The Role Of Technology In Food Sustainability

Joerg Koesters

Facing increasing population and environmental instability, the human race is challenged with ensuring that there will be enough food to sustain us over time. Technology is playing an important role in finding solutions to today’s food production problems.

Euan Murray, chief strategy officer of the Sustainability Consortium, and John Rorapaugh, director of sustainability at ProFish, recently shared their thoughts at a Future of Food virtual forum discussion. Specifically, they addressed the role technology can play to create more sustainable food production methods going forward.

Challenges with food sustainability

Future of Food forum moderator and director of sustainability at SAP Will Ritzrau said, “There will be nine billion people on this planet by 2050 … estimates say we need to double our food production by 2030. And the UN global goal number two targets zero hunger by 2030; all this within a constrained environment.” This framing of the discussion underlined both the importance and the seriousness of the problem.

It’s crucial to consider how sustainability works within both developing and developed countries. Both have their own challenges, but technology can help. Murray explained that in developing countries, satellite mapping can track deforestation and mobile phones offer better market access to farmers. In developed countries, technology provides information for companies to make better decisions and gives consumers the transparency they’re looking for in the supply chain.

Innovative solutions for improved sustainability

Rorapaugh discussed how innovation can help address the current state of food production, offering the example of farm-raised seafood as a model for moving forward with sustainable, healthy food. He believes that farm-raised seafood is an important answer to the food production problem and that it represents the future of the industry. With farm-raised seafood currently making up about five percent of seafood consumed in the United States and 90 percent imported, he emphasized that the goal should be to greatly increase the amount of farm-raised fish in the country while greatly reducing the amount of imported seafood.

This solution could help solve the problem of overfishing and create a more sustainable way to obtain different types of seafood. Rorapaugh’s company uses innovative technologies, including a recirculating aquaculture system that reintroduces 99 percent of the water it uses, and vertically integrated farms that take up less space and provide numerous simultaneous food sources.

Adding to the discussion, Murray explained that large companies are also making great strides in sustainability. For example, a portion of Walmart corporate buyers’ annual bonus is dependent on whether the goods they choose fit a sustainability performance standard.

Their commitment to sustainability also affects companies’ supply chains, which creates an even broader impact. If your company is hesitant to adopt sustainability trends, Murray pointed out that sustainability is not only a responsibility and a practice that is increasingly necessary to keep up with other brands, but it also has strong benefits for a company’s bottom line. He explained that there is a strong correlation between sustainability practices and strong business performance, as sustainability practices help companies run more efficiently. For example, sustainable practices can help your company save money by reducing water and material consumption as well as waste.

Rorapaugh agreed that sustainability practices create a more effective company, adding that they can also lead to out-of-the-box innovations that help a company’s bottom line while helping to improve the world. As an example, Rorapaugh explained that while about 70 percent of fish is wasted in the production process, his company came up with ways to use almost the entire fish, including turning it into a protein for pet food and a fertilizer.

Learn more about the role of technology in food sustainability and the changing food industry at the SAP Future of Food Forum.


About Joerg Koesters

Joerg Koesters is the Head of Retail Marketing and Communication at SAP. He is a Technology Marketing executive with 20 years of experience in Marketing, Sales and Consulting, Joerg has deep knowledge in retail and consumer products having worked both in the industry and in the technology sector.