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Publication | 29 March 2021

Review of the sustainability of food systems and transition using the Internet of Food

Global Food and Nutrition Security

Many current food systems are unsustainable because they cause significant resource depletion and unacceptable environmental impacts. This problem is so severe, it can be argued that the food eaten today is equivalent to a fossil resource. The transition to sustainable food systems will require many changes but of particular importance will be the harnessing of internet technology, in the form of an ‘Internet of Food’, which offers the chance to use global resources more efficiently, to stimulate rural livelihoods, to develop systems for resilience and to facilitate responsible governance by means of computation, communication, education and trade without limits of knowledge and access. A brief analysis of the evidence of resource depletion and environmental impact associated with food production and an outline of the limitations of tools like life cycle assessment, which are used to quantify the impact of food products, indicates that the ability to combine data across the whole system from farm to human will be required in order to design sustainable food systems. Developing an Internet of Food, as a precompetitive platform on which business models can be built, much like the internet as we currently know it, will require agreed vocabularies and ontologies to be able to reason and compute across the vast amounts of data that are becoming available. The ability to compute over large amounts of data will change the way the food system is analysed and understood and will permit a transition to sustainable food systems.