Watch blockchain, regenerative farming, electric vehicles and plant-based protein
Each year brings its own changes, and in the agriculture industry, being prepared to face them and adapt can be essential. Futurist and former naval intelligence officer Jack Ulrich has his eye on four trends — blockchain technology, regenerative agriculture, electric vehicles and plant-based protein — he believes will greatly affect farming in 2022. Farmers Forum looks at them more closely.
1. Blockchain technology
Blockchain is a distributed system of data that allows one to record transactions and track assets. It was popularized with Bitcoin, but is now being adopted in the food industry as a supply-chain monitor. It enables retailers and consumers to trace where their food comes from, and how it was grown, stored, and shipped. This means people will become more aware of farmers’ production methods—and will only work with those whose practices they agree with. Desirable practices in 2022 likely include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, limiting water use, and reducing food wastage. According to one U.S. survey, 13 per cent of managers and directors in agriculture and food markets confirmed their companies use blockchain technology and 49 per cent said their company will implement it within the next three years. Food companies already using blockchain include Walmart, Nestlé, Kraft Heinz, and JBS.
2. Regenerative agriculture
Regenerative agriculture is a sustainable, rehabilitative, and conservationist approach to farming. It’s about improving agroecosystems by composting, minimizing soil disturbance, improving water cycles, increasing biodiversity, and building soil health. Many food companies—and even some governments—are encouraging farmers to practice regenerative agriculture to reduce the effects of climate change, as atmospheric carbon dioxide is drawn into the soil by growing plants (biosequestration). The Biden administration will probably establish financial incentives for regenerative agriculture. Last year, Nestlé announced a $1.8 billion investment in regenerative agriculture to reduce their emissions by 95 per cent and PepsiCo announced they will implement regenerative agriculture on their 7 million acres by 2030.
3. Electric vehicles
In 2021, about 6.4 million electric vehicles were sold worldwide, a 98 per cent increase over 2020, according to Swedish database EV-Volumes. By 2030, the global electric vehicle count is set to reach 145 million, accounting for 7 per cent of all vehicles worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency. If electric vehicle sales continue rapidly increasing, the demand for gasoline will go down, bringing down with it the demand for ethanol. If ethanol demand drops, corn demand drops. Corn farmers must be aware of this possibility and remain prepared.
4. Plant-based proteins
The demand for diverse plant-based food alternatives is steadily growing, motivated by consumer interest in healthy diets, environmental stewardship, and animal welfare. Non-animal proteins are mainly found in seeds, beans, nuts, legumes, and some vegetables like potatoes, spinach, and asparagus. The plant-based protein market shot up at the start of the pandemic, and is expected to grow at 14 per cent annually by 2024, up to a third of the protein market, according to National Research Council Canada. In Canada, more than 40 per cent of the population is actively trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diets, said NRCC. This trend could cause a decrease in demand for traditional meat, milk, and eggs.