Lauri Reuter holds a PhD in biotechnology and works as the senior specialist of disruptive technologies at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. He serves also as faculty of Future Food at SingularityU Nordic. He started his career at VTT in 2012 as a researcher in the plant biotechnology team, but has since consistently focused on larger, world-changing visions. In 2017, he attended the Global Solutions Program at Singularity University, where he got to explore a range of fast developing technologies to solve the huge problems societies are facing, such as climate change and famine. In his current position, Reuter’s task is to bring this line of thought to a research institute of more than 2000 problem solvers. He is responsible for figuring out which technologies, and how, will truly change the world and for building a new research program focusing on bold and wild research ideas. Reuter is also a highly valued science communicator whose insights especially on technological disruptions in the future food system are sought after internationally.
The food system is facing a massive transformation. Changing climate, loss of biodiversity, increasing antibiotic resistance, degradation of land and insufficient resources put tremendous pressure on food production. At the same time, the demand for food will increase by up to 70% by 2050.
On the other hand, the current food system and bad diets is the cause for 1/5 of premature deaths globally. There is already more overweight than hungry in the world. Malnourishment is no longer caused by lack of food, but the abundance of food.
The food system will undergo a transformation comparable to agricultural revolution, but this time it will happen faster. In the coming years we will have the technological tools to feed 10 billion healthy people on a healthy planet – and in fact on the next planet too.
Vertical farming will enable resource efficient production of fresh food independent from the location, but also cultivation of completely new foods. Cell culture technology takes even the plant out of the picture: coco can grow in steel tanks instead of tropics. Cells will also replace livestock in production of protein ingredients. Milk without cows and eggs without chicken are reality already now and synthetic biology gives the tools to engineer completely new, synthetic production organisms. There is already technology to brew food from electricity and thin air. Literally.
The experience of eating will not change radically. The new products will taste and feel exactly same. The bleeding plant-based burgers are here already. A perfect, non-animal cheese will be the next Holy Grail.
Sensors and digitalization will also change how we eat. We will be able to measure everything required from the human body to personalize the diet to precise needs and desires. Connected to big data, automated food production and seamless logistics, these technologies will enable a new paradigm of eating: nutrition as a service. The right food, for the right people, at the right time.
Most of the technologies exist already to create a sustainable, but radically different future of food. Never before has there been an opportunity and need to make this much impact with science and technology.