A More Efficient Approach to Food Production

Food production needs to ramp up, or we will not be able to feed everyone in a few decades. Incomes are rising, and people are consuming more animal-based foods. More resources are needed to produce these foods. However, we also need to cut greenhouse gas emissions and protect this planet, or food won’t matter, as there won’t be any humans to eat it. The world needs to find a more efficient approach to food production, and the following steps may help us move forward on this path.

Reduce Waste

Food production wouldn’t need to ramp up so much if humans reduced their waste. Of the food produced for humans, 25 percent is lost somewhere between the field and the fork. If we reduced this amount by 25 percent in the next 15 years, the food gap would close somewhat. A company wouldn’t need to invest in another filling machine for spiral noodles or other equipment as more of the food produced would be consumed.

Healthier Diets

Humans consume large quantities of ruminant meat, which requires a lot of resources to produce. Limiting this consumption would mean less food needs to be produced and resources could be better utilized. Sadly, consumption of this meat will rise drastically in the coming years.

Limit Population Growth

One reason food production is lagging today is due to population growth. Replacement-level fertility is being seen in most parts of the world, with Africa and Asia being the exceptions. Bringing this down to replacement-level fertility across the globe would not only aid in food production but would lessen hunger.

Livestock and Pasture Productivity

The demand for animal-based foods continues to grow. Pasture productivity needs to increase as well. Farmers need to improve fertilization of their lands, feed quality, and veterinary care. Improved animal breeds would help with food production, as would rotational grazing.

Crop Breeding

Yields must increase in the future to keep up with food production demand. Advancements in molecular biology are helping in this area. Scientists now find it easier to map a plant’s genetic code. They can test for desired DNA trains, switch genes on or off, and more.

Soil and Water Management

Soils degrade over time if not properly managed. This problem is commonly seen in Africa’s drylands, but overall it could impact 25 percent of cropland across the globe. Agroforestry may be of help in reversing this trend. Rainwater harvesting is another technique farmers need to use, and people need to explore innovative programs that focus on rebuilding soil health.

Reduce Fallow Land

Fallow land needs to be planted and harvested more often. Double cropping is one way to achieve this goal, and it is beneficial to food production because no new land is required. A five percent increase in annual cropping intensity would be of great help in reducing food shortages.

Climate Change Adaptatins

Global yields will continue to decline, as reported by the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, unless humans make adaptations. New menu items can help in this area. In addition, farmers need to breed crops that can withstand higher temperatures while putting water conservation measures in place. Production systems must also undergo changes in those areas where certain crops can no longer grow thanks to climate change.

Preserve Natural Ecosystems

When an entity attempts to improve agricultural productivity, it might unintentionally harm other areas. For example, when trying to achieve this goal, the entity might clear more land, which leads to a new set of issues. Productivity gains must always be explored with other considerations in mind.

Low Economic Opportunity

One way to increase food production is to expand cropland. When doing so, governments and investors need to look into those areas where there are few economic opportunities. For instance, land with limited carbon storage potential would be ideal for food production. Governments need to put land-use restrictions in place to ensure prime land isn’t used for cropland if other options are available.


Governments need to look into reforesting land that is abandoned or unproductive. Doing so will help offset expansion in other areas. Governments should focus on areas with low productivity and limited improvement potential to make the most use of all available land.

Conserve Peatlands

Converting a peatland for agricultural use requires a drainage system to be put into place. The installation of this drainage system will lead to large quantities of carbon being released into the atmosphere. Now may be the time to restore these peatlands to wetlands. Doing so would help with food production while protecting the environment.

Better Management of Wild Fisheries

Marine stocks are frequently overfished. Those that aren’t overfished may be at maximum sustainable levels. Governments need to restrict catches to allow stocks to recover. The land would no longer be needed for aquaculture if this step is taken. Subsidies supporting overfishing need to be removed to better manage marine stocks.

Improved Aquaculture Performance

Aquaculture cannot be eliminated, however. It needs to double to meet the required food production levels anticipated in the future. To improve productivity, wetlands must be converted and feeds need to be improved. Pollution controls must also be put into place if fish consumption demands are to be met.

Emission Reduction

Humans need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions arising from agricultural production. This goal may be achieved in several ways. Enteric fermentation must be reduced, which can be achieved with the help of new technologies. Improved manure management will help lower emissions, as will increasing nitrogen use efficiency in fertilizers. Agricultural energy efficiency must improve, and the food production industry needs to move to non-fossil energy sources. Furthermore, scientists need to find ways to request carbon found in soils.

The world must come together to move to sustainable food production. Failing to do so could lead to disastrous consequences for all. Implementing these steps is a good starting point, but it may not be enough. Changes must be made, however, or the human race may not survive. If it manages to do so, those who are living may find it difficult to thrive and have a high quality of life.

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