#tnofood New Optimists on Food in Birmingham in 2050

What role could IT play in 2050?

It depends where the food chain is going? Where is the food supply coming from? Could the source of summer fruit and vegetables change dramatically. Where could IT fit in to that?

We could use IT to improve efficiency in dealing with food waste.

Post-consumer food waste is quite a small problem, but even in times of affluence quite a lot of food doesn’t even leave the farm gates.

Do we reduce food waste or make better use of it? We can use IT to distribute fresh food supplies much more quickly and efficiently than previously.

We need to know:

  • What the waste is.
  • How it could be used.
  • Who would want it.

But what conditions are creating this much waste in the first place? Do our social models create the right value for food?

  • Food is too cheap.
  • People don’t value it enough.
  • The price should represent its value and its actual production cost.

However, people will care when food becomes very expensive because we’ve had cheap food for so very long.
“What was wrong with bartering?” – Dr Monika Solanki

In technology we now do nitrogen tracing. This creates accountability in the food chain and allows us to create a fair and accurate representation of cost. Transparency of the true cost of the production is the real aim.

‘What do the farmers need to give them more power?’ The stakeholders in the food chain (producers, shops, end-consumers); what would they like to see? What would help them?

If the system is going to help farmers, we have to involve them.

In 2050 it could be possible to build incredible vertical farms in skyscrapers. “It sounds insane now, but it’s 38 years down the line.”

Using maps containing information about soil types, rainfall etc, can help decide what types of crops to grow; where and when. “There’s tons of opportunity for mixing up data sources.” We can ask questions like “Where can I plant walnuts in 20 years time with the correct rainfall etc.” We can use IT to allocate resources much more efficiently.

Using Algae

It requires a lot of land to grow algae. It can grow in tubes, but what quantities for nutrition? “Could we flavour it, change it, use it as a supplement?” Seaweed could be part of the solution, it is already consumed in parts of the world, although it does pick up heavy metals easily.
“Can algae eat poo?”

What are we going to be eating in 2050?


Has food changed in the past 20 years? How has it changed?
“It’s gone wrong, we’re eating too much meat”. – Ed Dowding
“Many more people have turned to vegetarianism, so is it balancing out?” – Dr Monika Solanki

The questions put forward from this group are:

  1. How can IT cut food waste?
  2. Can algae convert human manure to food?
  3. What requirements do people in this area have? What do we need?
  4. Can food be revalued?
  5. Complementary form of currency for food exchange?
  6. Do we need alternative supply chains?
  7. What alternative supply chain?
  8. What about a society where we’re all 20%?
  9. Should we feed cities? (Is it passé?)
  10. What is the future demand for meat consumption?


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