Life Science
Food supply

Food supply chain

Globalized food supply chains will have to accommodate demands for food that matches individuals’ social and health profiles, and that is produced and distributed safely, equitably and sustainably.

Higher yields, less wastage, and better distribution will all contribute to improve food security.  But increased transportation and more complex supply chains will shift the spotlight onto food safety. Customers, empowered by social media, will increasingly interrogate the processing and origin of food.

Sufficient availability of healthy food will be important in developed countries, as well as in less developed countries. From a national perspective, it is desirable to facilitate a menu that reduces the potential for lifestyle diseases that could become a heavy burden on the health budget.

Sustainability will be an overriding principle throughout the food supply chain. As we approach 2025, ever more parameters will be incorporated in the support system to document and verify the sustainability of products. These parameters will be linked to climate change, ethics-related requirements, and resource efficiency.

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AQUACULTURE

Automation in aquaculture is already fairly advanced with feeding robots, underwater cameras, supported by increasingly sophisticated sensors, fine-scaled acoustic telemetry and digitalized process control.

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Optical delousing is a concept designed for efficient, non-invasive removal of individual sea lice from fish by using camera vision, advanced software, and laser technology. This offers a preventive and sustainable alternative to conventional and typically reactive delousing approaches. Increased resistance to disease will also be one of the aims of genome editing of fish and shellfish stock, which is already underway in key markets, and the subject of debate and decision from a regulatory perspective.

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AGRICULTURE

Agricultural robots (agbots), genome editing, enhanced photosynthesis, satellites and airborne remote sensing – agriculture is rapidly moving from mere hi-tech to the digital frontie.

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Agbots are rapidly automating farm operations - e.g., autonomous precision seeding, and intelligent weeding, planting, harvesting, and irrigation. By 2025, we may see farms with dozens or hundreds of agbots that monitor, cultivate, and harvest crops from the land with practically no human intervention. Automated milking robots are already increasing productivity and reducing labour costs of dairy production.

Expect more collection of data from satellites and airborne optical sensing technologies on crop production to assess crop health, prescribe fertilization amounts for optimal returns on inputs, forecast crop yields, and check compliance against regulations or subsidy requirements.

Collars with GPS can track a cow’s movements, but the technology far transcends that. Animal behaviour can be monitored, disease can be detected early, and sensors can provide climate, water, and feed indicators.

Genome editing of livestock will become increasingly widespread, enabling animals to have the best genes its species can offer, or produce particular traits such as increased disease resistance, or hornless bulls. This will extend to improvement of photosynthesis efficiency by altering gene expression or engineering a photosynthesis procedure from other organisms with a more efficient process. Also in the pipeline is the creation of new crop varieties with high concentrations of anthocyanin generated through genome editing, e.g., by use of CRISPR/Cas9. Anthocyanins are reported to inhibit certain cancers, age-related degenerative diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.

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TRANSPORT

Autonomous self-driving trucks will likely be commercially available by 2025.

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Technology for driverless trucks and trains is already available and being piloted, and will, to a large degree, be in place in the next half-decade, spurred by the economic imperative of an ageing population, rising labour costs and the benefits of continuous automated operation. Attention is also focused on automation as a means of protecting supply chains at the loading dock to reduce theft, generally enhance cargo security and reduce contamination.

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PROCESSING AND PACKAGING

The focus has shifted beyond mere automation in processing and packaging to the possibilities of in vitro meat production and active packaging to extend the shelf life of food products.

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In vitro meat production: meat production by cultivating cells from live animals in a bioreactor.  The first commercially available products from in vitro meat production are expected to be processed products, such as sausages, burgers, and nuggets.

Active packaging aims at extending shelf life or improving safety while maintaining food quality. Current leading concepts include packaging with moisture absorbers, oxygen scavengers, microwave susceptors, and antimicrobial agents.

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DISTRIBUTION & SALES

Advances in molecular biology hold much promise for enhancing the safety, quality and integrity of food chains, while the point of sale itself is becoming digitalized.

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It is becoming possible to trace food along supply chain using a DNA mixture as a biological marker, providing information such as origin, date of harvesting and processing location.

At the point of sale, we are seeing the introduction of real-time monitoring of food quality using sensors attached to the food packaging, such as ethanol sensors providing indications of food spoilage, and time-temperature sensors providing temperature exposure history. The sensor data can be read wirelessly in real-time by customers.

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CONSUMERS

The rate at which smart technology is changing the way consumers are selecting and evaluating food is accelerating.

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Consumers will have access to electronic devices to scan the molecular fingerprint of food enabling, for instance, an instant information breakdown of alcohol, sugar, or calorie content of food prior to consumption.

Food choices will also increasingly be influenced by personalized nutrition approaches based on individual genomic profiles to support metabolic health, maintain weight, or manage obesity.

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