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Global Food Outlook
Food sustains us, nourishes us and connects us to each other. Food is not just a means to build relationships with friends and family, it connects us with people across oceans, cultures, and economies in increasingly complex ways. This complexity is not just creating new opportunities; it’s creating new vulnerabilities and challenges ranging from individual anxieties around food to the potential for global supply chain disruptions.
The Global Food Outlook Program's research and forecasts explore the tensions and possibilities of food futures, from people’s everyday food habits and choices, to the dynamics of global food markets, to the complex environmental issues that sustain food production. For five years, we’ve worked with organizations to use foresight to think through disruptions and dilemmas in food and agriculture. By thinking systematically about these future possibilities, we help our clients develop more resilient strategies for a decade of volatility and change.
2013 Virtual Exchanges
In 2013 the Global Food Outlook program is hosting a series of virtual exchanges—online conversations with experts in industry and civil society about our increasingly complex, connected global food web This year’s researc focuses on technologies reshaping the future of food and the virtual exchanges complement that work with the voices of those who are working to make the future of food.
2013 Research Agenda
The History of Technology is a History of Trying to Get Enough Food to Eat
From the earliest experiments with cooking, to the innovation of agriculture, to more recent impacts of refrigeration, our efforts to create tools and technologies have been deeply connected with our efforts to feed ourselves. These technology advances lie at the foundation of a contemporary food system that feeds billions of people, even as fewer and fewer people do the work of producing food.
But while technology has helped create increasing abundance in the global food web, they have also created a dangerously complex and imbalanced system where the numbers of hungry people and overweight people in the world have both soared to unprecedented heights. Real and perceived concerns about food safety and authenticity shake consumer confidence with striking regularity, while suppliers struggle to combat risks and improve resilience in the food web. Potential disruptions such as the prospect of water and energy shortages, threaten to further erode food security. These potential disruptions are also occurring at smaller scales, as shifts in consumer technologies are altering how we grow, buy, eat, and dispose of food.
Technologies Reshaping the Future of Food
In 2013, IFTF’s Global Food Outlook program will undertake a year-long exploration into the ways that emerging technologies and sciences are reshaping the global food web. Along the way, we’ll ask questions like: How will we as individuals, communities, and organizations be challenged or empowered by applying new technologies to the global food web? What technologies will help us grow and distribute food throughout the world, safely and sustainably? How will technologies help us strike a more optimal balance between the microbes that help us and those that harm us? How will innovations in consumer technologies shift what we want and value in our food?
We’ll map out the critical technologies shaping the agriculture, food distribution, and retail – with particular emphasis on food safety, sociality, and governance. We’ll also develop a set of consumer perspectives highlighting what these technological shifts mean for what people value about food and what they choose to buy and eat.
The year will be structured around a set of workshops, virtual exchanges and research deliverables with a focus on imagining tools to improve the resilience of the global food web.
2013 Deliverable Summary
- Technologies Affecting Food Map of the Decade will forecast the technological innovations and disruptions that will impact the future of the global food web.
- Regional Perspectives will translate the map’s findings into insights for different regions and populations.
- Artifacts from the Future will bring findings to life in familiar settings in the form of provocative visual forecasts.