What Happens Next
With more mouths to feed and limited land to farm, we’re at an agricultural impasse. These four differing visions of the future provide scalable solutions.
Pamela RonaldDirector of the Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy at UC Davis
The biggest hurdle genetically engineered food faces isn’t science—it’s us
Frederick KirschenmannPresident of the board of directors of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
Soil is the unsung hero in the fight against world hunger
Brandon AlexanderCEO of Iron Ox and former engineer at Google X's drone-delivery program, Project Wing
If farms are to survive, we need to think about them as tech companies
Where We Thought We’d Be
Think you can predict the future? These experts thought they could—and they were often magnificently wrong.
- 1893 (for 1993)
Before Soylent was even a blip on Silicon Valley’s radar, women’s rights activist Mary E. Lease predicted drinkable meal replacements. She forecast that little bottles of liquid ”from the fertile bosom of mother earth” would take the place of ordinary meals. For Lease, the drink’s principal attraction was in liberating women from the tyranny of the stove.
- 1931 (for 1981)
Lab-made chicken wings
Writing for Strand magazine, Winston Churchill envisaged a future in which scientists could grow individual chunks of meat. “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium,” he wrote.
In his treatise The Coming Age of Wood, former Food and Agriculture Organization forestry director Egon Glesinger thought “nutritional yeast”—a kind of fungus that grows on fermented sawdust—would become an “economical and speedy” building block of people’s diets.
In the mid-20th century, a writer for Science Digest predicted that “beef cattle the size of dogs will be grazed in the average man’s backyard, eating especially-thick grass and producing specially-tender steaks.” Thanks to the power of radiation, these mini cows would be the perfect size for a single family to eat, bringing bespoke beef literally to one’s doorstep.
- 1975 (for 1995)
Pioneering entomophagist Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow predicted that insects might have a role to play in global nutrition. The most delicious specimens would be hand-caught or collected out in the fields, while others could be commercially farmed and then sold “cooked and canned, dried or pickled, fresh or in the form of insect-meal.” (Serving suggestions include “roasted locusts with woodlice sauce.”)
More from What Happens Next
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Future of Water
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Future of Gaming
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Future of Work
If automation continues at its current pace, 400 million workers around the globe will be displaced by 2030. In spite of the vast economic effects these changes will bring, will we seize the opportunity to reconceive the very meaning of work?
Future of Cities
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Future of Money
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Future of Fact
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