The climate crisis, feeding an increasingly large population, and the logistic obstacles brought by the Covid-19 pandemic are some of the hurdles the world is facing, and the agribusiness industry will likely be shaped by all of them.
Agricultural technology, aquaculture, carbon sequestration, plant-based foods and sustainability are some of the areas with the potential to continue to grow during 2021.
As is the case with Industry 4.0, agritech benefits from a vast array of technological advancements being used to maximise volume and efficiency while reducing costs.
Agritech strives for this efficiency along the entirety of the chain, from growing and harvesting to final delivery. It can be a key tool for reducing food waste and improving the overall sustainability of the agricultural sector. The countries at the forefront of the agritech revolution are the US, China, the UK and France, according to research company Pitchfork, but countries all over the world are increasingly using agritech research and development, from the Middle East to Latin America via Africa and New Zealand.
Agritech is an area that is having an impact across the whole agricultural landscape.
Investments into the so-called ‘blue economy’ – financial activity linked to the Earth’s oceans – will keep making waves, with aquaculture set to feature more prominently in 2021.
According to a study into the state of aquaculture and fishing by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, aquaculture production increased by 527% between 1990 and 2018.
Seen as a solution to providing a protein-rich diet to a growing population without further damaging fish stocks, aquaculture comes with its own set of challenges revolving around sustainability, although the likes of bivalves – such as oysters and mussels – can be farmed with almost no environmental impact, and are seen as a clean source of animal protein.
The process of storing carbon dioxide in agriculture soil – carbon sequestration – can be a way of offsetting emissions, although ultimately the goal is to reduce the emissions.
A 2019 report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that 23% of greenhouse emissions produced by human activity come from agriculture and forestry activity, and according to a study in the journal Science in 2018, the food supply chain is responsible for approximately 26% of greenhouse gas emissions. Improving soil health through sustainable farming practices is one of the keys to increasing carbon sequestration on the road to sustainability in the food system.
According to a Meticulous Research report, the plant-based foods market is expected to reach $74.2bn by 2027, at a compound annual growth rate of 11.9% during the forecast period 2020–27.
In 2020, all leading UK supermarket chains had their own vegan range, according to the Vegan Society, while the majority of the main UK restaurant chains offered plant-based options, reflecting the public interest in reducing the consumption of animal products.
From lab-grown meat to plant-based alternatives to animal products, the food industry is seeing start-ups emerge in this space along with established food companies launching vegan-friendly ranges, and this trend is set to continue in 2021.
With the 2030 deadline for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals getting ever closer, working towards creating a sustainable agribusiness environment is at the forefront of most companies’ minds. More of a ‘must’ than a ‘trend’, this sustainability can touch on all aspects of agribusiness.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced shifts in agribusiness. It has uncovered fragilities in global supply chains, increased the public’s interest in healthier diets, and shown that it is possible to decrease pollution levels, offering hope of a more sustainable future. As the Covid-19 vaccine is rolled out across the globe, it remains to be seen which agribusiness trends brought about by the pandemic will stay.