SLINTEC Building Structure 1500x110-04

Technology for Food, Water and Energy Security 

Over the next 30 years, inadequate access to food and fresh water will become an issue in the world (Augustyn, 2017). Roughly 25% of current farmland is degraded from over use, drought, and air/water pollution (Augustyn, 2017). Under optimistic forecasts, prices for staple grains could rise by 30% over the coming decades if climate change, global conflict, logistics issues, demand patterns, and failed resource management continue on current trajectories (Augustyn, 2017).

By 2045, 3.9 billion people—over 40% of the world’s population—could face water stress (Augustyn, 2017). Desalination, micro-irrigation, water reclamation, rainwater harvesting, and other technologies could relieve pressure on freshwater supplies. Genetically modified crops and automation could improve crop yields and less water use.

Hence, technology adaptation would be key in solving issues. Food and water technologies will grow over the next 30 years (Augustyn, 2017). At the same time, food and water shortages could worsen economic instability. Today, the world’s poor get by on 5-10 liters of water per day, while members of the growing global middle and upper classes use 50-150 liters daily (Augustyn, 2017).

Water and Food

Photo by James Baltz on Unsplash

Research on genetically modified crops could improve drought and disease resistance. Technologies like automation and drip irrigation could make farming more resource-efficient and productive. 

In addition to improved desalination technology, development is underway on filtration systems that can produce potable water from non-traditional sources such as rainwater and brackish or contaminated water. 

Photo by Harits Mustya Pratama on Unsplash

Hydroponics, aquaponics, vertical urban farms, and other new technologies are enabling crops to be grown without access to arable land. Lab-grown meat could improve access to protein without the environmental and resource impact of raising animals for meat, lessening the impact on climate.

Energy

New technologies could again provide solutions, such as viable alternatives to fossil fuels or means to overcome food and water constraints. Over the next 30 years, the global demand for energy is projected to grow by more than 30% (Augustyn, 2017). Many current technologies are inadequate for replacing the traditional energy architecture based on fossil fuels on the scale needed at present. The pace of technological innovation will be key. The renewable energy industry will be in the forefront of combating Climate Change.

The greatest possibility for a relatively quick transition during the period comes from better renewable generation sources (photovoltaic and wind) and improvements in battery technology (Augustyn, 2017).

At the same time, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are rapidly approaching cost-parity with fossil fuels. In the past two decades, the cost of power produced by solar cells has dropped.

Nuclear power is also expanding, with new reactor designs promising greater safety and less radioactive waste.

While adoption of cleaner energy sources would help combat global climate change, new considerations will emerge over access to rare materials used in batteries, solar cells, and other essentials of the energy revolution.

Photo by Raphael Cruz on Unsplash

Research into new materials such as Perovskite etc… continues to increase the efficiency of solar panels while reducing their cost.

Batteries are key to managing uneven power output at solar and wind generation facilities. Battery researchers are exploring new chemistries such as Li-ion, solid-state and or Graphene-based that can store greater amounts of power in less space and for a lower cost.

Research and development projects are expanding our ability to harvest energy from geothermal heat, tidal power, and other unconventional sources.

Hydrogen has been a possible replacement for fossil fuels, but up to now it’s been made from natural gas; the process is energy-intensive. The production of hydrogen from water via electrolysis is a clean process, resulting in only oxygen being produced as a by-product. If the electricity required to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen is supplied via a renewable energy source, then the process is environmentally friendly. 

Author- Ravinda Soysa , Graphics – Lahiru Ranathunga

References

Augustyn, J., 2017. Emerging science and technology trends: 2017-2047. FutureScout Providence United States.