Myth: A modern food system will demand too much energy to be viable

 |  6 May 2024

The energy demanded by the new modern food system will be in the form of electricity and will therefore be met by the new energy system where electricity is nearly free, clean and superabundant.

Modern food production methods like Precision Fermentation and Cellular Agriculture are very energy intensive processes. To produce the molecules we will need, these technologies require the use of bioreactors inside of manufacturing facilities that can maintain the ideal environmental conditions needed by the microorganisms. This process along with other energy intensive steps, such as drying, will certainly create energy demand.

Fortunately, the disruption of food and energy is not happening in a vacuum. The disruption of energy is currently proceeding rapidly as fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are replaced by a cheaper, cleaner and more efficient system based on solar, wind and batteries (SWB). Due to the nature of this energy system, which will be built to accommodate the times of the year that have the least amount of sun and wind resource, there will be periods across most of the year where enormous amounts of surplus electricity are generated. The energy demanded by the new modern food system will be in the form of electricity and will therefore be met by this new energy system where electricity is nearly free, clean and superabundant.

Explore the evidence...

  • Foods made using modern food production processes like Precision Fermentation are far more resource efficient than the industrial modes of production. For example, Precision Fermentation proteins are up to 100 times more energy efficient than the cow. Learn more from RethinkX co-founder Tony Seba.
  • There will be an increase in the amount of electricity used in the new food system as the production facilities that underpin it rely on electricity to operate. This will, however, be offset by reductions in energy use elsewhere along the value chain. Read more about the impacts of the modern food disruption on associated sectors on p49 of our Rethinking Food & Agriculture report.
  • Modern foods will be about 10 times more efficient than a cow at converting feed into end products because a cow needs energy via feed to maintain and build its body over time. Less feed consumed means less land required to grow it, which means less water is used and less waste is produced. The savings are dramatic–up to 25 times less feedstock, 10 times less water, five times less energy and 100 times less land. Learn more about the production costs of PF on p20 of our report.
  • A key finding of our analysis is that when the SWB capacity mix is optimized for cost, this least-expensive system will have three to five times more generating capacity than today’s grid. As a result, any 100% SWB system will produce an extremely large amount of surplus electricity at near-zero marginal cost that we call SWB Super power. p20-21 of our Rethinking Energy report describes clean energy super power in more depth.

Witness the transformation

We are on the cusp of the deepest, fastest, most consequential disruption in food and agricultural production since the first domestication of plants and animals 10,000 years ago. The new system is inevitable and ensures a production system that is completely decentralized and much more stable and resilient than industrial animal agriculture, with fermentation farms located in or close to towns and cities.

Learn more about the disruption and transformation of the food and agriculture sector.

Published on: 12/07/23

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