The world needs to double food supply by 2050.
That was the message of science and agriculture author, Julian Cribb when he spoke at the Grasslands Society of Southern Australia’s annual conference in Wangaratta last week.
In a passionate speech, Mr Cribb presented the massive challenges that lie ahead for the world and producers of food in the coming years.
“Global demand for food is going to double in the next 50 years, as another 4.7 billion people to our population,” Mr Cribb said.
“It is estimated that they will be consuming 600 quadrillion calories per day and that means a hell of a lot more food than what we currently produce.
“From 1990 to 2005 the world demand for food rose fifteen times faster than the expansion of the land area to satisfy that demand,” he said.
Mr Cribb said that alongside this dramatic increase in population, the world will also be facing less availability of resources.
“We face scarcities in just about everything that is required to make this amount of food.
That includes water, land, nutrients, oil, skills and a stable climate,” he said.
Mr Cribb said that we are losing 1% of our land every year due to degradation, urban sprawl, mining, recreation, pollution and sea levels, “This doesn’t leave much for food production,” Mr Cribb said.
He also stresses the illogicality of the amount of waste that currently exists in society, “While one billion people starve, we are wasting enough for three billion,” Mr Cribb said.
“Our grandparents would say we are idiots, and they would be right.”
While food production systems are currently almost totally dependent on oil, Mr Cribb predicts that very few farmers will be using fossil fuels by 2040, “They will be too scarce and far to expensive.
“We need to figure out where the fuel is going to come from in the future.
“It can not come from farms, because that would cut the food production that needs to be doubled.
“I believe we have one to two decades to fix this problem,” he said.
Mr Cribb believes that there are solutions to these problems, which comes down to increasing investment in agricultural science, ensuring farming practices, reducing waste and modifying the world’s diets.
Mr Cribb said that a new type of ‘eco-farming’ needs to be introduced to make food production more sustainable, “The farming systems of the future need to be very efficient, which means less nutrients, less energy and higher yields,”
But this needs research and development, “Today, we spend about 40 billion dollars on agricultural science globally.
“But we spend 1.5 trillion dollars on weapons.
“That is how unimportant food supply has become,” Mr Cribb said.
“This new eco-farming needs to be science based - there has to be evidence so farmers understand what they are doing.”
However Mr Cribb also points out that changes are not just to come from governments and farmers, but all people, “We need to raise the next generation of human beings to have a true respect for food.
“I believe we will need to eat well, and eat less,” he said.
Although confronting, Mr Cribb believes that farmers need to tackle these issue head-on “The world has forgotten about us and they need to be reminded.
“Farmers need to rediscover their voice and start campaigning.”
Mr Cribb sees these challenges as being a great opportunity for Australian agriculture, “Australia should lead the world with this endeavour, it is a shining challenge and well within our powers,” he said.
“I think the next 50 years are going to bring the biggest opportunities for agriculture that we have ever seen.”