Food: The Greatest Challenge And The Greatest Opportunity Of The 20th Century

“You Are Paid In Direct Proportion To The Difficulty of Problems You Solve”

– Elon Musk

According to, the global population will rise from the 7.5 billion people today, to nearly 9.6 billion in 2050.  Feeding these new people is a challenge all on its own. Throw in the decline of good agricultural land, decreasing fish in the sea and a limited supply of fresh water and you have what might be the greatest challenge of the 20th century.

Labeled “The World’s Biggest Industry” on Forbes, the World Bank estimates the current food industry to be about $4.8 trillion, or 10% of the global GDP.  This staggering number isn’t even enough to fully feed everyone alive today.

Scientists measure food requirements by calories, or the amount of energy contained in each serving of food.  The World Resources Institute estimates the world will need to produce 69% more food calories in 2050 than it did in 2006.  At this rate, it means our $4.8 trillion dollar industry value will grow to $8.1 trillion dollars over the next 30 years.  Savvy business owners are investing now to get their slice of the pie.

However investing in the right areas is critical because almost all the natural resources we take for granted are declining fast.

For example, fish protein makes up 16% of the global diet and is the main protein source for 1.3 billion people.  Yet the wild fish caught peaked in 1990 and has been in decline ever since.  57% of the fishable ocean is maxed out and 30% of the fishable areas are in a steep decline.

Another alarming statistic is the fact that agriculture uses 70% of freshwater from all sources and takes up 37% of all land mass on the planet.

Added all together, it creates a massive challenge and a massive opportunity for the aspiring entrepreneur, business owner, and investor.

Technology is paving this path forward in gold. Vertical farming promises huge yields in a fraction of the space.   Land-based fish farming is also demonstrating impressive gains.  Another innovative technology called “aquaponics” has received a lot of attention recently.

Once only the experiment of backyard preppers, aquaponics has taken great strides and is more industrial feasible than ever.  Aquaponics mixes both agriculture and land-based fish farming together to produce more food while using fewer resources like land and water.  Combining the two systems works so well because the fish produce bacteria and nutrient-rich fertilizer in the water that helps agricultural plants grow faster and larger.   As if this technology wasn’t promising enough, after an aquaponics farm was set up in a village in Africa, researchers noticed the people who got sick with malaria declined significantly.  It turns out the mosquitos that would normally spread the virus were being attracted by the water and eaten by the fish.

New stories like this are being told every day.  Small groups everywhere are using the tools we have in innovative ways to come up with solutions to the food problem.

There is no doubt that we can solve the food challenge.  The technology is available.  The demand for food is growing fast.  And while some look at the food situation as a major problem, others are rolling up their sleeves and quietly making fortunes.

Sure it’s not as exciting as the newest smart-tech, or Musk’s recently unveiled plan to put a base on Mars, but everyone’s gotta eat right?

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