Sustainability

Seven Key Trends for the Future of Food and Farming

Research indicates that, among other technological innovations, smart greenhouses with vertical farming will be pivotal in driving the ‘Fourth Agricultural Revolution’.

Fischer Farms unveiled the world's largest vertical farm in Norfolk, UK, earlier this month. Credit: Farmer's Guide.


At Klipspringer, we’ve been helping food businesses ensure safety, compliance, and efficiency for over twenty years. As part of our ongoing commitment to insightful, industry-leading content, Klipspringer’s research expert Alex Blair has written this article to notify readers about developments unfolding at the forefront of food production.


On 15 November 2022, the world population reached 8 billion people. Together with climate change, geopolitical tensions, disparities in food security, the pandemic, and ethical dietary considerations, population growth is one of the key factors instigating change throughout international food systems.

Labelled as ‘pressures’ in a UK Government report, these factors create an urgent need to produce more food on less land. How to approach this task most effectively is the subject of heated debate between advocates of traditional or technological methods.

Nonetheless, advancements in machinery and plant breeding will become increasingly utilised in food production, according to a report from Global Data investigating technological trends across several sectors.

Technology or tradition? Debates over sustainable, equitable food production have polarised agricultural experts for years. Credit: Getty Images.

Trend #1 – An Expansion in Drone Usage and Automatisation

Agricultural drones are unmanned vehicles used for yield optimisation and monitoring crop growth. By 2030, it is predicted that they will also be able to carry out crop spraying and terrain monitoring.

As seen below, the demand for agri-drones is rising rapidly. This is partly due to the labour crisis and skills shortage, and partly due to agri-drones capacity to conduct diagnostics impossible for ground checks, such as soil pH level, irrigation, and temperature.

Graph 1. Growth in agri-drone patents. Source: Global Data's Patent Analytics Database.

Challenges facing the future development of agri-drones include poor rural connectivity, regulatory hurdles (particularly minimising chemical drift during crop spraying), and weather dependency. In spite of this, some estimate that 80-90% of drone market growth in the next decade will come from agriculture.

Trend #2 – A Rise in Blockchain Technology Supply Systems

In the past three years, supply chain failures have plagued the food industry.

Rising prices and supply breakdowns of cooking oil were particularly noticeable. Various issues including manufacturing backlogs, a lack of qualified workers, and a shortage of raw materials have severely impacted the international food supply chain. Not to mention wars and global pandemics.

As a digital system for recording trade transactions among multiple parties, blockchain technology allows for a vast and unlimited number of trading partners to access data and supplies privately, anonymously, and securely. Blockchains offer equal access for each partner in the network at all times – enhancing traceability, deterring fraud, and improving responses to contamination and foodborne illnesses.

Figure 1. Blockchain supply system. Source: Klipspringer.

Major food companies such as Nestlé, Dole Food Co., and Unilever have already integrated blockchain technology into their supply systems. An increasing number of organisations are researching the potential benefits of blockchain – particularly since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emphasised the need for ‘tech-enabled traceability’ as part of their New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint in 2020.

Trend #3 – A Surge in Smart Greenhouses and Vertical Farming

As a combination of traditional agricultural systems and modernised automation, smart greenhouses allow farmers to construct a self-regulated microclimate, boosting productivity.

Within these greenhouses, vertical farming – a stacked growing system for indoor crops – received over $1 billion in funding in 2021, exceeding its combined funding generated in 2018 and 2019. This included Fischer Farm’s announcement of a £25m vertical farm in Norfolk – unveiled earlier this month. The plant will supply 6.5 tonnes of leafy salad, herbs, and other fresh produce to UK supermarkets each day

Smart greenhouse job advertisements have also increased fivefold in just under two years, as demonstrated below.

Graph 2. Smart greenhouse-related job advertisements. Source: Global Data Job Analytics Database.

Population growth is projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, with approximately 5 billion people converging in cities. Therefore, growing nutritionally dense food closer to urban areas is the most significant benefit of this trend.

The enormity of this challenge is likely to outweigh reservations regarding the high upfront costs of smart greenhouses. Even so, alternative solutions will be required for the ‘smart’ cultivation of cereals and fruits, which vertical farming is largely ineffective at.

Investors will also have to weigh up the land-saving benefits against the high electricity consumption of smart greenhouses.

Trend #4 – A Transition from GMOs to CRISPR Techniques for Food Cultivation

Controversy has surrounded Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for over a decade.

Critics point out their threat to small-scale farmers, strengthening of corporate control over global food supply, and damage to biodiversity due to intensive monoculture systems. Public attitudes remain sceptical and strong regulation around safety and labelling is unwavering.

However, research into the biological, nutritional, and socioeconomic implications of CRISPR technology is starting to gain traction.

Figure 2. GMO vs CRISPR food cultivation. Source: Klipspringer.

Put simply, CRISPR is a genetic engineering technique by which the genomes of living organisms are modified through deleting, adding, or altering sections of DNA. Advocates for CRISPR techniques claim that the use of this novel DNA leads to:

  • Improved food safety (by knocking out antibiotic resistance to provide immunity against pathogens like salmonella)
  • Lengthened shelf life of perishable foods
  • Development of new products that taste better and have other desirable traits for consumers

One example of these ‘desirable traits’ is celiac-safe wheat, beneficial for those suffering from celiac disease (an extreme allergy to gluten). Another is improving the crop benefits and taste of decaffeinated coffee.

Despite these potential opportunities, widespread gene editing for food production purposes will be slowed by public misgivings and regulatory hurdles. This trend is forecasted not to develop significantly until the latter part of this decade.

Trend #5 – A Steady Growth in Alternative Proteins

Analysts predict that the alternative meat and dairy markets will continue to expand steadily – but not as much as some have touted

Primarily driven by concerns for animal welfare, health, and the environment, daily meat consumption in the UK has reduced by 17% in the last decade, according to a study published in Lancet Planetary Health.

Meat alternatives are expected to hit double digits in value growth from 2020 to 2025, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12.7%. Meanwhile, the alternative dairy market has a similar projected CAGR (12.5%), but over the space of eight years, from 2022 to 2030.

The below table illustrates the pros, cons, and key markets associated with various types of alternative proteins.

Alternative Protein Type

Pros

Cons

Key Markets

Insect Protein

-High protein levels

-Lower carbon footprint, land and resource use compared to animal proteins

-Widespread aversion to eating insects (especially in Western countries)

-Asia Pacific Region

-Latin America

-Africa

Cultured Meat*

-Lower carbon footprint than animal protein

-Predicted to be cheaper than beef by 2030

-Improved animal welfare

-Still regulatorily prohibited in the USA, UK & EU  

-Worsened taste

-Israel

-Asia Pacific Region

Plant-Based Proteins

-Lower carbon footprint, land and resource use

-Can replace both meat and dairy products

-Currently attracting the most investment of all alternative proteins

-Vitamin B12 deficiency

-No cheaper as an alternative than traditional proteins

-North America

-Europe

-Latin America

-Asia Pacific Region

Microbial Proteins**

-Sidesteps animal cruelty

-Can be carried out using organic waste

-Lower carbon footprint, land and resource use

-Further research needed on allergic reactions and gastrointestinal symptoms

-North America

-Asia Pacific Region

Table 1. Pros, cons, and key markets of alternative protein types. Sources: Klipspringer and Global Data.

*Cultured meat is produced from animal cells rather than actual meat.

**Microbial proteins are single-celled proteins typically made up of fungi, bacteria, or algae.

Overall, the growth of alternative proteins is significant, but not enough to seriously disrupt the monopoly that traditional proteins have on the food market. By 2026, traditional meat or dairy products are still expected to account for 51% of global food sales, compared with just 1.4% for alternative proteins.

Trend #6 – A Heightened Focus on Livestock Healthtech to Fight Zoonotic Diseases

Meat and dairy industries are entirely dependent on livestock numbers. As any disease or infection that is naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans, zoonotic diseases – or zoonoses – can devastate livestock numbers, and, therefore, food markets.

The spread of African swine fever (ASF) in pigs across Southeast Asia is a prominent example of a market-devastating disease. Following an outbreak in China in August 2018, ASF led to the deaths or culling of millions of pigs dying Southeast Asia. With pork meat accounting for over 35% of global meat consumption, global prices soared.

Figure 3. Key emerging technologies. Source: Klipspringer.

As analysed in the previous trend, traditional proteins look set to retain their stranglehold on global markets, at least for the time being. In light of this, food and farming organisations are anticipated to focus on protecting livestock numbers through animal health monitoring and vaccine development.

Trend #7 – An Increase in Use of Digital Twins to Predict and Optimise Farm Operations

A digital twin is a representation of a physical system that can help to understand, predict, and optimise performance. Data is collected from the physical asset, including information that cannot be observed, such as soil health. The digital twin analyses previous patterns to simulate future behaviour, allowing farmers to act quickly if a deviation occurs.

Digital twins are underpinned by remote operation, which is a hotly contested aspect to this so-called ‘new phase of smart farming’. Supporters cite the capacity to conduct planning and control away from the site, and to carry out predictive analysis and real-time response, while critics highlight jobs lost due to automatisation.

Digital twins. Credit: Tomato News.

While automatised developments like digital twins are promising with regard to efficiency, cost-saving, and sustainability, if implemented improperly they could have serious ramifications for rural livelihoods. A most prominent example of this dispute between cause and consequence is the population divergence into urban areas, which is predicted to cause a global decrease in rural populations and farms.

Extreme care must be taken to ensure that trends of this sort are only used in response to our shifting population demographics, intensifying climate, and unequally distributed global food supply, rather than driving these changes in the first place.

Businesses seeking to innovate by implementing the developments and trends outlined above must also commit to genuine corporate responsibility regarding their ethical and environmental consequences. Dedicating time to educate and fully inform your team is essential to this responsibility.


For more insightful content, click below to see a breakdown of the first webinar in our ‘Culture in Hygiene’ series, hosted by Klipspringer alongside two expert panellists.


Cooking Oil – Rising Prices, Needless Costs and Unsustainable Practices

In 2022, oil dominated global headlines: a constantly revolving door of rising oil prices, supply chain issues, and sustainability breaches.

Countries worldwide are admitting to massive shortages, with even oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia revealing that their reserves are running out.

Lower-income households struggled to afford cooking oil – let alone fill up their petrol tanks – while protests called for windfall taxes on the soaring profits of energy giants like Shell and BP.

Rising Oil Prices

On June 8, the global oil price rose above £123 per barrel ($147), matching the all-time high price points of the 2008 recession.

Cooking oil prices have also increased astronomically, doubling to $1.90 (£1.60) per litre in the UK, and $2.72 (£2.29) per litre on international average.

The current rises in oil prices are unprecedented, and are being caused by factors such as:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic
  • Increased biodiesel demand in the EU
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
  • Extreme weather in Western Canada and South America (prominent areas of global oil exportation)

These circumstances culminated in strong global demand for oil, but extraordinarily weak supply.

At Klipspringer, we watched in disbelief as oil prices reached near-unaffordable levels, but few companies implemented failsafe methods to cut waste, save on costs, and increase sustainability.

In commercial kitchens, the dangers of unsafe oil are well-known, particularly relating to acrylamide build-up.

Despite this, research has indicated that most companies actually discard their cooking oil more often than necessary.

Why is this?

Why Are Most Companies Changing Oil Unnecessarily?

In our experience, there are three key reasons why food cooking oil is being changed prematurely…

1) Status quo. “It’s always been done this way”. Nobody knows why, but the procedure hasn’t changed, and nobody wants to be the person who risks changing it. This line of thinking typically sees oil changed once or twice a week, or every Friday morning, or when fish and chips are on the menu.

2) Visual checks. “It looks like it needs changing.” This is always based on experience, and whilst there are many trained eyes in commercial kitchens, colour is subjective. What looks like a subtle difference in oil appearance can make a massive difference to its working life.

3) Colorimetric methods. The most common colorimetric method is test strips and a colour chart. This measures FFA, or Free Fatty Acids, which directly correlate to off-colours, off-odours, and off-flavours in fried food products. While compliant and reasonably accurate (usually around 80% accuracy), colorimetric methods are still subjective to human error, and can be contaminated by improper storage.

What Is the Best Way of Knowing When Oil Needs Changing?

At Klipspringer, based on our twenty-plus-years’ experience as the industry leaders in removing the guesswork from food oil management, we recommend the following steps to maximise your oil life, in-keeping with the below graph of oil degradation.

  • Make it measurable. Oil quality should be measured as an arbitrary number, and a threshold set for changing the oil. Regular checks mean oil life is then extended to its maximum without compromising product quality.
  • De-technicalise oil management. All unnecessary complexity should be removed from oil-checking and changing procedures. Any team member should be able to check the oil quality and then make an entirely objective decision as to whether it needs replacing. This is only possible once arbitrary, digital measurement has been implemented.
  • Report. Every oil quality measurement should be recorded. As should the date and time when the oil was last changed. Management should review this on a regular basis to make sure oil is not being changed too regularly or too late. A fully documented ‘audit trail’ also supports effective kitchen management and circumvents non-conformances.

In terms of practically implementing these steps, we recommend a solution based on neither status quo, nor visual checks, nor colorimetric methods.

This solution has been used by the likes of Five Guys, McDonalds, and Whitbread to refine their frying process, conduct eco-friendly practices, and cut their oil usage by half.

Click here to find more about this solution.


WEBINAR: Six Strategies for Maximising Oil Life Without Compromising Quality

On 1 June 2022, for the first time since late March, the global oil price rose about $117 per barrel (£93.47). Amid supply chain uncertainty and soaring prices, it has never been more crucial for the hospitality industry to maximise the life of cooking oil. But how can that be done without negatively impacting the safety and quality of your menu?  

At Klipspringer, we decided to host a webinar answering exactly that. Led by a panel of oil management experts, this webinar detailed six actionable steps to ensuring that your food oil is compliant, consistent, and methodically conserved.

Using relevant clips from the webinar, this article breaks down each step into concise, digestible chunks. It answers some of our mostly commonly asked questions, including: 

When should I change cooking oil? 

How do I check oil quality? 

Does filtering help to extend oil life? 

Navigate the menu below to be directed to the step most applicable for your food oil needs, or keep reading for a holistic insight into one of the most pressing issues the hospitality sector faces today.   

You can also view the webinar in full below:

Step 1 - Choosing the Right Oil

As put by Vincent Igoe, Managing Director for Olleco Scotland: “In my 25 years in the industry, I’ve never seen markets like this”. The astronomical current price of oil is unprecedented, and is being caused by factors such as: 

  • A knock-on from the Covid-19 pandemic 
  • Extreme weather in Western Canada 
  • Increased biodiesel demand in the EU  
  • Adverse weather across South America 
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine  

These circumstances have culminated in strong global demand for oil, but extraordinarily weak supply. In light of this, selecting the right type of oil has never been more crucial.  

When choosing the best oil for frying, there are five overarching aspects to consider: 

a) Taste 

b) Performance 

c) Cost 

d) Safety 

e) Sustainability 

Once you’ve evaluated each of these aspects and narrowed your search down to one or two types of oil, refer to the below chart for the specific benefits of three widely used oil types.  

Rapeseed Oil

Vegetable Oil

Long-Life Oil

Non-genetically modified seed

Produced from genetically modified soya 

Non-genetically modified seed 

Extended life

Extended life

Lasts 2x longer than extended life oils 

Anti-foaming agent (makes it safe for use in fryers) 

Contains anti-foaming agent 

Lasts 2x longer than extended life oils 

Anti-foaming agent (makes it safe for use in fryers) 

Contains anti-foaming agent 

Contains anti-foaming agent 

High smoke point 

One of the UK’s best-selling standard cooking oils 

Certified by RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) 

Step 2 - Choosing the Right Fryer

Once you’ve selected the right oil type for your needs, an effective oil fryer is the next requirement. Watch the above clip for advice from Michael Eyre, Culinary Director at Jestic Ltd, on various industry staples, including:

  • Simple Fryers (£)
  • Gravity (External) Filtration Fryers (££)
  • Pumped (Internal) Filtration Fryers (££)
  • Digital Fryers with Built-In Filtration (£££)
  • Low Oil Volume Fryers (££££)

Step 3 - Fryer Operation and Filtering

After selecting an appropriate oil fryer, it’s important to learn how it operates. This requires thought about food types, (auto)filtering, skimming, loading, and frying temperatures. For example, does your food type contain crumbs (e.g. breaded chicken)? If so, do you have a workable particulate filtration system in place to catch solid impurities that might fall into your oil?

Read on for a three-part process to ensure the best frying practices.

Before Frying:

  • Don’t skip ‘melt-mode’ in your morning check-ups and clean
  • Never fill the basket over the vat
  • Respect the recommended quantity per basket (don’t overfill the basket)
  • Ensure that oil is at cooking temperature before dropping the basket in
  • Cook food items either always from frozen or always from fresh (for better consistency)

During Frying: 

  • Ensure correct frying temperatures (frying at higher temperatures does NOT decrease frying time) 
  • Never place a basket in the oil without using a timer 
  • After placing the first basket in oil, allow 30 seconds before dropping the second basket into the same vat
  • Program an alarm to remind cooks to shake the basket during the cooking cycle  

After Frying:  

  • Drain/shake the basket over the vat 
  • Skim the vat regularly throughout the day 
  • Top-up oil throughout the day 
  • Use ‘night’ covers (to prevent debris falling into the oil and reduce contact time with light) 
  • Test quality of oil at least once daily (after the daily filtration/clean) 
  • Proactively filter the vats during the day (the more often the better) 
  • Use the ‘idle’ feature when the fryer is not in use 
  • Change filter paper daily 
  • Polish oil daily 

Step 4 - Monitoring Oil Quality

As summarised by Murray Carlyon, Managing Director at Klipspringer, there are three overarching reasons to monitor oil quality.  

Firstly, to reduce costs and wastage. An effective oil monitoring system results in significant savings, both economically (costs) and environmentally (wastage). Instead of discarding perfectly usable oil – a costly and unsustainable outcome – businesses are now using Food Oil Monitors for maximum accuracy. For a minimal upfront cost, these monitors offer a comfortable ROI, usually within just six months. Click here to read about how Whitbread’s use of a Food Oil Monitor reduced their oil consumption by up to 52% across their 1,200 different venues 

Secondly, to maintain product consistency. Most kitchens change their oil either based on colour (when it goes dark/black, using single-use test strips and a simplistic colour chart) or schedule (twice a week – because it has always been done that way). Led by the likes of Wasabi, McDonalds, and Five Guys, hospitality businesses seeking to distinguish themselves from the crowd are standardising the use of Food Oil Monitors to guarantee such consistent menu quality  

Thirdly, to ensure product safety. Paramount to any hospitality business is consumer welfare. As shown by the figure below, the frying process can release a variety of polar compounds (e.g. free fatty acids), which are in turn associated with acrylamide build-up. This customer-harming, cancer-causing chemical can reach dangerous levels when relying on subjective oil quality monitoring methods.  

A percentage reading of Total Polar Compounds or Total Polar Matter (TPC% / TPM%) is reliably used in the food industry as a measure of oil degradation. High levels of TPC can negatively impact product taste, texture, and appearance, as well as causing various health disorders, both short-term (e.g. gastrointestinal disorders) and long-term (e.g. risk of heart disease).  

A growing number of countries across Europe are legislating TPC percentages, typically around the 24-27% mark. While there is no existing legislation in the UK, leading companies are setting their own standards around a similar benchmark, using digital solutions to take the subjective guesswork out of monitoring oil quality.  

Step 5 - Pumping and Storing Waste Oil

Watch the above clip for advice regarding pump stations, filtration, and waste oil tanks. It addresses the following questions: 

  • How do I get oil into a fryer? 
  • How do I remove waste oil from my fryer? 
  • Where do I store waste oil? 
  • How can my waste oil get collected? 
  • How can I monitor waste oil? 

Step 6 - Returning Used Oil

Getting the most longevity and value out of your oil supplies is imperative for two reasons: profitability and sustainability. As one of the largest contributors to carbon footprints in commercial kitchens, oil is best suited to a circular economic system (illustrated below). Leading oil suppliers now offer the service of collecting ‘waste’ oil in the same containers it is delivered in – and they even pay for it, balancing the value of your reused oil against the costs of your fresh oil.  

Implementing these six steps will ensure that your oil quality remains compliant, consistent, and methodically conserved. Customer satisfaction will increase, costs will decrease, and your business will be more adeptly prepared to meet any sustainability targets and initiatives.  

Watch the below clip to hear Surendra Yejju, Executive Chef at Wagamama, outline how these six steps have helped teams across Wagamama venues nationwide.  

Interested in learning how other leading food and hospitality companies have benefitted from food oil monitoring?  

Click to learn how Whitbread reduced oil savings by 52%