Global population growth over the next few decades will force a rethink of the world's current food system – from planting and harvesting to delivery; from resource management to plant-based meat.

About 2 billion extra people will live on the planet by 2050 – up from just under eight billion today – and global demand for food is expected to increase roughly 60%, according to the United Nations . At the same time, roughly one billion people will enter the middle class.

While growing food sustainably to meet this demand will be one of the greatest challenges we will face, the good news is that we are on the cusp of a new agricultural revolution, says UBS Global Wealth Management Chief Investment Office (CIO) in a special report.

The way we farm, ship, and consume food will be driven by five mega-trends, UBS' Chief Investment Office says: 1) The political economy under scarcity; 2) the new-age consumer; 3) health and wellness; 4) digital catch-up; and 5) sustainable living.

At the same time, technology should not be viewed as the "enemy" of natural, abundant and affordable food. Raising agricultural productivity, safeguarding environmental health, and satisfying evolving consumer preferences can be achieved by applying new technologies.

Examples: biological solutions with improved environmental safety and completely new approaches that improve yield as well as increase natural plant resistance to diseases and pests; vertical farming, lab-grown food, algae aquaculture, and the components of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (big data, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence) that are being integrated throughout the agriculture supply chain.

So what does this mean for investors?

  • Food innovation could become a USD 700bn market by 2030 – a fivefold jump from USD 135bn today.
  • The plant-based protein segment, for example, could growth at a compound annual growth rate of 28% by 2030 (from USD 4.6bn in 2018 to USD 85bn).
  • Smart farming and online food delivery could each grow 16%; seed treatment, 13%, and seed science, 9% over this period.

Over the longer term, investors may want to look at CIO's long-term themes such as agricultural yield, consumer experience, protein consumption and water scarcity.

Do you want to know more?

For more information, please see CIO report " The food revolution: The future of food and the challenges we face".

Why it matters

In September 2015, the United Nations set out a plan for transforming our world by 2030. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are aimed at addressing the most pressing social and environmental challenges of our time. And we've committed to taking part in making them a reality.

SDGs addressed:

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