and more and more industries are being disrupted. We are likely to see radical transformation in the world of food – from cellular agriculture to genomics, vertical farms to industrialised cloning.
To get the best results when it comes to game-changing ideas, we need to harness creative, unconventional thinking from diverse groups. This can be challenging, especially in large organisations.
One of the ways we’re preparing for the future is by having a dedicated team tasked with driving disruptive innovation. Fonterra Ventures oversee a number of initiatives such as Disrupt – an internal programme for staff to develop start-ups that could become standalone ventures – and Co-Lab – a platform that provides entrepreneurial individuals, small businesses or large corporates around the world to collaborate with us on disruptive ideas for mutual benefit.
With diversity, we can think differently about how to do things better so we can provide affordable, quality and safe nutrition to feed the global population.
New Zealand is an innovative food producing nation with a proud agricultural heritage. Whether it’s delivering to people’s doorsteps or finding the next big innovation in the supply chain, we have an opportunity and responsibility to make sure our nation is part of creating the future of food.
- Jacqueline Chow is the Global Consumer and Foodservice chief operating officer for Fonterra.