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Imagining the future of food

Imagining the future of food

Steak grown from stem cells in the laboratory or local produce from urban high-rises may be on our menus in the year 2050, according to Victoria of Wellington students.

As part of the Visa Wellington On a Plate Festival programme, students from Victoria’s Bachelor of Tourism Management Honour’s programme will present four scenarios about the future of food festivals, drawing on the latest research and industry viewpoints.

Futurist Dr Ian Yeoman, an associate professor at Victoria Business School, is supervising the postgraduate students. He says the two most likely scenarios for the future of tourism are exclusivity, where food is explored as a luxury experience, or scientifically created food.

“Issues such as climate change, pollution, over-population, dying seas and depleted resources could mean that food is scarce and expensive in the future,” says Dr Yeoman. “As a result real food could become an exclusive experience for rich tourists, focusing on authenticity and rare foods from the past.”

Dr Yeoman says science could provide solutions to food shortages. “In vitro meat products, which involves culturing muscle tissue in a liquid medium, have already been grown successfully, and these could be produced on a large scale,” he says.

“Scientists could also develop new genetically modified applications of food, such as metabolically engineered fish that mature more quickly or fruit and nut trees that yield faster.”

He also envisions vertical farming, an agricultural technique involving large-scale architecture in urban high-rises or ‘farmscrapers’. Using advanced greenhouse technology and methods such as hydroponics, these buildings would produce fruit and vegetables all year round.

“Vertical farming would provide a controlled, protective environment for crops, independent of weather and most extreme weather events, thereby significantly increasing agricultural productivity,” he says.

Dr Yeoman also says scientists may be able to replicate food, using the food’s molecular structure.

“Although this may sound like science fiction, NASA recently contracted Systems and Materials Research Corporation to build a 3D printer to produce nutritious and flavourful mission supplies for astronauts. One of the first foods is expected to be pizza.”

2050: The Future of Food Festivals
Date: 18 August, 6-7pm

Venue: Rutherford House, Lecture Room 3 (RHLT3) 23 Lambton Quay, Wellington

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