How Earth’s food supply would – potentially – look like in 20 years

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva


In 20 years, Earth’s population worldwide is expected to grow to 10 billion – a staggering 2 billion extra mouths to feed. Traditional food supply such as livestock meat or seafood won’t be enough, which is why exploring alternatives like insect and conventional food sources is imperative.

UNSW Sydney’s School of Chemical Engineering food and health expert Professor Johannes le Coutre says the most pressing challenge would be how to sustainably increase calorie production by 70 per cent without overwhelming the planet.

“I believe we will still be eating meat in 30 years, although less meat will come from livestock,” said the professor. 

“There are simply not enough cows on this planet to meet the projected food production demands, and we can’t ignore the looming environmental challenges posed by agriculture and the food industry.”

Prof le Coutre advised that there has to be a drastic change in what we eat and how we grow it over the next 20 years to diversify protein sources. 

How Earth’s food supply would – potentially – look like in 20 years

Entomophagy, the practice of consuming insects

How Earth's food supply would – potentially – look like in 20 years

While most would squirm at the idea of eating insects like cockroaches, crickets, and even worms, certain parts of the planet have long reaped their benefits as a high-protein source. 

Examples of such countries include Thailand, Mexico, the Philippines, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which have included these critters in their cuisine or snacks for centuries. The movement has also begun in Australia. 

Prof le Couture compared insects, biologically similar to shrimp, a crustacean species – and both are anthropods. 

“Arthropods are lifeforms on land or water surrounded by a chitin exoskeleton,” he explains.  

“Of course, not every insect is edible. There won’t be any wasps or bees on the menu in 30 years, but you can bet there will be crickets, moths and beetles.

Prof Le Couture added that once people get over the “yuck” factor, conversations around consuming insects as a food source can be emotionally approachable. 

Lab-grown meat

How Earth's food supply would – potentially – look like in 20 years
A dish made with lab-grown cultured chicken developed by Eat Just. Eat Just.

If one is not – yet – adventurous enough to try edible insects, another area of diversification is lab-grown meat or cultured meat, which the professor says will be more accessible in 30 years.

Since the first lab-grown patty was unveiled to the world in 2013 and priced at nearly US$330,000 by Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University, today’s cell-cultured meat has decreased to as low as $10 per burger.

“While we’re making progress in this space, further research is needed to ensure lab-produced meat satisfies consumer expectations and can be manufactured reasonably,” explains Prof le Coutre.

“As demand increases, shoppers can expect to see more of it, and I have no doubt we’ll be eating more foods produced through cellular agriculture.”

Genetically modified food

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are any animal, plant or microbe whose DNA has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. While the sale of fresh GM foods such as fruit or vegetables, meat or fish is currently banned in Australia and New Zealand, Prof le Coutre expects there is a role for them in our future food system.

He said the public perception of GM foods has been “notoriously negative”, which he believes is a result of alarmist coverage by the media and a lack of understanding of food science.

“The idea of altering crops to require less water or better resist diseases or pests is not new, but it will play an important role if we want our future crops to be more resilient to climate change,” said Prof le Coutre. 

“We can alter the DNA of crops to require less energy and resources to grow, reducing our carbon footprint. It can only be a success story if there are clear consumer benefits – that is the missing link.”

How to sustainably solve the world’s food insecurity

A third of the world’s food is not consumed, with 1.3 billion tonnes of discarded produce each year. To sustainably feed 10 billion people in the next 30 years, Prof Le Coutre said reducing food waste should be a top priority.

“Reducing food wastage is an efficient and sustainable way of improving food supply without increasing the demand in food production,” he says. 

Prof Le Coutre said another issue is poverty and that even if the world succeeds in reducing food waste, there would still be people who can’t afford safe and nutritious food. 

“Lastly, we need technological and policy innovation and more investment in education and research activities,” he concluded. 

“If we can achieve all three on a global scale, we’ll have the right recipe for a more sustainable food system.”

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

A digital content manager based in the Philippines, Kaycee Enerva has written for multiple publications over several years. A graduate of Computer Science, she exchanged a career in IT to pursue her passion for writing. She's slowly practicing sustainability through period cups, and eating more plant-based food.


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