I made a fascinating visit to Wageningen University in the Netherlands, to speak to some professors about the new emerging and more sustainable ways in which we can feed the world in the future.
An exciting new area under investigation here is the possibility of farming seaweed. Dr Willem Brandenburg told me that it’s a ‘fantastic opportunity to create a new commodity because we have learnt that in order to sustain the future worlds population, proteins are essential’. He told me we only need ‘three hundred and sixty thousand square kilometres of seaweed farming to feed the protein requirements of ten billion people.’ Only four times the size of Portugal of ocean space would be needed. Given that 70 per cent of the planet is covered by ocean, that is a lot of food for not a lot of sea.
The possibility of growing algae as a new protein source is also being investigated, which researchers believe could be more efficient at feeding both people and farm animals than soya beans or cereals. At the moment, 90% or more of soya and a third of the entire cereal harvest in the world is fed to livestock. As René Wijffels explains at ‘every conversion step you lose energy’ meaning a lot of arable produced energy is wasted by converting it into meat. Professor Wijffels’ work aims to reduce the conversion steps by directly producing protein. He told me how farm animals are already eating algae on an experimental scale with impressive results.
To me, both cases are remarkably interesting avenues to explore as alternatives to feed an expanding population in an environmentally sustainable, efficient and morally responsible way. Take a look at my latest film to see if you agree.