Visualizing The Future Of Food

The urban population is exploding around the globe, and, as Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins explains below, yesterday’s food systems will soon be sub-optimal for many of the megacities swelling with tens of millions of people.

Further, issues like wasted food, poor working conditions, polluted ecosystems, mistreated animals, and greenhouse gases are just some of the concerns that people have about our current supply chains.

Today’s infographic from Futurism shows how food systems are evolving – and that the future of food depends on technologies that enable us to get more food out of fewer resources.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist


Here are four technologies that may have a profound effect on how we eat in the future:

1. Automated Vertical Farms

It’s already clear that vertical farming is incredibly effective. By stacking farms on top of another and using automation, vertical farms can produce 100x more effectively per acre than conventional agricultural techniques.

They grow crops at twice the speed as usual, while using 40% less power, having 80% less food waste, and using 99% less water than outdoor fields. However, the problem for vertical farms is still cost – and it is not clear when they will be viable on a commercial basis.

2. Aquaponics

Another technology that has promise for the future of food is a unique combination of fish farming (aquaculture) with hydroponics.

In short, fish convert their food into nutrients that plants can absorb, while the plants clean the water for the fish. Compared to conventional farming, this technology uses about half of the water, while increasing the yield of the crops grown. As a bonus, it also can raise a significant amount of fish.

3. In Vitro Meats

Meat is costly and extremely resource intensive to produce. As just one example, to produce one pound of beef, it takes 1,847 gallons of water.

In vitro meats are one way to solve this. These self-replicating muscle tissue cultures are grown and fed nutrients in a broth, and bypass the need for having living animals altogether. Interestingly enough, market demand seems to be there: one recent study found that 70.6% of consumers are interested in trying lab grown beef.

4. Artificial Animal Products

One other route to get artificial meat is to use machine learning to grasp the complex chemistry and textures behind these products, and to find ways to replicate them. This has already been done for mayonnaise – and it’s in the works for eggs, milk, and cheese as well.


As these new technologies scale and hit markets, the future of food could change drastically. Many products will flop, but others will take a firm hold in our supply chains and become culturally acceptable and commercially viable. Certainly, food will be grown locally in massive skyscrapers, and there will be decent alternatives to be found for both meat or animal products in the market.

With the global population rising by more than a million people each week, finding and testing new solutions around food will be essential to make the most out of limited resources.


SWRichmond JimmyJones Mon, 09/11/2017 - 07:43 Permalink

The future of urban food:

  1. Raise a white flag
  2. Walk from your city to the boundary zone
  3. Get on your hands and knees and beg the rural food growers for today's meal
  4. Don't forget to praise the rural electricity producers
  5. Give someting of value to the armed men
  6. Perform the ritual spitting on (or the optional tea-bagging of) Obama's picture,
  7. Be allowed to get in the food line

In reply to by JimmyJones

Let it Go HRClinton Mon, 09/11/2017 - 06:21 Permalink

For those who don't remember Soylent Green is the name of an American science fiction film made in 1973 starring Charlton Heston. It is also the name of the food people ate in the film.The term is still used on occasion to create images of the kind of world in which none of us ever want to live. A world where much of the population in this future world survives on processed food rations, including one named "soylent green". For a short information blip as to the secret used to create this food and why the movie became iconic see below.

In reply to by HRClinton

Amicus Curiae Buck Johnson Mon, 09/11/2017 - 09:22 Permalink

there actually IS a Soylent named product for sale old enough to have seen the movie and be stuffed if Id eat it  ! the HUGE push now is recycling  waste from procesing to"value add" profits...never mind the customerand also BUGS!mainly in snackfood and things like  mueslibarsshowever cricket flour is a product they plant to sneak into general widely eaten food like flour biscuits etc.Label reading will be even more important than just GMO crap!and there might be a million extra born per yrthe death toll would be as many if not more surely?ageing pops and all that?

In reply to by Buck Johnson

OverTheHedge Deathrips Mon, 09/11/2017 - 01:05 Permalink

Using urban roof space to grow food is an outstandingly good idea. Clever hydroponics and fish culture is helpful, but aquaponics is a bit hit and miss (this guy knows his onions: can see a cultural shift towards in vitro meat cultivation, because megacorps will profit, and vegans are mad, but what this means for the 50% of the entire land surface of the planet that is currently under cultivation, I don't know. Standard farming practices are mad, mostly because of government policy and subsidies, and mixed arable/animal farming is the most efficient, but not in our current squewed system. So, vegans for the win, long term, with fruitarians taking over as mad food Nazi weirdo extremists.I'll be keeping my bacon, if that's all right with you. Direct from a pig, until it becomes illegal. Bootlegged pork products, under the counter, no questions asked. Nudge,nudge,wink,wink.

In reply to by Deathrips

stinkypinky OverTheHedge Mon, 09/11/2017 - 02:55 Permalink

This civilization will attempt to do whatever it can to stay afloat, and two of the biggest issues staring it in the face are a lack of food and water security. Aquaponics is one of the late-stage solutions to buy some more time. It will work ... for a while more, but each of these farming technologies has its inconvenient little details, and the devil is always in the details. The picture isn't as rosy as the ag-technocrats would like to believe.

Any system, as it becomes more efficient and specilalized, also becomes more brittle and prone to breakage. These farms will operate on a thin margin of hope and luck until they are out of business, like most other farms, despite their high technology.

Eventually it always comes back to the fact that nature is already doing all it can to try and be abundant: animals do a great job of trying to put on weight and stay alive in the wild, and plants proliferate and are great food sources, all ready for the taking... and without the artificial energy sources and complex infrastructure that we currently have, the earth's carrying capacity will snap right back to where it's supposed to be, and humans will come along for the ride.

In reply to by OverTheHedge

Duc888 Sun, 09/10/2017 - 23:48 Permalink

  I'm pretty sure I'd eat the fat fucking banker who lives a few houses down before I'd eat "lab grown meat".  Having said that I've been looking into Aquaponics... sounds pretty interesting. 

khnum MD Mon, 09/11/2017 - 00:07 Permalink

Bought a sandwich from 7-11 recently ingredients white bread wheat flour water maize starch yeast soy fibrewheat gluten,vingerar,iodised salt,vegetable gum,soy flour,canola oil,emulsifier 418,emulsifier 471,322acidity regulator 330,natural colur 160a,margarine Oh and Egg 33 percent,lettuce 10 percent and eggmayonnaise 9 percent. 

In reply to by MD

1800Vindication khnum Mon, 09/11/2017 - 04:49 Permalink

Er? No. Plenty of organic grain being grown here, including barley for beer malt. I source both for bread and beer. Current methods are insane. Soil microbiology is everything. Glyphosate fucks shit up. Agriculture subsidized via an abundance of cheap energy and petro based fertilizers cannot last for ever.REAL animals are part of sustainable agricultural systems producing nutrient rich, quality food.Food systems, along with a few other things, need decentralization as well. But im not holding my breath. .. 

In reply to by khnum

Amicus Curiae khnum Mon, 09/11/2017 - 09:38 Permalink

youre daft!we grow only GMO canola and cotton and  SA and NT and tassie  are gmo freeno one grows GMO wheat except ussa whewere it was carefully allowed "accidentallly" to get into the planting wheat supply...and was found.if anyone planted canadian flaxseeed from health stores  here there is a risk ofa gmo variant appearing it WAS refused approval but again..magically got into the food chain it was found by germany testing imported grains.the strain was called Triffid funnily enough and grown by a candian uni.i will allow you that Clearfield products are sold as non gmo but are avery fine line on that, as theyre chem altered seed or irradiated to mutate and withstand chemicals.we DO have plenty of good organic options available.4leafclover company in Tarlee in SA will post or sell you bulk for home use.

In reply to by khnum