By food futurist, Tony Hunter



The Future of Protein

In a landmark announcement the Australian National Farmers’​ Federation and NSW Farmers have united with Food Frontier to launch a “new national Future of Protein Forum that brings together traditional livestock, plant, and alternative protein producers to meet the projected demand for Australian protein.”

Why is this so important?

I’ve long said that Australia needs to get behind alternative meat and dairy products to ensure a future for our AgriFood industries, and indeed the same logic applies to New Zealand. Now Australian farmers have the opportunity to take advantage of the almost infinite possibilities of alternative protein products. These products are coming whether Australia or New Zealand likes it or not. What if another country aggressively pursues these technologies? Since some of these technologies don’t require arable land or much fresh water it’s possible that, say, Saudi Arabia could become the world’s leading supplier of ground meat. Then where does that leave the conventional industry and our economies? We need to pursue multiple technologies including conventional, cell and plant based products to ensure a future for our agricultural industries.

Will pragmatism or politics rule the day?

The release also says that we need to ensure “that policy and regulatory settings are in place to encourage production and manufacturing in Australia.” These government policies and regulations will be critical to the future of the sector. Have we seen the end of turf wars over terms like ‘sausage’ and ‘milk’? I sincerely hope so as these simply divert valuable resources away from the main game, growing the Future of Food.

I’m looking forward to the first meeting of the Future of Protein Forum and adding value to this vitally important discussion.

As I said at evokeAG earlier this year, whatever the Future of Food holds, farmers are the answer.

Living in the Horizon of Chaos

We’re living in the most volatile time in living memory. One day we’re living what appears to be the ‘normal’ life we were all accustomed to, a week later the city is locked down and then it’s back to normal. We’re living in what I term the ‘Horizon of Chaos.’ Can businesses still plan for the long-term future when the here and now is so highly volatile? They can, and to give up is simply not an option.

The Foresight-lite approach to planning

What we need to do is adopt planning methods that are flexible and agile enough to cope with these extreme short-term uncertainties but preserve our medium and long-term strategic options. However, taking months or even weeks to generate a strategic foresight plan is obviously unworkable under the current circumstances. Particularly so since few if any organisations currently have the resources to devote to both coping with the immediate future as well as in-depth strategic planning.

Given these circumstances we cannot adopt cumbersome, brain numbing, resource sucking planning methods. We need to use methods that are agnostic to exactly when things will be “over”, and which allow us to flexibly and agilely address whatever unknown road leads us to the actual future.

There are many foresight planning techniques and under the current circumstances two of the most useful are scenario planning and the three-horizon method. Careful use of tools like these can allow businesses to pivot as necessary while never losing sight of their long-term future. We need to adopt an, if you like, ‘foresight-lite’ approach.

Wherever you go, go boldly.

Whatever methods you use they need to be flexible and agile and not require the heavy resource commitment necessary for traditional foresight planning. Businesses large and small need to adopt and adapt appropriate methods for coping with both the present chaos and the post-pandemic future. Doing this will ensure a bright future, whatever it looks like.

For further information on coping with the Horizon of Chaos and the Future of Food feel free to visit my website.

Tony Hunter is a global futurist, food scientist, speaker and foresight strategy consultant. He consults and speaks globally, using his distinctive combination of scientific qualifications, business experience and detailed understanding of exponential food technologies to deliver a unique perspective on the future of food.

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Hot Source, NZ Food Technology or the parent company, Hayley Media.