From Diet to Technology: Opportunities for Sustainable Agriculture

The second part. Innovation in the sustainable production of meat and aquaculture, as well as plant-based meat and milk, plays a key role in the ongoing revolution.


Global agriculture is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The World Resources Institute estimates that agriculture, forestry and land use account for 19% of global greenhouse gas emissions. When we talk about sustainable agriculture, we are talking about doing “more with less” while balancing the need to feed a growing world population, reducing our environmental footprint, and managing land resources sustainably. If we want to feed 10 billion people sustainably by 2050, we need to change both food production and consumption, especially if the amount of land available for agriculture decreases. This will require a technological revolution that is currently underway.


The use of feed additives can improve feed efficiency and animal health while reducing environmental impact. One of these supplements, called a eubiotic, improves gut health in animals and can replace, for example, the use of antibiotics. Dutch chemical company DSM has invented an animal feed supplement called Bovaer, part of the company’s Clean Cow project that DSM says reduces methane emissions from cows by 30%. Bovaer was approved for use in the European Union in February 2022, making it the first nutritional supplement in the EU to be marketed due to its environmental benefits. Giant New Zealand dairy cooperative Fonterra and DSM have signed a collaboration agreement to accelerate the transition to low-methane agriculture, and Clean Cow technology also has the potential to help New Zealand lead the way in low-carbon dairy.


Farmed salmon production is relatively efficient in terms of carbon footprint. So it’s no surprise that salmon farmer Mowi topped the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index in 2021. This index was developed as part of the FAIRR initiative to rank the world’s 60 largest meat, dairy and aquaculture companies based on 10 environmental, social and governance factors – all aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The FAIRR initiative is partnering with protein manufacturers to improve sustainability. The sustainability of salmon production can be further improved by using more sustainable fishmeal and fish oil. The sustainability of salmon production can be further improved by using more sustainable fishmeal and fish oil, which are used to feed the fish we eat. The Dutch chemical companies Corbion and DSM have used fermentation technology to produce seaweed from sugar or corn, which is rich in omega-3s and can be used in fish feed instead of meal and fish oil, thus complementing the use of pelagic fish.


Plant-based protein production produces far fewer greenhouse gases and uses much less water than animal-based equivalents. Therefore, from an environmental point of view, it would be beneficial for consumers to switch to a plant-based diet. This is what we are seeing in the United States and around the world, where consumers are looking for a more flexible approach. Flexitarianism or “everyday veganism” is becoming an increasingly popular diet as people take a more sustainable approach to their diet by cutting back on meat in exchange for other sources of protein.

The University of Michigan analyzed the life cycle of a plant-based Beyond Meat burger compared to an equivalent beef burger and concluded that the Beyond Meat burger produces 90% less carbon dioxide emissions while using 99% less water. In connection with the emergence of a new “flexitarian” mode of consumption, the target market for these products is not only vegans and vegetarians, but also meat eaters. According to Beyond Meat, 93% of consumers who bought a Beyond Burger at Kroger grocery stores in the US also bought meat products in the first half of 2018. off, they must meet three main criteria:

  1. Taste and mouthfeel
  2. Nutritional value equal to or greater than that of animal meat
  3. Prices at or below animal protein prices

Beyond Meat’s success is partly due to the company’s progress in trying to replicate the look, taste and texture of meat to make plant-based meat indistinguishable. The company approached this from a scientific point of view, analyzing the composition of meat, including amino acids, lipids and vitamins, and looking for these nutrients in plants, which are often abundant. However, the high price remains the biggest problem for plant-based burgers. Quality has improved and will continue to improve, and plant-based burgers tend to be healthier than animal-based alternatives. Moreover, as investment inflows into this segment, the price barrier will disappear. And with the launch of plant-based burgers by global chains like McDonalds and Beyond Meat now supplying KFC, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Dennys, Subway and Taco Bell, it’s only a matter of time.


Plant based milk is an alternative for lactose intolerant consumers. Partly for this reason, Asia-Pacific is the largest market for plant-based milk, accounting for approximately 50% of the market in 2017, according to Morgan Stanley. Plant-based milk is a more mature market than the meat market, suggesting that the growth rate is likely to be lower than the plant-based meat market.

It is now clear that production and diets must evolve to sustainably meet projected growth in demand by 2050, while achieving other important goals, such as increasing biodiversity, which is essential for managing climate change.

Also read the first part on reducing the toxic effects of production methods.