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Smart Technology for Sustainable Food Practices: Combating Food Insecurity


 

Food insecurity, a significant global challenge, affects millions of people worldwide. It not only hampers individual well-being but also impacts social, economic, and environmental stability. As the population continues to grow, the need for sustainable food practices becomes imperative to ensure food security for all.


Context: Food Insecurity in Nigeria

Using the September 2018 to October 2019 household survey of expenditures, the cost of achieving 2251 calories per day (age-weighted caloric need for food security), is about 82,000 naira per person per year. Based on this survey, about 40 percent of the Nigerian population is identified as food insecure. Mekonnen et al. (2021).

Adjusted for inflation 82,000 Naira in 2018’s current purchasing value in 2023 is 37342.10 Naira. This means an additional 106,450.54 of the current valuation of Naira would be needed to achieve food security per year for a Nigerian resident.

A report by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) 2022, states that 27.4 million Nigerians earn under N100,000 per year and 10.7 per cent earned between N201,000 and N300,000 per annum while 12.5 per cent earned more than N300,000 per annum. With a total dependency ratio of 86% according to Statista (which means for each 100 people in Nigeria 86 are dependent).

These numbers make for bad reading, it clearly shows that 50% of independents in Nigeria earn less than N300,000, and with levels of dependency being as high as it is, there just isn’t enough for everyone. Population of Nigerians at risk of food insecurity is closer to 80% currently than the official figures from 2021 which was 40%.

The acute food insecure population has risen by 5.4 million people to 17 million in 2022 (almost 9 percent of the respective population). And in January, the UN estimated that more than 25 million people in Nigeria could face acute food insecurity this year--a 47% increase from the 17 million people in 2022.



Smart Technology in Agriculture

Smart technology offers innovative solutions in various aspects of agriculture, transforming traditional practices into efficient, sustainable systems. Precision farming techniques, such as sensor-based monitoring, help optimize resource allocation by collecting data on soil moisture, nutrient levels, and pest infestations. This information enables farmers to make informed decisions, leading to reduced resource waste and increased crop yields.

Furthermore, the Internet of Things (IoT) enables real-time monitoring and management of agricultural processes. Connected devices and sensors can track temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors, ensuring optimal conditions for plant growth. Automated irrigation systems can adjust water usage based on crop needs, conserving water resources and minimizing waste.

Smart technology also aids in pest and disease management. Drones equipped with advanced imaging techniques can identify areas of crop stress, enabling targeted interventions. This reduces the reliance on pesticides, making farming practices more environmentally friendly.


Enhancing Food Distribution and Storage

In the food services and logistics industry, it's all about quality, flavor and delivery; customers want their food fast and natural. Efficient food distribution is crucial for combating food insecurity. More so, with increased scrutiny on carbon footprint, interest is deepening on where and how food is grown, how it travels and how it is processed. Smart technology streamlines supply chains, reducing food waste and ensuring that nutritious produce reaches consumers promptly. Blockchain technology, for instance, enables transparent and traceable supply chains, preventing food fraud and ensuring food safety.

Smart refrigeration and storage systems equipped with sensors and AI algorithms can monitor temperature, humidity, and spoilage rates. This data helps prevent food spoilage, allowing for optimal storage conditions and reducing post-harvest losses. Furthermore, intelligent inventory management systems can track perishable items, enabling better stock rotation and minimizing waste. Also, stable green electricity supply is also essential.


Innovations in Food Consumption

Smart technology offers transformative solutions to promote sustainable food consumption practices. Mobile applications can help consumers make informed choices by providing information on the nutritional content, origin, and environmental impact of products. These apps can also facilitate the sharing of surplus food through community platforms, reducing food waste and supporting those in need.

Smart appliances, such as energy-efficient refrigerators and smart meters, enable consumers to monitor their energy consumption and adjust settings accordingly. This promotes energy conservation and reduces the carbon footprint associated with food storage and preparation.

Additionally, indoor vertical farming, supported by smart technology, allows for year-round cultivation in urban areas. By utilizing controlled environments and optimized resource usage, vertical farms can produce fresh produce locally, reducing transportation costs and emissions.


Challenges and Considerations

While smart technology presents promising solutions, several challenges must be addressed for widespread adoption. Stable electricity supply is a major challenge in food storage, processing and farming. Solar systems (like irrigation, and electricity generation) have high initial costs and access to this technology can be barriers for small-scale farmers and vulnerable communities. Ensuring equitable access and providing support through government initiatives or public-private partnerships is essential.

Data privacy and security are also important concerns. Collecting and sharing data requires robust systems to protect individuals' privacy and prevent unauthorized access. Striking a balance between data-driven insights and individual rights is crucial.

Collaboration among stakeholders, including governments, farmers, researchers, and technology developers, is vital to leverage smart technology effectively. Sharing knowledge, expertise, and resources can drive innovation and accelerate the implementation of sustainable food practices.


Conclusion

Smart technology holds immense potential in addressing food insecurity through sustainable food practices. From precision agriculture techniques to efficient food distribution and consumption, it offers solutions at every stage of the food system. By reducing waste, increasing productivity, and promoting responsible consumption, smart technology can contribute to a more sustainable and equitable future.

However, it is crucial to ensure that these advancements are accessible to all, especially those most affected by food insecurity. By overcoming challenges and fostering collaboration, we can harness the power of smart technology to combat food insecurity, safeguard the environment, and create a more resilient global food system.


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