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IFTNEXT Think Tank

This is precisely what IFT has done with its new IFTNEXT Think Tank initiative. The IFTNEXT Think Tank is comprised of thought leaders from multiple disciplines charged with providing strategic guidance to help identify future-forward topics and food related challenges to inform IFT programming and critical, sometimes provocative, conversations. The Think Tank first convened in 2017, and our programming focuses on engaging passionate, creative, forward thinking individuals in conversations and activities to foster a better understanding of how global, trans-disciplinary collaboration can advance and instill innovation in the science and technology of food to respond to real-world global challenges today and into the future.

Certainly, it’s not routine for IFT to have a group of people with such diverse backgrounds of where we came from—both in terms of geographies and in terms of our day jobs. And as far as I was concerned, it was extremely positive and refreshing to get some fresh perspective to some of the challenges we’re facing in the science of food.

Future Trends to Watch

Clearly, we’ve got an expanding world population, and perhaps more importantly from a food point of view, it will be more urbanized. The question then, becomes can we actually produce more food in urban environments? We also address the increasing globalization of moving foods and ingredients around the world, as well as the fact that in many countries, we have an aging population that will likely live longer than previous generations, so what will their food needs be? And, of course, we’ve got the additional issues surrounding climate change and how that’s going to affect food production going forward.

I think some of the other key issues we're facing revolve around food and water security, and—because of potential health and sustainability pressures—protein security as well. (If we’re not going to produce or consume as much meat in terms of protein, what are the alternative protein sources?

The other two trends we discussed were related to population health—for example, how we can address obesity issues—as well as the whole concept of linking blockchain to tracing food consignments around the world, which can of course be important to food safety, food fraud, as well as commercial efficiency.

The Importance of Communication

The main point of the Think Tank is trying to consider future scenarios and future trends, rather than worrying too much about today’s issues, and to try and welcome different skillsets into IFT’s thinking—be it data management, Artificial Intelligence (AI), neuroscience, behavioral science, etc. I think if we look at our mission of advancing the science of food and its application, as well as the vision that we want to get to, in terms of more people in the world understanding or accepting the role that science and innovation play in delivering safe, nutritious, and sustainable food, we may find that one of our major challenges is communicating the role that science has played and will play in the food we eat. And I think this information and an open debate about future trends is important not just to the general public, but to the profession itself.

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