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IFT's Future Food 2050 project

The future of food, rooted in science

By Maggie Hennessy , 05-May-2014
Last updated the 05-May-2014 at 16:18 GMT

It’s becoming harder to avoid the looming UN statistic that the world population will reach 9.6 billion by 2050, and harder still to evade the question: How will we feed them all in an environment of dwindling resources?

Last month the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) unveiled Future Food 2050 , a multimedia platform for sharing science-based solutions to how to sustainably feed a growing global population.

Through 2015, the site will publish 75 interviews with researchers, policy makers, industry experts, activists and consumers on FutureFood2050.com, leading up to the release of a documentary on the future of food. (IFT chose 75 to draw attention to its pending 75th anniversary this June.)

“The future of food is an enormous topic,” Future Food 2050 managing editor Elizabeth Brewster told FoodNavigator-USA. “You could spend the rest of your life writing about it and not cover everything. What we’re trying to do is focus in on the major issues in food today, zeroing in on broad themes that are either really relevant today or those we see as being relevant in the future. Within those, we’re finding people who have the authority to speak to the subject and take a look ahead.”

Each month, three interviews will be released under a different umbrella topic, as editors and writers from various media outlets aim to capture a range of perspectives about how to provide sustainable, safe food for future generations. The first three stories, housed under a sustainability theme, are currently live.

Upcoming themes include women in science (with a focus on agriculture), aquaculture, tackling food waste and the best in innovation. Because food science and technology are integral to IFT, the stories will all have a scientific bent, and all will examine what’s happening in both the developed and developing parts of the world.

One absolute must to every interview? “We’re asking everyone interviewed to look into the future, that is, to 2050,” Brewster said, “and give us their thoughts on what’s to come based on their work and experience. That’s a component of everything. We want to know the implications of these efforts for the average consumer in next 10, 20 and 30 years.”

What’s surprised Brewster most through culling the topics, she said, is the sheer variety of projects being undertaken with this same goal in mind. “I’m amazed by the efforts, big and small—but mostly small—that people out there are doing. There are a lot of really smart people out there thinking outside the box, whether it’s eating bugs or cultured meat.”

Facilitating a dialogue to outlive 75 stories

Futurefood2050.com is also serving as something of a foundation for next year’s release of a documentary about the future of food, directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy with funding from IFT.

“A lot of what we’ve instituted with futurefood2050.com will serve as background and basis of the documentary,” noted Jerry Bowman, IFT’s VP of communications. “The big difference between the documentary and the 75 interviews is the site will have a lot more individual stories and related news sources, whereas the documentary will focus more broadly on feeding world sustainably based on science.”

But Bowman said he hopes that the dialogue will long outlive the 75 stories. “I envision that longer term, this is a project that may continue on based on the dialogue and interest level that 75 stories creates. Beyond that, there’s ample opportunity for people to be part of conversation when it comes to social media. What we really hope we can achieve is greater sharing of information with these stories, as they’re intended to be viral in nature.”  

That said, IFT will measure the success of the program using both quantitative (audience reach metrics) and qualitative means. “Longer range, we see great opportunities when it comes to education, not only at the university level but in high schools and middle schools. People will see the value of science in creating solutions for future food security.

“We’re hoping to make food science more consumer friendly and highlight the wonderful things it can do,” Brewster added.

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