Grand challenges need to be addressed now and in the future. Around the corner, there are still more changes to all aspects of food production. In what ways can we contribute to improved food safety and increased food security? Keeping an eye on opportunities in the bioeconomy is crucual.
Securing food supply – Ocean of opportunities
Humanity faces the critical challenge of feeding its growing population. In order to meet this challenge the quantity of biomass for consumption has to increase substantially in the next decades. Sustainable utilization of arable land and maintaining natural resources such as fresh water is essential for success. But not less important is improved utilization of the opportunities that are to be found under the ocean’s surface.
Iceland, with just over 300.000 inhabitants, is responsible for a substantial share of the world’s total seafood production. The seafood industry is the most important industry in terms of value creation. Sustainable utilization of the ocean’s resources is therefore of utmost importance for Iceland and emphasis on value creation and development in the seafood industry is high – and we have done well, reports show1. Research and development have played a key role in technical advancement in the seafood industry, increasing food supply and competitiveness of the industry at the same time.
Fillet yield in cod processing has increased substantially in the past decades as a result of research, development, training and a more holistic view on the value chain. Improved fillet yield has a positive effect on the economy of the industry, as well as utilization of cod as a natural resource and thereby improves food security. Further processing and utilization of by-raw materials (sometimes referred to as waste) have further positive effects.
When tackling the challenges of food and nutrition security, great opportunities are to be found in the marine environment. Not only are opportunities in the vast amount of biomass to be found in the ocean, but also have numerous studies shown the positive health impact of seafood. By managing catch sustainably, eliminating discards and improving utilization of the catch, we make better use of our limited resources. We need to develop the production processes to include a holistic value chain approach where the catch is handled right from catch to consumer and the different compounds of seafood extracted at different levels of the value chain. Equally valuable compounds may also be found in underutilized sea based plants, such as algae. Such compounds include for instance fatty acids, peptides, enzymes and polyphenols. They may be used for different applications such as ingredients for food supplements, medical products and cosmetics.
The challenge of ensuring food and nutrition security in the world is a joint effort that must be based on interaction of various factors such as sustainable utilization of resources, sustainable food production, new technology in food production, improved processes, and not least, cooperation and exchange of information regarding best methods. We need to bridge the gap between industry, policy makers and academy by actively participating in national and international R&D projects aiming for holistic, innovative solutions for a sustainable Europe
When it comes to food and nutrition security challenges of the future, the ocean will offer solutions.
Published first in Europe 25.
1See for instance McKinsey report: Charting a Growth Path for Iceland (published 2012), p. 65 for comparison with Norway