Adopting digital technology quickly and widely is our best bet to direct the food system in time towards affordable, healthy and sustainable food. For that we need immediate action at a rapid scale. Let’s stress-test the assumptions, assess the problems and enhance the solutions for the adoption of digital technology towards food.
WHY DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES ARE THE BEST ALTERNATIVE FOR THE FOOD TRANSITION?
1. Lack of buying power for good food.
This is the core and most fundamental issue. Consumers have no idea of what they eat, its effect on them and on the environment. The hard accessibility to good quality information, tools like Nutriscore not scaling fast enough (and the effect/truth seems to be questionable) or companies which have no incentive towards healthy nor sustainable food are also major concerns. This is why in general buying power is fast-track and more efficient for change, as companies can move faster than governments.
2. Tech innovations in the real world have too little impact.
These tech innovations are often irrespective of the investments that it receives. Although it is true that there is available land, often it is the soil that are not the best for businesses to implement these innovations. In the mean time, deforestation keeps increasing, productivity gains are not enough and the Green Revolution seems to have passed by, causing tiny l margins on production. Product innovation goes too slow and has too many supply chain dependencies like regulation and alignment of the supply chain issues. Examples of this are Protix or Invitor meats.
3. It requires system change, a supply chain change from field to fork.
PROBLEMS TO DIGITISING THE FOOD SYSTEM
We see 3 core problems that prohibit speed in adopting digital technology for good food.
1. Agriculture is the least digitised industry, and that is a problem. Why? Because we are behind and it becomes more and more difficult to catch up.
Leapfrogging is not easy as digital is about connectivity at different levels and layers: it needs knowledge. Digital technology is poorly understood in general by a very few, often isolated people, and this is only more prominent in food.
Governments have no clue on what to do either: they are living in web2 but Ministries of Agriculture are still in web1, exemplifying again how the food system seems to be always one step behind.
Companies lack incentives to digitise as poor quality food sells easily. Population growth and cheaper money feeds the agrifood balance sheet, so there is no need for innovation at all.
2. Our life is getting digitised and that is a problem. Why? Because connectivity is exactly what we need.
While web3 is evolving rapidly, kids increasingly live in the Metaverse and their digital twins on TikTok, we miss opportunities to reach scale. Web3 is all about connectivity and connectivity means scale, and that’s exactly what we need.
Digital technology will have exponentially more impact in our lives and create more opportunities over time. If we don’t find large-scale adoption now, we may miss the boat forever. Digital technology should be a sine-qua-non for most solutions that serve the goal of good food as it makes information accessible, makes solutions scalable and borderless and less prone to corruption.
3. Notion of complexity is a problem. Why? It creates inertia.
People don’t like change, but if it feels complex, change is even less appealing. We lack simple and inspiring examples that can be applied in our everyday life. Supply chains are slow in aligning, and issues like this should be explained in a much simpler way.
HOW TO ACCELERATE ADOPTION OF DIGITAL AGTECH TODAY?
1. We need large scale, country-wide examples as fast as possible.
This is currently being discussed in the UAE, whenever countries start applying digital technologies in their agriculture space, that will certainly create a snow-ball effect in the neighboring countries.
2. We need cheap and decentralised technology that can work across entire supply chains.
An example of this technology is Open Food Chain, an open and public blockchain that tracks food products from farmers to end-consumers.
3. Understanding web3.
We need to make society aware of the power of web3, the opportunities it brings and how it can be a key player in fixing issues which are as complex as our broken food system.