Skip to content

What if…the convergence of the digital and the physical worlds change what and how we eat?

Pervasive Connectivity and Big Data Slow Down Climate Change, One Beef Burger at a Time

By the 2000s, the industrialisation of food meant a single dish could contain elements from dozens of sources. But the food scandals kept coming: tainted infant formula, horse meat in beef burgers and far worse. Regulation couldn’t keep pace with opportunities along an ever-lengthening supply chain to make food cheaper, poorer quality and its provenance faked for a better price.

The implementation in the early 2020s of nano-circuitry into sensors revolutionised both the physical resilience and the capabilities of what we then called the Internet of Things (IoT), in which everything, and everyone, could be networked.

IoT quickly found its way into the food production and supply chains delivering more efficient production, safer products and more comprehensive origin-to-destination tracking. Using IoT, the impact of food production on the environment became much more apparent through, for example, linking provenance records to measurements of environmental cost. Pundits and analysts started talking about an "Internet of Food" (IoF).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the IoF’s earliest adopters were not the industrial food giants, but artisanal foodmakers and organic farmers. Their premium products had suffered most in a market where consumers no longer trusted labelling.

Nowadays, every steak comes with a record of the animal’s life and detailed information on methane production and food miles. In the past five years alone, vegetarianism and veganism have doubled. Are meat avoiders driven by the severe weather events that are now our "new normal"? Or is it just harder to eat the leg of a lamb that was recently gambolling on a particular hillside? Either way, the IoF has increased production efficiency and reduced demand for the foods most implicated in climate change.

This story shows us how the Internet might evolve. But the path we take is up to us.

Related to: