Increasingly, when I go to meetings, part of the discussion has to do with feeding a growing world population.

In April, this was the topic of a luncheon speech at the National Dairy Producers Conference in Indianapolis, Ind. The speaker, Bill Weldon from Elanco Animal Health, said we will need to produce 70 percent more food by the year 2050 in order to feed 9 billion people. The lion’s share of that increased food production will need to come from improved technology.

So far, technology has managed to keep up. But the 2050 goal is quite ambitious. It raises the bar several notches, which will require new solutions — from bright, young minds.

To recognize the young people who are already meeting this challenge, Vance Publishing Corporation has announced the 40 Under 40 awards program.

Nominations are being sought for people between the ages of 20 and 40 who are making significant contributions to America’s food system. (And by contributing to America’s food system, they are ultimately affecting the world’s food system.)

For more details, see “Vance to recognize 40 Under 40” on page 32 of this month’s issue.

It’s exciting stuff!

Last June, I attended a Future of Food Symposium in Washington, D.C., where several speakers, including former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture  Dan Glickman and Land O’Lakes President Chris Policinski, were bullish on the future. Not only did they think the 2050 challenge could be met, they said agriculture will probably be the “greatest growth industry of our era.”

A number of emerging technologies will help make this happen. For instance, nutrigenomics will help beef and pork operations produce meat more efficiently by tying together nutrition and genetics. Certain feed ingredients are able to switch on genes in the animals, influencing genetic expression.

In the dairy industry, another genetics- related technology — genomics — is helping to identify those heifers with the greatest chance of being productive in the milking herd.

The “40 Under 40” program will identify where many of the promising technologies and strategies lie — and the young people behind them!