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A vision of the 2030s

The rising global population is increasing demand for food and water, and everyone expects more choice about their food. 

More efficient and automated food production, both through agriculture and the manufacture of food substitutes, will be required to meet demand.

Food retail will be primarily online, benefitting from automated and zero-carbon delivery methods, with food safety guaranteed by sustainable and smart packaging.

The increased need for the nutrients and functional foods to support diverse demographics and improve health will require engineered biology.

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What does this mean for food production?

Substitutes - There will be a rise in the consumption of food substitutes, reducing the cost and environmental impact of farming and increasing food security.

Measurement will be needed to enable the development of food safety standards and regulations, while also ensuring palatability for the consumer and cost-effective mass production.

Examples include: 3D printing of food, insect protein, laboratory grown meat and vegan protein substitutes.

Commercial - Continued growth in online food shopping, smart ordering systems in the home, economically viable on-demand deliveries and autonomous delivery systems.

Measurement will enable tracking throughout the food production and distribution system.

Waste reduction - There will be a push to reduce food waste and the use of plastic packaging in response to consumers’ values and behaviours with respect to environmental sustainability.

Measurement will help eliminate unnecessary disposal of food, increase the sustainability of packaging to support the circular economy and enable sustainable and efficient distribution.

Examples include: conversion to bio-fuel or other resources, regulated sustainable packaging materials, intelligent packaging to preserve food and monitor safety.


Innovation - Novel forms of automated food production will become widespread due to increased pressures on land use, and demand for food and resource efficiency.

Measurement will provide confidence in automation and process engineering. 

Examples include: hydroponics, LED lighting, 3D farming, urban agriculture, cellular agriculture. 

Engineered biology - Genetic engineering will be applied to modify crops to feed an increasing population, cope with climate changes and enable food to be tailored for the personal dietary requirements of different demographics.    

Measurement will ensure food safety and crop resilience. 

Measurement will be needed to control nutrition and function, and design food to tackle diseases. 

Examples include: production systems for genetically modified organisms, proteins, cells and nucleic acids, food additives and supplements for enhanced performance diets, interventions to support a healthy human microbiome.

Food production: implications for measurement

Metrology, or the science of measurement, is about more than the routine making of measurements, it’s about the infrastructure that ensures that we have confidence in the accuracy of the measurement or the adoption of technology. Foresighting has highlighted technological trends for metrology based on our vision for food production:

  • Monitoring of food production will be enabled by machine learning and AI-controlled logistics, hyperspectral imaging systems, real-time monitoring of livestock and quantum sensing and measurement for mapping underground features, including different soil types and water resources.
  • Traceability of ingredients and allergens, from production to point-of-sale, will be enabled by smart packaging and smart labelling technologies and plasmonic-based toxin and allergen detection.
  • Determination of individual food and nutritional requirements will benefit from advances in genetic testing, and the understanding and modelling of biological systems.

Discover more about The future of metrology

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Discover our vision for the 2030s.

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Find out more about Technology and Measurement Foresighting.

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