So many high profile items  to write about - Ukraine, Hillary, graduation season,  elections, Boko Harum - but I have selected the relatively non-controversial subject of food production.  Of course there is an active debate about the leasing of agricultural land in Africa by investors from Saudi Arabia, India , China and elsewhere with those like myself who see this as a major boost to Africa’s economic development and those who claim that subsistence farmers are being displaced and resources are being misused.  I don’t understand how using fallow land represents “misuse” of a resource.

No I address here the near universal conviction that if the earth’s population continues to grow at its current rate we will run short of food in the not too distant future.   One mitigating fact is that current calculations predict that at the current rate of decline in birth rates around the world the earth’s population will cap out at about 9.5 billion or 2.5 billion more than it is today.  So we have to plan to feed 9.5 billion max.

I read a fascinating article about the production of a prized grain by a farm in New York.  The secret to the grain’s special taste and qualities comes from the farmer having spent three years preparing the soil with cover and fodder crops that enrich the soil.  Then he plants the wheat one year and it is excellent.  Of course this is the exception and not the rule in farming where in real life some very large farms produce most of the food we eat using fertilizers, pesticides and modern farming techniques.  There is a back lash against this but the lash isn’t very powerful since our farm sector continues to be one of increasing collection of smaller farms into huge conglomerates.

But I look beyond this.  I predict that within two decades much if not most of our food will be manufactured and not grown or raised.  It is a short step from the laboratory style farming dominant today to a real lab producing food.  I am sure there will be massive protests and outcry against this move.  But I for one am not concerned, it makes no difference to me if my food comes from the ground or a machine.  If it tastes good and provides the nutrients I need, I will be happy.

Even further, one could envision the food on our table being delivered fully prepared by a factory.  Restaurants would still be in vogue since the prepared food would be served in an exotic or entertaining setting.   I have always called the hospitality sector in fact part of our entertainment sector.

More important for Africa, food produced in factories would allow the land to remain fallow and in pristine condition.  Even more important manufacturing food promises to make it even cheaper and more abundant and there will be no limit because of scarce land or water.