The future of food is local – here are five reasons why.
April 21, 2021
When it comes to our global food system, many stats make us question its current state and future resilience. We already know that:
- 1/3 of all food produced each year is wasted;
- according to a new 2021 study, our food systems are responsible for a third of global emissions;
- food production will need to increase by 70% before 2050 to meet our increasing demand.
Our food system doesn’t just need a closer look. It needs a robust redesign that aligns it with the fight to stop climate change, to make food more accessible and secure, and to empower the people who grow it.
A localised food system could just be the answer. It can address environmental and food security issues while making the local communities more independent and less susceptible to disruption at national and global scale.
Here are the reasons why we at Better Origin think the future of food is local – and are rooting for that future:
- It ensures food security.
- It’s sustainable.
- It is more transparent.
- It’s cheaper (eventually).
- It empowers the local community.
1. It ensures food security.
Global events of the past couple of years, from Brexit to the COVID-19 pandemic, have shown us the fragility of our global supply chain. It is impossible to ignore its inefficiencies and weak points. Many food products were unavailable, not only because of panic buying, but also because of the massive strain put on the food system.
Just a couple of weeks ago, a large container ship blocked the Suez Canal – the world’s fastest Asia-Europe route. The passageway holds around 12% of global trade. The impact of the massive vessel blocking off its traffic for less than a week could last for several months, bringing disruption to global trade. Assembly lines could be stopped due to parts missing, and supermarkets could be lacking in produce.
No matter the progress we make in optimising our world, events like this seem inevitable. Accidents and human error will always occur. We can make their impact much smaller with shorter supply chains that are built with a focus on locality.
2. It’s more sustainable.
Food that is out of the range of our local climate, as well as out of season, requires more resources, including water and fuel. In fact, transport accounts for 6% of the food industry emissions. We can significantly reduce the emissions associated with our food by growing it locally instead of making the food – or the inputs required to grow it – travel for thousands of miles.
The impact of the food we eat is big enough. But what about the food farmed animals eat? For example, the UK imports about 2.5 million tonnes of soy each year. A large portion of it is being used as feed for livestock.
The average European eats 214 eggs per year – and it takes 7.5kg of soy to produce these eggs. Of this soy, the majority is entering our country from South America through supply chains with high deforestation risk.
A step towards the circular economy
Nothing is wasted in a natural food chain. Even an unused apple can be absorbed by the soil or eaten by grubs. Unfortunately, what’s nature’s status quo is almost unknown to intensive modern farming practices. We lack systems that can repurpose waste as efficiently. The complexity of our food supply chain is making this issue worse.
When dealing with shorter, more localised supply chains, we have more control of how they operate. We can faithfully replicate the natural systems and get closer to the circular economy.
3. It’s more transparent.
When we speak of climate change, we put a lot of the responsibility on the consumer. They are supposed to ‘vote with their dollar’ and always make the right choices. However, for those who choose to dig deeper, trying to find out more about the origin of their food can be a big challenge.
When buying goods that have travelled the entire world, it is near impossible to get information on whether it has contributed to deforestation, unethical labour practices, or unnecessary food waste.
A local supply chain is much shorter, and therefore way more transparent. It gives the consumer more insight into who produced their food and what their values are.
4. It’s cheaper (eventually).
The idea of a decentralised production is on the rise. Businesses are realising that outsourcing labour may be cheaper in the short run, but will harm the local economy and the planet in the long run.
One thing that allows us to have a productive decentralised system is technology. By using cloud computing and AI, we can maintain several aspects of the supply chain remotely. It allows us to maintain a local approach while remaining connected, as decentralised units can still be part of a larger network.
If we factor the extremely high capital expenditure and the hidden costs of a globalised system, such as bad labour practices, transportation, and deforestation, it is clearly more risky and less cost-effective than decentralised production.
The local shop
On a consumer level, the pandemic has forced many to opt for smaller, local stores. We’re hoping that this trend is here to stay – a food production system that is oriented around the local community directly adds value to the area that will last for years to come.
5. It empowers the local community.
In a globalised, centralised food system, a lot of food that we produce and the waste that we discard ends up being lost somewhere along the way. Whether it is because of cosmetic standards for sellable fruits and vegetables, or the items lost during transportation, lots of products that could have fed us end up unaccounted for.
Within a local community, there is a bigger sense of responsibility and ownership for both the food farmed and the waste generated. A local food system can empower people to manage their food chain more effectively. The Better Origin insect farm is an example of a system that gives farmers ownership of local waste and allows it to be transformed into feed for their animals.
It directly mimics a process that occurs in nature, where waste is eaten by insects, which in turn become a source of high-quality protein. And, thanks to AI and cloud computing, it can be maintained remotely with minimum effort required from the user.
About Better Origin
At Better Origin, we are committed to localising the supply food chain. We want to implement our solution, which is tackling food waste and improving animal welfare with insects, on a local level. You can learn more about our AI-powered container farm here.
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