Nourishing the world

By 2050, the world’s population will be approximately 9.7 billion of which almost 70% will live in large urban centres. Cities are already barely coping with the complex changes surrounding climate and food supply. Wageningen Economic Research is engaged in research on how we can ensure the future food and nutrion security worldwide.

It goes without saying that urban regions throughout the world must adapt to the demands of the future. But how do we accomplish this? Peter Ravensbergen, a business developer at Wageningen Economic Research:

A large-scale transition is needed that assists cities and surrounding regions to move incrementally towards a situation where sufficient healthy food is available and affordable.

A precondition for this is that this food has been obtained in a sustainable and reliable manner. Wageningen Economic Research has developed methods that help regions complete the transition, based on data, models, expertise and interaction.

The challenge to nourish the world

Meeting this increased demand for food is a challenge and it requires fundamental changes in our food production and consumption. What are the most important and most prominent challenges?

Nutrition for sustainable and healthy food

The current population growth and unhealthy nutrition patterns are increasing demand for healthy food: sufficient, sustainably produced and healthy food focused on nutrients, such as fewer calories and more vitamins. (SDG 2 and SDG 12). In short:

  1. sufficient food available to everyone;
  2. diets with the correct nutritional value to sustain health and wellbeing;
  3. safe and long-lasting food;
  4. sustainable production and processing.

Climate smart and ecologically sustainable

Food production influences environmental conditions. The challenge is to adjust food production in such a way that it does not harm the environment in the long run, restores ecological damage, adapts to variability and mitigates climate change where possible (SDG 13);

Circularity and resource efficiency

Food is part of local and global ecological cycles. For instance, if the same crop is constantly grown on certain soils, the fertility of the soil will deteriorate. In order not to exhaust our planet, we have to produce mare efficiently and re-use resources.

Circular agriculture enables us to produce enough food within the natural limits set by the planet. Circular agriculture is based on the principle that all biomass is optimally exploited. The residual flows from one chain are the raw materials for another. For example, wasted food can be used as animal feed or compost.

To arrive at such a circular food system, we need a transition in which vegetable and animal production chains are linked in a smart way: a shift from chains to circles (SDG 6, SDG 14 and SDG 15).

Innovation and empowerment of communities

Food and eating habits are part of the glue that holds communities together. The production of food is an important economic activity that provides work for many people. Innovations can help communities to develop more climate smart and sustainable ways to produce, process and transport their food. The exchange of information will enable supply and demand for food products to be balanced locally. These opportunities require trust among consumers and new business models.

We offer solutions on the city, regional and country level