Food and agriculture: what are the sustainability challenges?

By 2050, the world will have nine billion mouths to feed. Facing drought, floods and changing rainfall patterns, dishing up enough servings to meet growing demand will become increasingly challenging.

A report from the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), released in March found climate change is already cutting into the global food supply and could lead to dramatic drops in global wheat and maize production. Fish too will take a hit, with catches in some areas of the tropics estimated to fall between 40% and 60%.

Businesses are catching on to the consequences. ASDA Groceries recently revealed 95% of its entire fresh food produce range is at risk from climate change. Such is its impact on food production, researchers are considering framing the climate change debate around food in an effort to better engage the general public on the issue.

It’s a bleak picture, but where there is challenge, there is also innovation.Vertical urban farming is one solution to increasing food production, with the double win of increasing crop yields without increasing land use and moving food closer to the concentrated populations that need it. While less appropriate for growing wheat, maize and rice, vertical farms can grow high-value nutritious crops like lettuces and tomatoes.

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