With each passing year, the world’s population increases. When we review the statistics provided by the United Nations, it is expected that in the next 30 years, the world’s population will increase by 2 billion people. By 2050, we are expected to have 9.7 billion people living on Earth, and another 50 years after that, another 2 billion more will be added – thus reaching a stratospheric total of 11 billion people. With such numbers, we return to the eternal dilemma about the equitable allocation of resources and how – whether – it will be possible to sustain so many people if it is already proving difficult to feed our current population. How can Latin American foodtechs solve these challenges?
The food industry in Latin America.
Faced with these great questions that arise, it is imperative to start looking for sustainable solutions that provide answers to these problems in the long term, and in fact, not many people may know this, but Latin America can play a very important role within the food industry.
The characteristics of the continent indicate that it may be possible to turn Latin America into a powerhouse in food production. There are sufficient talent, production capabilities, infrastructure and natural resources.
Latin America has long been considered a developing continent that lags behind more advanced economies in the “Western” world, but the agrifood industry holds strong potential to drive the continued socioeconomic development of the region significantly.
The current state of Latin America.
In reality, Latin America is already the largest food producing region on the planet, due to its expansive territory, its geographic diversity, and the economy of all the countries of the region. The continent is home to 38% of all the arable land in the world. As if this were not enough, a quarter of all food exports in the world originate from Latin America.
Despite all this, Latin America is also the protagonist of one of the most regrettable food tragedies. Studies by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) revealed a painful reality: Latin America and the Caribbean are responsible for 20% of the world’s food waste. As if this were not enough, the rate of malnutrition have been rising considerably since 2014, with up to 42.5 million people suffering from malnutrition in 2018 alone.
To make the contrast even more tragic, the region’s obesity rates have been increasing; in 2016, more than 60% of adults in the region were classified as overweight or higher.
Food safety and sustainability.
The corruption existing at the governmental level in the continent has made it difficult to develop and implement the policies and measures required to alleviate these issues. This can be seen very clearly in the existing social disparities in the region.
In order to develop efficient food production plans, innovation is required to address these sources of inefficiency, both in terms of resource allocation and supply chain optimization.
In the same way, it is necessary to develop more effective programs that provide more efficient answers to the productive processes of each country. It must be taken into account that many Latin American nations still operate on old models and plans, whose efficiency may be questionable in contemporary times. However, far from all this being a problem, it should be seen as an opportunity: to create disruptions in the sector that could drive considerable progress.
The disruption of foodtech startups.
Every aspect of our daily lives is being impacted by new technologies, from Big Data to the metaverse, and in many ways, the future looks phenomenal. However, when we look at the progress made in food production, we can see that none of this has been able to truly penetrate this sector.
Seeking to resolve the existing obsolescence within food production, the so-called foodtech startups were born, which seek to bring innovation to the sector while seeking to solve various challenges such as sustainability and technological development.
Latin American foodtech startups are companies, projects and entities on the continent using different technological advances such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and smart contracts to be agents of change in the transformation of the agri-food industry.
Foodtech startups seek the total transformation of the sector, from processing to distribution and consumption.
The impact of foodtech startups.
Foodtech communities carry out research and development projects trying to provide creative and technological solutions to important challenges for humanity such as population growth and its repercussions. They also seek solutions to other problems such as climate change, increases in food production, and environmental sustainability. Another important aspect in which many startups begin to pay attention is in the reduction of food waste and methods to increase overall efficiency in food production.
These types of companies, today, are still a minuscule part of the sector, but they are at the vanguard of technological advances in a sector that has begun to demonstrate strong symptoms of stagnation.
More and more Latin American foodtech companies are listing on NASDAQ and the potential of this sector is convincing many market analysts. Specialized studies such as the Global Food Tech Market Analysis & Forecast 2016-2022 have valued food tech companies at more than USD 250 billion by 2022.
These Latin American foodtech startups have the vision of developing a multitude of projects that will bring about a new agrifood revolution in the continent in order to respond to the different needs of the sector within the region.