5 June 2019 – As part of a Feedinfo 20th Anniversary* Futurist point-of-view series on what our industry may look like in 2039, today we talk to Australian food futurist Tony Hunter.
Mr. Hunter’s company Future Cubed consults for the food and beverage industry, helping companies understand the impacts that technological changes will have on their businesses. Mr. Hunter is also featured to speak at the upcoming Feedinfo event Feed Additives Asia 2019, to be held in Bangkok on 26-28 June.
We asked him how technologies may potentially disrupt the animal nutrition and production sectors in the next couple of decades.
[Feedinfo News Service] Mr. Hunter, what do you think will be the market drivers of the meat and livestock sector in 2039?
[Tony Hunter] If there is a livestock sector in 2039 then the major driver will be nutritional profile. The food industry will eventually increase its focus on tailored foods and personalized nutrition. Also important will be sustainability and animal welfare credentials, and perhaps new specialised CRISPR cattle, chicken and other animal species.
Understanding our genome will become an everyday fundamental over the coming decades. Once we understand these, we’ll demand food products tailored to our metabolism. Cellular and acellular agriculture will be able to deliver these products as part of their manufacture, not as additives.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will also be integral to personalised nutrition, with our personalised AI advising and updating us on the best foods for us as individuals. AI is already being used by companies such as DayTwo to analyse people’s microbiome to recommend specific foods for us. Furthermore, if we look at things like the Chef Watson project AI will be able to determine novel combinations of ingredients beyond the imagination of human chefs and technologists.
Of course, animal nutrition plays a very important role in optimising the health of animals and the nutritional profile of the final product. But will specialised feeds alone ever be able to make novel changes to the final product’s nutritional profile? Will we need CRISPR technology to tweak the animal genome to work with new specialised products for personalizing our foods? Will consumers accept this?
[Feedinfo News Service] The animal nutrition industry is increasingly developing its understanding of gut health and the animal microbiome. Do you think these will no longer be mysteries for our sector by 2039?
[Tony Hunter] There’s ever accelerating research into the animal microbiome and we’ll undoubtedly have a much greater understanding of the issue by 2039. But no longer a mystery? I doubt it. It’s an enormously complicated area involving multiple layers of interaction between the microbiome, the animal, the environment and food. I don’t think researchers will be out of a job for some time yet!
[Feedinfo News Service] Looking more at alternative proteins and applying that to animal feeding: what role do you see these ingredients playing in animal nutrition in the years to come?
[Tony Hunter] There are so many alternative proteins from plants, including algae, to insects to microbes that there’ll be an almost never ending stream of alternatives to be analysed and evaluated. For instance, a recent study has shown that red algae can dramatically affect the in vitro production of methane in rumen fermentation. If ruminants can be fed to almost eliminate methane production then how does that change the GHG equation?
[Feedinfo News Service] What do you see as a threat to the animal production sector?
[Tony Hunter] Industrial animal production is under attack on all of the fronts (AMR, pollution, welfare, food safety). However, perhaps the biggest threat is that animals won’t be the best protein source for humans! From food from electricity to food from volcanoes the protein competition continues to heat up exponentially!
[Feedinfo News Service] On that note, we recently spoke to American futurist and celebrity speaker, Dr. Thomas Frey about the cultured meat topic. What is your prediction on the rise in popularity of lab-grown meat?
[Tony Hunter] My prediction is that cultured meat will capture 5-10% of the world meat market within 5-10 years. As long as the population keeps growing there’ll most likely be a place for both conventional and cultured meat products. But which will dominate? When the population stabilizes in around 2050, then all bets are off! Which companies are prepared for an animal free food sector?
* To mark the 20th anniversary, we are publishing a series of cutting-edge interviews, we have launched a special logo and strapline ‘Trusted animal nutrition market intelligence’, and will also be celebrating the milestone at our three Feed Additives Conferences in June (Feed Additives Asia, 26-28 June, Bangkok), September (Feed Additives Europe, 25-27 September, Amsterdam) and November (Feed Additives Americas, 13-15 November, Miami). Tickets are still available for Feed Additives Asia 2019. Book now: https://www.feedadditives-asia.com/