Pandemic or not, we all need to eat. Indeed, how we feed the world’s growing population with increasingly scarce resources is, arguably, one of the biggest global challenges facing the planet. The good news is that many bright minds are tasking themselves with resolving this conundrum. In the past days, we were lucky enough to speak with the CEO and founder of an accelerator organisation focused on foodtech as well as an executive from the salmon industry to hear their views on this important topic.
When thinking about food, it is crucial to discard the notion that it is a rural phenomenon, according to Johan Jörgensen is a veteran with over 20 years of experience in the food and technology sectors. Forget the bucolic image of farms and happy animals. Rather, the distribution and consumption of food is a data issue. Think about how many of us currently decide what we buy in supermarkets: it is driven by ‘nudges’ – the positioning of certain products, discounts of the week, mix-and-match offers and so on. Take this a step further and future food systems could effectively curate for us what we eat. The likes of Amazon, Netflix and Spotify already have algorithms which suggest content for us to consume, so why should large data-gatherers not do the same with food? If a consumer’s health data were linked in to the algorithm, then its power could be even more significant. Watch this space. Big tech may be coming for your/our food.
Another topic of crucial consideration is biodiversity, or eating more intelligently for the sake of the planet. Not only does this instinctively make sense, but it also plays to socially responsible objectives. Consider that it may actually be more efficient for farmers to plant trees (and so reduce CO2 emissions) than to grow crops as is the current state of affairs, per Jörgensen. Against this background, the logic for more localised micro farms, the increased deployment of greenhouses, and the growth of urban rooftop farms seems only to rise (this latter topic was covered in Blog post #84). Additionally, reduced conventional farming may create the opportunity more broadly to rethink food. Consumption of traditional crops that are widely grown – such as wheat or corn – could be replaced over time with more efficiently lab-based alternatives with lower carbon footprints.
A more sustainable approach to salmon farming is also top of mind, particularly for MOWI. The company intends to put “more capital into farming” and an investor day scheduled for March next year should provide further details on this topic. In our conversation with the company, cost considerations and fish welfare appeared to be the two highest priorities. The industry has already begun to embrace technology and MOWI’s partnership with Tidal (part of Alphabet X) over the past year is perhaps a sign of things to come. This project allows improved salmon analysis via new camera technology, machine learning and machine perception, with the outcome ultimately being healthier (and probably happier) fish.
12 November 2020
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Heptagon Capital is an investor in MOWI. The author of this piece has no personal direct investment in the business. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.
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