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What are the factors that influence our future?

Population, demand for healthy food, technological and mechanical advances that will improve farming efficiency, climate, economic and social challenges.

By 2030 world population will reach 8bn and global demand for food will double, if not triple, within the next 50 years.

The increasing affluence of people who were previously poor will be a large factor in food and feed demand.

Consumers will want more animal protein, diverse grains, dairy and eggs, fruit and vegetables – and more beer.

Just one extra beer a week for China’s 500m adult men would require 3.25bn gallons of it and 1m tonnes of grain… and I haven’t even started counting beer-drinking women yet.

Affluent health-conscious consumers are likely to demand more “functional foods” and greater focus on nutritional content, quality, safety and traceability.

Instead of spending huge amounts of money on vitamin pills, people will, hopefully, insist more on food that has nutrition locked in when it reaches the plate.

Most of the increase in production will be achieved through the intensification of agriculture in the developing world, as well as in established farming nations.

By using the right expertise and technology, nature and farming can look forward to a healthy future together.

Better fertilisers, efficiently applied will provide greater yields from less acreage, thereby freeing up land less suitable for agricultural production.

Developments in the fertiliser industry have been and still are motivated more by changes in energy cost and sourcing than in technology development itself.

Tommorrow’s farmers won’t desert the field for the computer room, but robots may be in the driving seat – of tractors at least.

Completely driver-independent tractor operations are already possible.

Other innovations include on-line sensing, allowing farmers to harvest only the parts of a field that meet strict quality requirements.

Management decisions regarding plant nutrition will look to computer technology to transmit information directly to machines.

A diverse range of IT expert systems based on sensors, databases, and analytical models will prove useful.

Machinery automation may be just around the corner, but practical implementation of these electronic support systems will take longer.

In the meantime, the world needs more, higher quality food grown in a climate that is likely to be wetter in some areas, warmer with more drought in others, and more volatile.

Water protection and environmental impact will continue to be important considerations.

The business of agriculture must also predict and respond well to political changes.

By 2020 China and India will have increased the size of their economies, and will leverage this into greater political clout.

Russia will probably still have problems, but will remain a significant world power on the back of its energy and nuclear positions.

Future world trade will be more open, with fewer subsidies.

This will lead to more agriculture specialisation.

An area of development is the use of renewable energy sources, including energy crops and biomass.

Many emerging countries are naturally well placed for the production of biofuel feedstock.

The cultivation of energy crops will continue to grow in the EU and UK, supported by technology improvements, policy incentives and political pressure.

But their role will be limited until fossil fuels are unable to meet energy demands.

The world and technology will continue to change, much more than human beings.

We are still driven by the basic needs of food, shelter and security; then belongingness, respect and recognition; and, lastly, a need for personal growth and self-realisation.

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