11 Megatrends: "Avalanches in slow motion"

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.

Climate change is currently one of the overriding megatrends. It has a profound impact on science and society. (Image: Adobe Stock)
Climate change is currently one of the overriding megatrends. It has a profound impact on science and society. (Image: Adobe Stock)

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.

Today, global agriculture already needs 70 per cent of the freshwater abstracted. The big challenge is to produce more with less. (Image: Adobe Stock)
Today, global agriculture already needs 70 per cent of the freshwater abstracted. The big challenge is to produce more with less. (Image: Adobe Stock)

3. Ecology

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.

New biotechnological processes reduce the use of plant protection products. Biodiversity also benefits from this. (Image: Adobe Stock)
New biotechnological processes reduce the use of plant protection products. Biodiversity also benefits from this. (Image: Adobe Stock)

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.

The global increase in the level of education is creating ever better conditions for innovation - also in agriculture. (Picture: Adobe Stock)
The global increase in the level of education is creating ever better conditions for innovation - also in agriculture. (Picture: Adobe Stock)

5. Health

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.

A healthy lifestyle is becoming increasingly important for many people. Producing enough healthy food such as fruits and vegetables is one of the most important goals of agriculture. (Image: Adobe Stock)
A healthy lifestyle is becoming increasingly important for many people. Producing enough healthy food such as fruits and vegetables is one of the most important goals of agriculture. (Image: Adobe Stock)

6. Digitalisation

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.

Digitalisation is also playing an increasingly important role in agriculture. New technologies such as chopping robots or drones require good connectivity. (Image: Adobe Stock)
Digitalisation is also playing an increasingly important role in agriculture. New technologies such as chopping robots or drones require good connectivity. (Image: Adobe Stock)

7. Connectivity

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.

Agricultural production is becoming increasingly interconnected globally. The question of what can be produced most resource-efficiently where is gaining in importance. (Image: Adobe Stock)
Agricultural production is becoming increasingly interconnected globally. The question of what can be produced most resource-efficiently where is gaining in importance. (Image: Adobe Stock)

8. Demography

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.

By 2050, the world population will grow to 9.7 billion people. Agriculture will have to produce more with fewer resources in the coming decades. (Image: Adobe Stock)
By 2050, the world population will grow to 9.7 billion people. Agriculture will have to produce more with fewer resources in the coming decades. (Image: Adobe Stock)

9. Urbanisation

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.

More and more people live in cities. Urban food production is gaining in importance. (Picture: Adobe Stock)
More and more people live in cities. Urban food production is gaining in importance. (Picture: Adobe Stock)

10. Globalisation

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.

As a result of increasing global trade, harmful organisms are also spreading more and more. They pose a major threat to agriculture. (Picture: Adobe Stock)
As a result of increasing global trade, harmful organisms are also spreading more and more. They pose a major threat to agriculture. (Picture: Adobe Stock)

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.

Other countries with young societies have a lot of development potential. The world is becoming multipolar. (Picture: Adobe Stock)
Other countries with young societies have a lot of development potential. The world is becoming multipolar. (Picture: Adobe Stock)

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