Consumer demands are constantly evolving, so innovation, digitalisation and knowledge transfer systems play a key role in the agri-food sector in order to adapt to them.
The agri-food sector is at a key moment, of many changes: climate change, the pandemic, armed conflicts… Many problems have arisen in society that call for new solutions:
- By 2050, the population is expected to reach 9.1 billion. To feed that number of people, food production will have to grow by at least 70% (FAO, n.d.).
- The economic crisis has encouraged greater price sensitivity.
- Significant increase in consumption through digital media.
- Priority to nutrition, shelf life and safety throughout the food chain.
- Increasing social responsibility and conscious consumption by consumers.
- The need for sustainability of the sector in the face of climate change.
Innovation is the clear response to changing food consumption and environmental demands and the way to ensure the safety of the food chain from production to sale to the final consumer. That is why the future of the agricultural sector lies in driving technological advances.
Big Data, learning machine and the internet of things (IoT)
To cope with the new changes in food consumption, the use of new, smarter and more accurate farming systems through the application of big data and artificial intelligence is essential.
Digital tools are based on algorithms that give us immediate answers, at almost zero cost once we have set them up, and with total accuracy and reliability. Using the data that these types of tools collect and store will allow us to incorporate continuous improvement strategies in our production processes, thus optimising production.
Biotechnology at the service of the agri-food industry
Agri-food innovation also includes biotechnological research into crop optimisation, food composition, the search for new raw materials and food safety. New biotechnological advances allow the development of a more sustainable agriculture, but also with higher quality, seeking to increase yields, prolong the life of products and avoid losses.
Some of the latest biotechnological developments include:
- Microencapsulation and nanoencapsulation for the design of next-generation ingredients: these technologies enable the development of foods with new, safer, and healthier properties, as well as functional ingredients and novel additives with advanced properties.
- Chemical imaging for quality control and food safety: this revolutionary technology shows the concentrations of the elements of interest at each point in the product, providing more and more rigorous information.
- Bacteriophages, new biological methods for food safety: the use of bacteriophages will serve to reduce and prevent colonization and disease in livestock, decontaminate fresh produce, disinfect equipment and food contact surfaces, or as a natural preservative to extend the shelf life of produce.
- Active packaging: This type of packaging has biocidal, antioxidant, or gas-absorbing properties which interact chemically or biologically with the food product or modifies the headspace for the purpose of improving shelf life.
The trend in the markets is to develop more environmentally friendly techniques. Plant-based food (the market for alternative plant-based proteins derived from soybeans or cereals), plant-based alternatives to milk and the rise of organic products are innovations that respond to new consumer needs.
The development of sustainable packaging, whether 100% biodegradable using sustainable raw materials (recycled or biodegradable) or 100% compostable (composed of organic substances that when decomposed can be used as fertilizers) is also one of the essential technological advances in the agri-food industry.
It is clear that the food industry is not only challenged to feed the population. It also plays an important role in the overall health and well-being of people and their environment, including the protection of the environment and the efficient use of resources. Hence, innovation has a key role in the agri-food sector and is increasingly present in all agribusinesses.
In our Master in Agribusiness Management you will be able to learn more about the innovative processes that are currently being developed in the agri-food sector, to become an expert in this field.