A 2015 study found by 2050, Earth will need to increase crop yields by between 60% and 110% to sustain a rapidly expanding human populace.
The paper’s authors suggest the two means of increasing food production are agricultural intensification or expansion, though each have their limitations.
“Land conversion to expand cultivated land increases GHG emissions and impacts biodiversity,” but the paper also acknowledges that traditional methods of intensification “often have negative externalities.”
Believe it or not, but the answer to the problem of how to feed our planet may be in your fridge right now.
Mushrooms aren’t just a psychedelic, although they have shown great promise in treating mental illness. Companies like ThinkMyco are looking to leverage the full potential of fungi, and that is including its usefulness as a food source.
Already make up a staggering percentage of household diets in Asia, according to the University of California Davis, mushrooms like Shiitakes “contains proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates; vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D2; niacin, phosphorus, iron, calcium, and other minerals.”
“We have some technology coming out of fundamental advances and physics I’ve been working on the last 10 years, and that changes a lot of things because it drops the costs of mushroom production to the point where on a gram-for-gram, dollar-for-dollar basis mushrooms become competitive with meat as a protein source.”
–Nikita Alexandrov, CTO & founder of ThinkMyco
Fungi may also play an integral role in satisfying the growing demand for food without leading to an increase in greenhouse gases.
Food production and global warming are interconnected, according to a paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. (PNAS), whose findings indicate “a simple and temporally consistent global relationship between per capita GDP and per capita demand for crop calories or protein.”
Developing nations will see their GDP grow at faster rates than those in highest economic tier as diets begin to involve more protein, vegetable oils and sugary sweeteners.
Following past trends, with poorer nations clearing more land for agriculture while richer nations increase intensity would have “major environmental impacts through resultant species extinctions, loss of ecosystem services, elevated atmospheric GHG levels, and water pollution.”
Therefore, the study study suggests new strategies will have to be implemented in order to increase crop yields while also keeping environmental costs low. Mushrooms may provide a solution to this issue.
Fertilizers are one way to increase agricultural intensity, and maximizing the use of fungal processes can lead to increased sustainability by using natural resources more efficiently.
“Applications range from upgrading bio-waste for value added products to use of renewable plant biomass as a substitute for oil-based products such as biochemicals, plastics, fertilizer, and fuel.”
–Lene Lange, The importance of fungi and mycology for addressing major global challenges
Additionally, chemical fertilizers are a significant source of greenhouse gases, and research has shown that “signiﬁcant contribution to denitriﬁcation by fungi to N2O emissions has been found across various ecosystems.”