The Future of Walmart 

The Future of Food

With Tony Hunter

The Future of Food

With Tony Hunter

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In the past, innovation in agriculture lagged behind consumer electronics and telecoms. Today, that’s changing. As food futurist Tony Hunter explains, food is technology. In this episode, Hunter shares his view of tech-fueled advances in food production and distribution around the world. Topics include: supply chain disruption, new tech for farming, strategies for waste reduction, changes to food supply caused by the pandemic, the distinction between food security and food sovereignty, alternative proteins like lab-grown meat, vertical farming using hydroponics, genomics, microbiome, cellular agriculture, synthetic biology, plant molecular farming, how computing technologies like artificial intelligence accelerate innovation. If you’re interested in the future, then you really must tune into the changes afoot in the food industry. As Tony explains, food and drink are the only absolute non-discretionary items for daily human needs.

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this week on the futurists Tony Hunter food and drink are the only absolute non-discretionary things that human beings need everything else in your life is discretionary

come back to the futurists I’m Rob turcic and I’m with my co-host Brett King doing it from Asia hi Brett hey how you doing really great thanks it’s like to have another show with you where we go around the world talking to most interesting people that are building out the vision of the future and this week we’ve got a great guest uh Tony Hunter is a food futurist so he’s a futurist for the subject of food and at first I think so this is going to be a good show is food really changing that much but then when you think about it you go wow you know it’s like 25 of all human activity around the planet has something to do with making food growing food or Distributing food so it’s a pretty big part of what we do in our lives and yeah of course we need it every single day otherwise we get quite hungry Tony welcome to the show it’s great to have you on the futurists hey Tony hey Robert hey Brett thanks for having me on the show and Echo what you say bro but I mean food and drink are the only absolute non-discretionary things that human beings need everything else in your life is discretionary that’s a big statement I mean we need clothing it’s very nice to have a roof over your head but nice but you know like you can you can buy a set of clothes and not change them for 10 years if you want to you can look at but you need food every single day you don’t need something new in your in your clothing or anything else every single day so I should probably qualify discretionary non-discretionary every single day food and drink you don’t yeah gonna die sometime yeah that’s true you’re gonna you’re gonna run out of energy pretty quick if you don’t do it that’s that’s true you got to keep the tank filled well what is happening in the world of food right now because frankly I spend most of my time thinking about Technologies uh that involve computers digital Technologies Communications telecommunications so forth and um the food seems to be in the periphery right that’s that’s what we order up when we’re busy working on our digital stuff is there a ton of change happening right now is the Technology Innovation phase kind of coming into the into the food world yeah absolutely Robert as you say I mean food used to be you know a Poor’s second cousin Backwater compared to things like the electronics Industry but no more I mean the Technologies we’re seeing come into food at the moment rival anything we’re seeing in the electronics Industry and so much so that my view is food is now technology they are inside yeah I think that’s true from Farm to Fork you can’t talk about food now without talking about technology so you can talk about farming as technology of course so food production you know we have a lot of Technology that’s coming to that but farming methods themselves are having to change you know we we’ve lost 40 percent of our arable land the last 50 years due to soil erosion and pollution and mismanagement of uh of land you know we obviously have a huge debate going on about the Amazon and about deforestation and so forth there so we need to apply technology in food production to get better at our ability to produce food without the impact on the planet we’ve also had a lot of issues with supply chain in terms of food production the last few years after the pandemic and you know with 2023 being a year potentially of of a global recession you know it’s likely that those problems are going to continue so we have to get better at Supply and paint chain management of food production which some of that means we’re going to have to be more locally resilient as well I think is that your position Tony yeah look I would agree there Brett I think covert and the war in the Ukraine have shown the fragility or the certainly the weak points and the cracks in the global food system in places like Australia us and most of the world we didn’t go and find there was no food on the on the shelves maybe some foods were in short supply you can’t get the brand you want but nobody went hungry if they weren’t going hungry beforehand try and find toilet paper in Melbourne and uh exactly right I had that I heard a story of someone trying to sell back 200 rolls of toilet paper to Coles because he didn’t realize he didn’t need them but they wouldn’t take them back so anyway that’s another another story completely but you know it showed that the current food system is actually not that resilient particularly animal agriculture I mean in the U.S and elsewhere in the world they pumped millions of liters of milk down the drains they opened abattoirs to kill pigs and bury them because they couldn’t kill them and pack them nobody wanted them they were getting too big so they killed them and buried them we had countries in Europe going we’re just going to stop exporting some crops for a while until we see what’s going on we’ve seen Indonesia ban palm oil exports for a while the Ukraine as we know wheat sunflower it’s a massive issue and shows how fragile that system is why am I paying more for my bread in Australia from a war in in Europe doesn’t make sense material for people to connect the dots that’s true and it’s not often explained how intertwined these systems are here in uh you know in countries like Australia and the United States we have the advantage of um redundancy in the food supply and different sources other parts of the world though are really suffering I think from the thought of this uh this Ukrainian Invasion the Russian invasion of Ukraine because they are dependent heavily dependent on on the wheat and other grains that are exported from the Ukraine and those haven’t been able to go out at the same volume that they did in the past so the burden Falls heavily on the global South um you know one of the when we talk about supply chain though isn’t it true that in in food distribution one of the biggest issues is that food spoils food gets rotten food sits on a loading dock or it’s too long in the sun um talk a little bit about where the waste happens in the food supply well most of the waste actually happens at the consumer end because mostly most manufacturers don’t want waste I bought the product I don’t want to waste any more than they absolutely after most reduction is a priority for them now if we look further back up the supply chain at things um like fruit and vegetables there are enormous amounts of bananas in Australia that get plowed under because either they don’t have the right Bend to them or they have some other image problem that they can’t be sold and you know in supermarkets single bananas they don’t buy single bananas for some reason you go to your Supermarket look the bananas see the ones that are left they’re all singles I go and buy every single banana I can find because no one else is going to buy them and there’s no problem with them so consumers are very very fickle and if we look at self-reported food wastage in the UK for instance under the covered lockdowns food wasting self-reported food waste just dropped dramatically as soon as the lockdown’s finished food wastage went back up to 2018 levels oh really yep so you know whilst food we think of food as expensive it’s not as a percentage of our income food in most places like Australia Europe UK US is pretty damn cheap I pay 1.50 for an avocado do I really care like it’s a dollar us do I really care if I throw that away no if I was paying ten dollars for avocado I’d make damn sure that it didn’t go to waste so so many things are so cheap that we really don’t attach often the value we should to the food we’ve got and wastage is thought it in terms of just it’s only a few bucks okay so it’s really people buy food and bring it home and then they buy too much and it spoils or they don’t cook it quickly enough or something so it’s not an issue that food spoiling and the supply chain you think that that’s been sorted out I don’t think it’s been sorted out I think that depending where you are in the world there are major problems like in places like like Africa like harvest the crops small holders put it to the side of the road and wait for the truck to come by to take it to town that’s not good so what they’ve done now bringing again technology into the supply chain they build solar powered monoblock Refrigeration cold rooms self-contained solar powered that people can put their produce in in Chile to stop the spoilage before the truck comes to take it to town it also counts an internet Hub and Wi-Fi hotspot for people’s telephones

I think it’s either Kenya or Nigeria so definitely it’s the Kenyan Farmers they use smartphones for commodity trades and all sorts of stuff it’s pretty sophisticated actually it is and I think yeah we’re just segwaying a bit there into Africa Brett I mean that’s one of the last frontiers of food production whereas we know that that is one of the this is the most food poor continent on the planet and we have places like Nigeria that I think by 2050 we’ll have more people than the continental US so not as rich but there’s a lot of people there and what’s happening at the moment is people are saying what you need to do is what we’ve done right so set up a feed system import lots of nitrogen phosphorus 27 said we want to make access to fertilizers easier that’s not the answer look at the problems that’s caused dead spots in the ocean runoffs everything else that’s going on it’s not the answer answer so what I say is in Africa in particular and any country that’s early on in the develop their food system why should they duplicate what we’ve done and the best example which is what include me Brett was Kenya now in 2002 Kenya needed to vastly improve their telecommunications to do things like you said Brett getting their smartphones and trade and send money and everything else now what did they do did they dig tens of thousands of miles kilometers of trenches putting copper wires put in um you know handset manufacturing industry and the whole lot and then say don’t worry in 100 years time you guys will have mobile phones but we’ve got to follow what was done in the west of course they didn’t they put cell towns in they gave made access to small easy cheap smartphones readily available and that spawned a whole raft of Industries and Kenya LeapFrog A Century of telecommunications literally a century and not making it up you go back you look 100 years telephones copper wires to the mobile phones in a decade yeah and you think something similar is going to happen in agriculture I mean that’s what I’m saying should happen Robert I don’t know that it will happen because there are powerful interests that want to sell more and more nitrogen want to feed industry want to grow more cows and more chickens and more whatever and these countries are being told that this is the way to go you need to be like us because look how successful it’s been for us without looking at the downsides and everything else and what that leads to is a lack of both food security and food sovereignty the two things are quite different Singapore probably thought it was very very food secure until Malaysia stop selling it chickens and all of a sudden no fresh chickens in Singapore from Malaysia anymore so they had security maybe which one of the um the definitions there from the United Nations is all people at all times have physical social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that’s all very well but that can mean I can buy it from the country next door or I can ship it in from the US or Australia or ever but sovereignty at a um actually like a political level meaning the power of the state is more about do I control my own food supply if someone decides to shut off food to me what is the impact to me for people like countries like Singapore it’s enormously important over 90 of their food Middle East is in much the same anything from 95 in Oman to 80 odd percent in places like Saudi Arabia so they don’t have sovereignty they might have security because you can always go and get what you want so you think you’re secure but and that’s where these new technologies can come in because they can be like Brett was saying cited in that country and make the food in their country why should they not put the new technologies in so some of those Technologies look really interesting to me some of them are advancing and are getting quite a bit of investment such as a lab-grown proteins so we’re talking about lab-grown Meats lab-grown chicken lab grown Seafood that are indistinguish indistinguishable cellularly from you know naturally grown meats and then the other one that’s really interesting for me is the vertical farming using Hydroponics um and so um you know these are these are a couple of Technologies but give us give us the gamut of of technologies that you think we’re going to be seeing emerging over the next 10 years or so in this space yeah well I think there’s five technologies that for me driving the future of food and that’s alternative proteins cellular agriculture genomics microbiome and synthetic biology and those are being accelerated by three other Technologies which is AI sensors and Quantum Computing and as I said I believe food is now technology technology is Advanced exponentially I say food is exponential so that is what’s going to happen and alternative proteins includes our plant-based and cellular agriculture includes cultivated meat and if you have a look at synthetic biology the most interesting one there for me is currently something called plant molecular farming and what you do there is you take the gene for something you want put it into a plant grow the plant extract the molecule you want and use it and then you process the rest of the product now Nobel foods are growing casein in soybeans they grow the soybeans they take the casein out make cheese from it and process the rest their first crops been harvested in 2022 there’ll be test products in 2023 we have Polo Po in Israel growing egg white proteins in potatoes and people growing pigments in lettuce

Cutting Edge are these being grown in a greenhouse out in a field or in a laboratory Fields so this is field work so a crop field crops and if you look at some of the other ones some some depending on the country what the legislation is in the EU you probably can’t do any of that but you can in the U.S company called orph genetics in Iceland grows them in huge greenhouses grows barley and they produce human growth factors in Bali for cosmetics and have been for decades wow are they are they doing genetic manipulation of the DNA at the level of like you know a seed or their transgenic species right they’ve got well they’ve got other um components in the genome yeah they’ve taken the gene out of an animal I I call it growing animals in Plants how do they do that it’s a small bit of the animal is it is it is it you know seed by seed or cell by cell it seems like it’d be hard to scale that up to a whole field of potatoes that’s basically what you do is you genetically modify the crop and then all its seeds contain the DNA you want that’s one way of doing it and then you can do that and then if you want to 10 times the production you plant 10 times the number of fields so you have to grow one round and get the seeds and then um okay okay onwards and upwards from from there and it’s a lot more efficient than using things like huge stainless steel bioreactors which are expensive to buy yeah and have all sorts of problems plant molecular farming a couple of advantages I can easily scalable and there are no human pathogens in plants so you don’t have a huge pathogen problem compared to looking at um you know contamination and so on when you’re growing things in factories oh so the plant molecule or farming the the factory is the plant itself exactly and you can grow it in a field like you would a conventional plant yep okay I don’t know if you guys know but in in the 3D bioprinting Arena particularly for medical purposes for organs like livers and hearts where it requires fine vasculature they’re actually now producing that that sort of vascular structure using plant material because you know like if you look at uh um various types of leaves they can they can reproduce they can get the cellular scaffold that they can use for for those constructs it’s very interesting but that’s for a human organ so so back to the back to the growing sorry for something no that’s okay it’s like it’s all it’s all interesting I mean actually what you’re pointing out is that plants can be a kind of factory right the plant can be this it can produce a scaffold you can use that to grow uh human cells if you’re trying to make an organ but you can also use it to produce other kinds of things you know I’m astounded that you can produce human um serums inside of a plant that can be extracted and I’m curious about the process of extraction as well it just seems like it would take a while to scale that up but obviously they have really uh they’ve really managed to do that in the last few years that’s astounding last time I tuned into synthetic biology for plants they were still using those big Vats like you described and that requires a huge upfront investment and many of those companies got into trouble because they couldn’t make the economics work and seemed like synthetic biology was an industry where the Sun never quite Rose entirely but according to what you’ve written on your blog at you actually say that synthetic biology is coming into its own right now it’s it’s maturing yeah absolutely there’s a company called Perfect Day in the US um they’ve raised it’s 750 million US dollars to scale up their production of whey protein from yeast and they’re backed by a company called ADM one of the biggest ingredients companies in the world there are 62 billion US dollar company and they’re helping perfect day to scale and they’re selling their whey protein now and they’re scaling that and at some point in the future it looks likely that whey protein made by producing it from genetically modified yeast will be the same price or cheaper than whey protein as a byproduct of cheese making from animals so that’s that’s done done and dusted and that’s one of the things I look for as a futurist when do some of these new technologies these startups if they get support and or investment from a huge conventional organization to me that says the future is here and when ADM said we’re getting into bed with perfect day we’re going to help them because these big companies have everything startups don’t have sales marketing manufacturing experience um you know they can do all the things that they um the startups can’t so when I see that come together I go that is that is now a given now how far that’ll go as we know as futurists no one can tell you the future anyone who does is either a fool or a liar but you can say what the alternative Futures could be well so we like to get acquainted with our futurists by asking them a series of quick questions so that okay we do now is a quick play around and I’m going to let Brad administer the poison this time so um Brad go for it with the quick fire questions here we go welcome to the lightning round

what was the first science fiction story you remember being exposed to Doctor Who in black and white Doctor Who I think mine was probably Star Trek but um and what technology do you think has most changed Humanity so far

so far um

um chemistry in manufacturing some of their products are made by chemistry even things like your veneur essence you get from petrochemicals made by that but in the future synthetic biology the joke will not be well it’s not rocket science this science is it it’ll be well it’s not synthetic biology is it after all fair enough I saw a good sketch on that once where um you had uh you had a rocket scientist at a party and everyone’s introducing themselves and he’s like well you know well it’s not exactly rocket science and then incomes a brain surgeon yeah

scientist and the guy says well it’s not exactly brain surgery I thought that was very clever but anyway my one is to be a third guy come in and say yeah but it’s not synthetic biology there you go name a futurist or on entrepreneur that has influenced you and why oh um I think the biggest influence to me has been probably in the early days early exposure Michio Kaku just as a general futurist and more recently has a big thinker Peter diamandis I’ve got some of this toffee comes up with and he has some phenomenal um he has the X prize he’s the start starting the X prize and I read a couple of his books um was it abundance and the future is faster than you think recommend those to anyone if you want to see what’s going on grab those books um and if I look at um quickly at uh futurists and their um like theoretical futurist Andy Hines out of the University of Houston and Joseph voros who’s uh from the University of swinburne down in in Melbourne in Australia in in respect to your specific field Tony the future of food and so forth tell me have you got any science fiction story you can call on that is representative of the future you think of food production well I mean the one that jumps the mind which is of course the little cliches of course the Star Trek replica everybody gets asked when are we going to see a Star Trek replicator but you know in some ways we have a Star Trek replicator and we also have um uh well sorry just go into Star Trek replicator there’s a company that’s making a molecular uh beverage maker and they reckon they can duplicate any beverage that you want from soft drink to Whiskey to Wine using a blend of um compounds that they’ve got in their machine and an alcohol Reservoir and water reservoir gas Reservoir and they can print you any drink you want on your bench top that’s about it so we’ve gone a long way from the foodie the 3D foodie printers to to now something more the molecular stuff is very interesting because that’s essentially what a replicator is right yep and uh you know the old one with the teleportation I mean we have teleportation in some ways if you look at it we can take something I can scan something here um in my office so I can send it to you in Thailand and you in the US and you guys can print an exact copy at that end is that teleportation or not I sent the data and the data over there and did I just teleport that or not and rebuild it yeah there’s a there’s some interesting debate that goes on about teleportation but uh you know let’s not get into that it’s for another show you you go first as my view on that tell me the other side yeah no you remember that Mel Brooks sing with the teleporter and why did anyone why didn’t anyone tell me my ass was this big no sorry anyway yeah um all right well that’s a good that’s a good point to take a break on so thanks Tony um you are listening to the Future we’re going to take a quick break and then we’ll be right back with more discussion on the future of food production and the future of Agriculture and uh food itself uh right after this break you’re listening to the futurists provoked media is proud to sponsor produce and support the futurist podcast is a global podcast Network and content creation company with the world’s leading fintech podcast and radio show Breaking Banks and of course it’s spin-off podcast breaking Banks Europe breaking Banks Asia Pacific and the fintech 5. but we also produce the official phenovate podcast Tech on reg emerge everywhere the podcast of the Financial Health Network and next-gen Banker for information about all our podcasts go to or check out breaking Banks the world’s number one fintech podcast and radio show

welcome back to the futurists I am your host Brett King with my co-host Rob turc this week we’re speaking to Tony Hunter he is a food futurist we’ve been discussing the issues of food scarcity and food security and some of the emerging methodologies around this we do we will be getting into a bit more of his forecasting process in a moment but before that let’s just go to our Deep dive Robert what have you have for us this week in news from the future

it is from the future and the Deep dive here we go uh this week I’m going to talk to you about uh in the environments and climate change a topic we’ve covered many times on this show but it’s going to keep coming back and that’s because one of the core themes of this program is that there are certain forces that are going to constrain the future they’re going to set the course for the future and clearly one of those is natural resources and the environment um and so of course there’s been a huge amount of news about weather recently and that’s what I want to talk a little bit about this so one way to summarize all that is to say simply that the climate will shape the future and that’s perfectly obvious but the flip side of that is also that not all climate change is natural human activity can affect the climate we know this human-induced climate change will also affect the future so anthropo anthropogenic climate change is linked to human activity such as the amount of fossil fuel that’s burned or aerosol releases into the atmosphere land alteration from agriculture deforestation and so forth these are human activities that actually shape the climate and therefore we reap the atmospheric consequences right now we’re experiencing some of those consequences we’re experiencing side effects of anthropogenic climate change right now you might call it Global weirding not global warming because we’re having these really really unusual weather effects I am in California right now where we have been inundated with rain for weeks after seven years of drought we can’t complain because we’ve been begging for the rain we just wish that seven years worth didn’t come in a two-week span because it’s wiping out Bridges and knocking out roadways and washing away Cliffs and causing mudslides and sinkholes that swallow cars and so forth so that’s definitely a weird phenomenon and it doesn’t seem to be stopping because there’s another storm on its way right as I speak uh so we have that happening here but meanwhile in Europe where it should be cold if you remember just a few months ago everyone was speculating that the Europeans were gonna have a cold winter and there there was an issue with getting gas from Russia and how are they going to heat the factories in the homes but Europe is having a heat wave right now and so they’re not getting a nice Frosty winter at all um also news came out this week a report was released that in 2022 ocean temperatures reached their hottest temperature ever recorded we’ve been we’ve been doing accurate recording of weather of temperatures in the ocean since the 1940s and we have accurate records going back now consistent records going back to the late 1950s hotter oceans have an effect they lead to more extreme weather including hurricanes typhoons and the Cyclone condition that’s causing the storm in California right now and more moisture in the air are also something to drive further rainfall these atmospheric rivers that we’re experiencing that also occurred last year in Australia and in Europe so we see this sort of like you know weird side effect occurring in different places at different times we’re more focused on what’s happening with our weather right now in our place that we have in the bed but as you can start to see there’s this strange pattern emerging and it’s unlike any weather weather pattern we’ve ever had warm oceans play a role in that and why that’s happening is the ocean’s a giant sponge ninety percent of the excess heat that’s trapped by gas greenhouse gas emissions is absorbed by the ocean so as I said at the outset natural resources is one factor that’s going to shape the future but those resources are allocated by private markets and public policy and those are two other forces that shape the future so it’s really about the interplay of Market forces and policy that are going to determine how climate change unfolds in the future now people can actually do something about this trend politics really matter politics really count this is how humans govern their behavior particularly when we can’t leave it to the free market and the basic premise is pretty simple consume less today and pollute less today so that we can preserve a healthy climate for future Generations sounds pretty simple but it turns out it’s a really big political challenge of policy issue yeah yeah but we’ve risen in the occasion we’ve actually managed to do this so there there was more news this week a U.N report was released that’s a really good example of government policy that shows how the natural environment can be improved if humans make a change in the behavior it’s about the ozone layer and you may recall that in 1985 scientists discovered this giant hole in the ozone layer that was above Antarctica and it was growing and it was actually quite a scary thought because the ozone layer absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet radiation or a huge amount of it so that we don’t literally burn our skins off but the worry was that we were you dumping so many chemicals hundreds of different kind of chemicals they’re called floral carbon seas and they float up into the atmosphere and they start to erode the ozone layer so in the late 1980s the world galvanized really quickly they discovered this whole 1985 by then by the mid by the late 1980s uh there was some impetus around the world to actually do something about it and by 1988 the Montreal protocol was signed well since that time the amount of CFCs in the air has declined by 80 percent and the ozone hole appears to be repairing itself so this is a sign that humans actually can get their act together relatively quickly and do something about human-induced anthropogenic climate change and that brings me to two stories this week two political stories one of them comes from Brazil uh where a new president has just been inaugurated he’s returning to office after some time out of office and actually time in prison it’s Luis inacio Lula de Silva better known as Lula and Lou has just taken office uh vowing to fight for fight against uh Forest deforestation in the Amazon and he’s also promised to renew resume the monitoring of illegal activity in the rain forest and he’s going to process you know prosecute uh illegal logging and other activity that happens in the Amazon which is great because his predecessor yair bolsonaro didn’t do that in fact he weakened all the environmental agencies in Brazil and kind of encouraged uh some people say he promoted the illegal Mining and logging in the in the Amazon but many of bolsonaro’s decrees were can be undone by uh by Lula and Lula tends to do that now it’s not going to be easy faces opposition uh he’s got a split uh Congress and in um in the Congress there will be some uh pro-business interests that are going to push legislation that will stop him they want to open the Amazon the further Mining and further cattle farming and also six of the nine governors of Amazonian States they actually support Economic Development they see developing the forest as a way to grow their local economies so it’s not an easy road ahead of him and that’s not all just as he was about to take office uh this past weekend there was an Insurrection uh where the the capital was taken over by rioters uh similar to what happened in the United States just two years ago in Washington DC so these insurgents briefly occupied the capital the presidential Palace the Supreme Court and the Congress they defaced it they made a huge gross mess everywhere they’ve been arrested more than more than 1200 people have been arrested and more arrests are coming so there’s been some pushback but just today um Lula came out with the full government the the courts all the ministers and they United around this new presidency which is something that the United States hasn’t quite managed to do because we have plenty of politicians here who still contend that the last election was flawed in some respect though there’s no proof to show that and so the flip side of the Brazil story uh which though there was this Insurrection there seems to be a healthy response to it in the United States we have a different outcome here and of course in the last couple of weeks we’ve witnessed this kind of embarrassing spectacle where there’s been a fight for leadership in the House of Representatives in the Congress um and who the people who’ve now taken control of Congress sorry of the lower house of Congress the House of Representatives in the U.S are actually the same set of politicians who denied the election was accurate the people who fought against it and the people who supported uh president Trump’s attempt to overturn the government and his Insurrection those are now the people that are running the house and so it’s going to be quite a quite an outstanding and bizarre episode or spectacle on American history coming up to win uh elections the Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy had to cut a deal with the most extreme elements in the Republican Party in the United States and he’s ceded much of his authority to them and that means that they are ineffectively in a position to veto or actually oust him from his role if they don’t get their way so a small number of very extreme politicians have an outsized voice in our lower house of Congress it’s worth noting that many of these politicians take hundreds of thousands of dollars of political donations from fossil fuel companies for instance during the 2022 campaign speaker McCarthy himself took more than five hundred thousand dollars of political donations from oil and gas interests so in the United States you can expect little to no progress on environmental policy and environmental issues and possibly even a defunding of those of those initiatives uh with the current Congress that we have the summer and this simply is this uh anthropogenic climate change is caused by humans and humans can actually do something about it we have two examples of humans doing something positive about it and unfortunately one example of humans who are kind of resetting the clock and taking a step backward we’ll keep you posted on the story because climate is going to be a big factor in the future but Tony I want to bring that up because I thought it’s kind of useful to put food in the context of climate change obviously the two interplay considerably that I think Brett made the point earlier that a considerable amount of farmable land has been lost to uh to either desertification or some other Factor uh it’s quite clear then that our food supply is dependent on a healthy climate can you talk a little bit about that in the later resilience in the comments you made before the break yeah look just to um agree with what you’re saying there Robert the anthropogenic climate change is real um I’ll just reading just recently um over the last 800 000 years the CO2 content of the atmosphere has not gone above 300 parts per million prior to the Industrial Revolution it now rests that don’t quote me but something like 438 448 and so people who go oh no it’s nothing it’s just natural well they take in Antarctica I think it was they take the small gas bubbles from the ice and test the CO2 content and that’s how they plotted 800 000 years of CO2 in the atmosphere hasn’t gone above 300 until we see the Industrial Revolution I don’t know what more we can say there on that but if we have a look at that and at the moment with climate change what we’re looking at is even if we do our very best even if Congress were to experience some Epiphany in the U.S and everybody all the other conservative politicians did so we’re still heading probably for 1.5 degrees or more in the future and that is going to dramatically affect in the long-term future of crops and mostly in areas that can afford at least yeah some places like India China sub-Saharan Africa even Brazil they’re going to experience greater than five percent drops in crop yields for things like potatoes rice wheat and corn so basically those people are going to suffer and if we look through to the end of this Century we’re looking at 24 decrease in yield of corn in the US so so food scarcity is going to be a major feature of climate change which is going going to accentuate the problem of Eco refugees or climate migration there’s a very strong argument that right now what’s happening in the southern border of the United States the you know Guatemalan Ecuadorian um you know people coming up from from the south already this is largely an impact of climate change because they have they they can’t because of the warming temperatures there they can’t Farm their crop yields have already failed um you know you’ve got or or food scarcity is already emerging there so this is a massive issue um so Tony as a food futurist you know if you were designing a solution to this problem what would it be but think solution Brett is basically what we talked about previously the new technology so rather than supporting population growth and growth of the middle classes through conventional Agriculture and just trying to do more of what we do now and by the way there’s not enough arable land or fresh water on the planet to do that just think about that not enough arable land or fresh water on the planet to Simply duplicate what we do now feed an extra 2 billion people and they’re growing middle classes we need to do more with less and most of these Technologies we’re talking about can either do it with much reduced water because water scarcity is going to be the next big one despite all the floods that Robert’s having um it’s going to be a major issue globally so that arable lands you talked about breadth reduction in the the um the amount of variable land and it’s and its productivity so some of these technologies will use 99 less land 90 percent less water to produce the same amount of food as an agricultural crop so using these Technologies and doing more with less is a way to address the fact that we can’t simply keep sucking resources out of the earth dumping our waste wherever we can and expecting it’s all going to be okay now Tony one of the things one of the solutions for this that’s been proposed many times over the last 10 or 12 years is uh vertical farming and the idea there is to put the farm in the city where the people are and use you know maybe a disused warehouse or an outdated a factory of some sort that’s not being used and grow grow the food uh under lights with uh in a closed system so you don’t need to have pesticides because it’s all endorsed there’s no bugs and you can recycle the water so it’s also very water efficient but as far as I know they’ve never really cracked the formula to scale these they’ve tried this in many places in Chicago here in Los Angeles and downtown Los Angeles I know of two places but the economics never seemed to work out what’s your take on vertical farming is that a solution is that something in the future or is it one of those Technologies where the Sun never quite Rises well the sun doesn’t need to rise which is one of the advantages foreign

but I mean it is quite successful in parts of the Middle East where obviously prices are that’s all imported so in the Middle East has been a big expansion of vertical farming the biggest problem we’re seeing at the moment is the huge rise in energy costs because that’s the primary input cost and whilst we are getting a large amount of our energy from fossil fuels coal and gas and the costs of those is going up and where that contributes to the increased cost in vertical farming is making a lot of them marginally or even uncompetitive or some people are putting off capital expenditure because at the moment with the rise in Energy prices it just doesn’t make sense now if we move to a fully renewable energy grid and where some of these products can use use their own solar energy then that’s a whole different ball game and there is a company not doing vertical formulas so I’m going to go back to your question I think there’s a future for vertical farming I think it’s in a down tip at the moment until we look at Energy prices I think it has a place in the food system will it ever replace huge amounts of agricultural land that’s um iffy one for me button’s a company called solar Foods in Finland they suck moisture out their air into their machine separate out the moisture the carbon dioxide and the nitrogen and using solar energy they split the water into hydrogen oxygen they had a few minerals and they grow single cell protein and so this is this protein salt Tomatoes talked about using this solar food on long duration space missions as well that’s where it came from so air protein or a US company they’re doing the same thing but solar foods are building their first factory um and they’re so lean product will be on the market soon so we’ll see whether it truly is commercially viable but they’re building a factory to do it did you see air protein is that no this is called they call it solar food but basically it’s producing protein out of air because you know with a chemical treatment or electromagnetic treatment of the noble gases that are in the atmosphere and stuff like that it’s pretty interesting but it produces a consumable food but it you know is is it nutritionally of real value Tony yep it’s got a fantastic amino acid profile it’s got very low fat content and you know it is an ideal product um for then texturizing same as you would do with a soybean where you grind it up and texturize it to make it into plant-based products you can texturize this in the same way to make it into alternative protein products and that solar foods and the other companies called air protein and so they they they’re trying to commercialize this old NASA it almost sounds like the manner that was uh in the the Old Testament right yeah yeah I know guys we’ve only got about five minutes left so let’s get a little bit sci-fi this is a great way to take us into this but you know looking out 50 years in the Future Tony what what is our food production you know at 9 billion you know or or 10 billion inhabitants on the planet what does it look like well let’s let’s go to my Preferred Future because I say everyone thinks I can tell you the future the fool or a liar but what I see is us using these new technologies to manufacture large portions of our food requirements without the anthropogenic effects and impacts that we’re currently seeing so that we don’t in places like Africa in particular simply duplicate the way we do things now so we’re using these new technologies there’s far more food sovereignty around the place countries being self-sufficient we’re not exporting products all around the planet chewing up resources again as well and swapping them around and people are basically assured of getting nutritious food that they need

you had written that sinbio will eat the world so tell us about you that Vision like how will synthetic biology eat the world the other part of that is symbi will eat the world and the world will eat simbaio because synthetic biology is used to make products that we eat cheese fruit you’d like cheese you guys love cheese right let me tell you how you make cheese well you used to make it with a fourth stomach of a two day old dead calf in some milk separate out the curds in the way get the curds and make it into cheese very simple one now people realized in the 80s that oh there’s not going to be enough dead calves around because cheese consumption is going up like this and people don’t like the idea of all two-day-old dead calves being killed for their stomachs and where are we going to sell the veal it’s not that popular anyway so our friends at Pfizer inserted the gene for chymosin which is one of the enzymes in a calf stomach into a microorganism and since 1990 that chymosin has been used to make cheese and it’s now used to make 85 to 90 of all cheeses in places like the US Australia Europe Etc so if you like cheese and you’ve been eating cheese for the last 32 years have you been around long enough you’ve been eating a food made with a product of a genetically modified organism and now I ask are either of you guys going to stop eating cheese because I’ve told you that no no so but but this is well you know I think we have to change out I think we have to change our core thinking on this so it’s just this collection of molecules as you’ve said and if we can get that molecule mix right and that’s I think where you know I think the challenge to this will be me right if we can convince people that lab-grown proteins are just meat that they’re just constructed in a a you know a different way from the way we’ve grown them before but they’re indistinguishable from a chemical or biological uh State you know from from naturally grown meat I think there are people that still pay a premium for naturally grown yeah for example but the way they do for organic food you know right but that’s going to be um that’s going to be a price point issue for those people and a sign of their wealth and so forth the real challenge is that um the the you know we already have these big commercial farming organizations that tend to um you know and and Monsanto and well they’ve changed their name now but you know these sort of companies that have um you know reduced the nutritional value of food over time because of uh this uh Geo or this engineering you know um approach to things and and I’m concerned about sort of this Franken food future where we get sort of synthetic foods that don’t have the same value as naturally um you know occurring Foods what’s your position on that Tony people call it Franklin food Robert knows I don’t know you’ve had it but um a thing called a turducken a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with the chicken yeah if you want to talk about Franken food there it is right there on your kitchen table at Thanksgiving right per ducken what on who on Earth I don’t I don’t want to eat anything but it tastes good

and that’s what it’s all about Robert in the end like you’re saying too Brett if we can get these products whether they’re plant-based or air protein based whatever to actually taste good at the right price point then people will buy it at the moment people say it doesn’t taste as good as a hamburger and people have this like a hamburger or steak is the best tasting food that will ever be invented I say no it’s simply the best tasting food we know at the moment there is nothing to say we cannot develop a food product of some sort that will taste better than a hamburger and have high nutritional value potentially exactly right it’s the same issue this is my issue with plant-based meat I I have been impressed with plant-based meat I’ve tried it I gave it like the earnest College try and I found I didn’t like the texture of The Taste but also it’s processed like crazy and if you’re not supposed to eat processed food that’s full of oil so do you eat bacon no hand sure yeah have you had a look at the processing and the ingredients list on bacon and ham this is longer than all the plant-based sorry not all the most of the plant-based products bacon or ham because people always want to compare it to a hamburger why well I don’t eat a hamburger made of bacon though right okay if you say to yourself I’m gonna evaluate this plant-based product against a hamburger only because I’m going to substitute one with the other well what if you’re substituting that for bacon or ham for a heavily processed meat product a huge number of heavily processed meat products with nitrates in them and all sorts of issues um in those products but everybody wants to go ah we compare it so the fair comparison is a plant-based sausage which probably is less lethal than a I actually like the impossible Burgers man I mean maybe I’m weird but I like it I think that’s the state of the art it’s the impossible I agree with that I want to leave you with one question before we wrap up and and um you know but um looking out 30 50 years um do you think synthetic biology is the biggest uh technology that um Humanity will create over that time or do you think there’s something bigger that you’re optimistic about just being a pure futurist now pure futurist synthetic biology has the ability to change everything from how we make our screens for our mobile phones to the food that we eat and it will have an enormous impact Way Beyond anything we have ever seen before even including chemistry and all the things that chemistry has brought us synthetic biology is literally going to change the world and that’s my comment uh you know since I will eat the world the world will eat some bio we’re eating cheese we’re already eating symbiotics we’re with you on that we love synthetic biology on this show one of our earliest interviews was with Andrew Hessel who is a huge proponent of synthetic biology you know the Nature has this incredible generative capacity in biology and we haven’t yet mastered it uh we think we have we keep thinking we we found new ways to master it but really what you’re talking about when you reprogram that that power at the cellular level you can unlock it and direct it to whatever purpose you need and it’s not just food because bear in mind all of our Healthcare are Pharmaceuticals those also are derived from nature almost all of our energy is derived from some sort of biological product even if it’s you know fossil fuels from the ancient past so we depend massively on biology for more than half the economy I’m with you on that synthetic bio is the Future Tony it’s been such a great pleasure chatting with you we’ve enjoyed this tremendously what a great topic thanks for joining us and we wish you very much the best in the future of food how do people reach you what’s the best way for people to follow please I’ve got my website which is uh yep and you can find me on LinkedIn I’m quite active on LinkedIn please do connect with me there and my email address is um Tony at and uh and Tony H underscore futurist on Twitter right yep that’s right okay and thanks guys for having me on the program I’d like to say have a great future thanks that’s that’s as close to our tagline which you’re going to hear in a moment that’s right well great thanks for having us thanks for being on I mean uh We’ve enjoyed it thanks okay uh that wraps that up for the week uh you’ve been listening to the futurists Our Guest this week was Tony Hunter the food futurist and um for myself you know for my co-host Brett King we want to thank everybody who’s listening we thank you especially those who have been following us on social media and sending in suggestions for speakers and questions and so forth we love that level of Engagement it’s always fun to hear from the audience and we really agree we really are grateful to those who take a moment to give a five-star review for the show that helps other people discover the show and the good news there is in the last six months the program has been growing rapidly in terms of number of downloads so that’s very encouraging feedback uh keep helping us make the show findable for other people we really appreciate it I want to give a big shout out to Elizabeth Severance um our producer Who and the rest of the team at provoke media who so generously have supported this show and um well I guess now it’s time for us to do our slogan let’s see if we can get this right Brad we’ll see you in the future

well that’s it for the futurists this week if you like the show we sure hope you did please subscribe and share it with people in your community and don’t forget to leave us a five star review that really helps other people find the show and you can ping us anytime on Instagram and Twitter at futurist podcast for the folks that you’d like to see on the show or the questions that you’d like us to ask thanks for joining and as always we’ll see you in the future