Agriculture faces a daunting task in trying to keep up with a burgeoning world population.
The current world population of 7 billion is supposed to grow to 9 billion by the year 2050, which could require 70 percent more food production than currently is the case. (The amount of food needed will grow by a larger percentage than the population due to a higher standard of living around the world.)
At the Alltech International Symposium on Monday, people were optimistic that technology can keep up.
“At the same time, we would say that a lot of the technologies around today may not be the ones that will make this great leap for us,” Lyons added.
New technologies, such as nutrigenomics, will become increasingly important.
With nutrigenomics, it will be possible to influence or control genetic expression in animals. Certain feed ingredients will be able to switch on genes in the animals, leading to improved production.
For example, “we can produce more meat more efficiently,” Lyons said.
It will revolutionize nutrition, said Karl Dawson, chief scientific officer at Alltech.
“You’re going to see more changes in nutrition in the next 10 years than you have seen in the last century,” Dawson said.
Pearse Lyons, president of Alltech, said similar advancements could apply to crops. Productivity of cropland can increase, he said, "if we take the nutrition of the plant to mind."
And, technology may be able to improve the nutrient content of food products.
Marcus Zanetti, of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, told about research comparing milk from cows fed sunflower oil (rich in vitamin E) to milk from cows that didn’t receive sunflower oil. (And, the study went one step further by conducting blood tests on schoolchildren who drank the milk.)
“Children who received milk from cows fed sunflower oil had higher concentrations of vitamin E in their blood,” he said. That is presumed to be a good thing, since vitamin E is an antioxidant.