11 Megatrends: "Avalanches in slow motion"
The world is changing. The complexity is great and that makes it difficult to keep track in everyday life. Megatrends provide orientation here. They outline the main lines of change. Megatrends are valuable navigation aids to classify and understand change. The Zukunftsinstitut describes megatrends as "avalanches in slow motion". This image describes the phenomenon well. Megatrends develop slowly, but have an enormous impact on the economy and society. They determine our future life.
Monday, November 1, 2021
The most important facts in brief
- Megatrends determine the development of the world for several decades.
- They initiate paradigm shifts and lead to profound social change.
- swiss-food.ch examines current developments in agriculture and nutrition from the perspective of comprehensive sustainability and resource efficiency and assigns them to various megatrends.
There is no exhaustive list of megatrends. Think tanks, consultancies as well as financial institutions use different categories and set their own priorities when it comes to megatrends. swiss-food.ch addresses the megatrends that affect agriculture, production, processing and reuse of food and nutrition. This from the perspective of comprehensive sustainability and resource efficiency.
According to the description of the Zukunftsinstitut, the megatrends will determine the development of the world for decades and have an impact on many areas of society. They have a global impact, are multi-layered and complex. Here is an overview of the central megatrends that we address within the framework of swiss-food.ch and in the context of the discussion on nutrition. Climate change and resource scarcity are, to a certain extent, the basis for many megatrends, but in some cases they are also counted among the megatrends. Because these two developments are of great importance for the agriculture and food sector, we are including them in the list.
1. Climate change
Climate change directly affects agriculture. Storms and droughts reduce yields. The amount of usable land is decreasing due to salinisation and desertification, and warming is changing the vegetation. Drinking water is becoming scarce, new pests and plant diseases are appearing. At the same time, in Switzerland agriculture is responsible for around 14 percent of the Swiss greenhouse gas emissions. Through climate-friendly cultivation methods, agriculture can promote carbon fixation in the soil (carbon sequestration) and make an active contribution to climate neutrality.
2. Resource scarcity
Limited resources are the basis and driver of economic activity. The scarcity of resources demands efficiency. Particularly in agriculture and the food industry, input and output must be in balance; the motto is "grow more with less". Otherwise, resources will be wasted and land will be consumed excessively. The consequences of inefficiency can also be "food loss" in the field or "food waste" at the end consumer. The scarcity of resources calls for comprehensive sustainability and circular thinking. Climate change increases the pressure for efficient use of scarce resources. Climate change is also accelerating water scarcity. It rains less, more irregularly or so heavily that it causes flooding. The combination of rising temperatures, water scarcity and flooding is a fatal mix for agricultural areas. There is also a link between water scarcity and famine crises. When water is lacking in a region, farmers are the first to feel the effects.
Ecology is not a niche, but a broad trend. It is becoming a social movement and a central economic factor. Ecological behaviour demands science-based, comprehensive sustainability. From the organic boom to the sharing economy to zero waste. The megatrend of ecology necessarily includes innovation - for example in the field of biotechnology and new genetic engineering processes to create comprehensively sustainable products and solutions.
4. Knowledge society
The world is getting smarter. The level of education is rising globally, creating the conditions for a knowledge society. Knowledge is available at all times and can be accessed digitally. Networking and the availability of both traditional and new knowledge are also increasing in the agricultural and food sector. Knowledge creates the prerequisite for innovation. The result is progress in productivity and more sustainable systems.
Health awareness is becoming a driver in society. It has great charisma. Health is becoming a goal in life and stands for quality of life. Health is closely linked to exercise and healthy nutrition. Agriculture and the food industry are gearing themselves to this megatrend. New needs, such as plant-based alternatives, are emerging, because these are not only considered good for one's own health, but also for the environment and the entire planet. Individualised nutrition includes diet plans specifically tailored to the individual, including food supplements.
Digitalisation is not stopping at the agriculture and food industry. Research is increasingly based on mathematical models. From new breeding methods to drones and hacking robots, many new technologies are based on digital systems. Together with digitalisation, this is creating the conditions for artificial intelligence. The new technologies support comprehensive sustainability and ensure more informed and data-based decisions - from farming to processing and trade to the consumer.
Based on digital transport infrastructures, connectivity is causing a profound change. With connectivity, the world is becoming a global village. Global economic structures and social exchange are gaining importance. New business models are emerging. The agricultural and food economy is also becoming more global: thanks to cheap transport, food can be imported from everywhere. The question of where what can be produced in the most resource-efficient and climate-friendly way is gaining in importance. And with it, the demand for standards to measure comprehensive sustainability.
The world population is growing. By 2050, the UN expects the world to be home to 9.7 billion people. In addition, people are getting older and older. All of them will have to be fed. This development, combined with climate change, puts great strain on food systems. Agricultural productivity must grow. At the same time, climate, soil and biodiversity must be protected. And new eating habits and new forms of food production are needed. Keywords are regenerative agriculture and food supplements.
Globally, urbanisation is occurring at a breathtaking pace. The United Nations estimates that by 2050, around 70 percent of people will live in cities. Many of these cities are so-called megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants. This development poses new challenges for the supply of agricultural products to the population. New forms of agricultural production such as "urban farming" can contribute, at least in part, to supplying the urban population.Supplementary nutrients and laboratory-based foods will become more important. Keywords here are alternative proteins such as "plant-, insect- or algae-based" food and feed or meat from the laboratory. At the same time, it is important to keep agriculture attractive as a profession and to make it attractive for young people and women in rural regions to feed the urban population.
Globalisation describes the growing together of the world's population and economic systems. Everything becomes simultaneous and influences each other. The division of labour and the exchange of ideas and goods is increasing. Globalisation describes a simultaneity of the world. It also affects the agricultural and food economy: due to global trade and climate change, the migration of harmful organisms is also increasing, affecting biodiversity areas and agricultural unprepared. A pandemic like COVID-19 was also able to spread more quickly because of globalisation. The megatrend of globalisation will probably be slowed down somewhat by this pandemic and policies of individual countries. It will hardly be reversed because of the advantages of a comparative division of labour and international networking.
11. Multipolar world
After the end of the Cold War, the USA and the West dominated. But the world is changing. China and, by far, India are becoming economic heavyweights and power blocs. Other countries in Asia, Africa and South America have a younger population than the "old" world and therefore also great development potential. The world is becoming multipolar.
The reduced use of plant protection products is causing much smaller wheat and rapeseed harvests. A study carried out by Swiss Agricultural Research reveals that such crop failures can only be offset by state subsidies. This is neither sustainable nor resource-efficient.
The economic interdependence of the world has increased greatly over the past years and decades. Due to the brisk trade activity between the continents, invasive plant and animal species are also spreading faster and faster. This can lead to serious problems for native vegetation and agriculture. According to the FOEN, the canton of Ticino is particularly affected.
Invasive pests and plant diseases are among the greatest challenges for biodiversity and agriculture. They often enter Switzerland via travel and imported goods and cause great damage to cultivated and wild plants. Since 2020, the import of plants from non-EU countries is prohibited. However, introduced pests are a worldwide problem.
The Japanese beetle was first discovered in Switzerland in 2017 in Ticino. Now it has made it to the northern side of the Alps. After being found in Basel-Stadt and Solothurn, a larger population of the beetles has been found in Kloten for the first time. They are controlled with traps, but also pesticides.