The Earth is at a sociotechnical crossroads with humanity hanging in the balance – and high-tech agriculture can help bail us out. Human population growth, increasing urbanization and rising incomes is likely to drastically increase demand for animal agriculture in the coming decades. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicts the need to double global food production by 2050 as the global population increases from 7.3 billion in 2015 to 9.7 billion in 2050 as shown in Fig 1. Much of this growth will be concentrated in the world’s poorest countries where standards of living are set to rise rapidly, increasing the demand for resource-intensive meat and dairy products which has been the historical trend. At the same time, agriculture in the 21st century faces multiple challenges: it must produce more food and fiber to feed a growing population with a smaller rural labor force, produce additional feedstocks for a potentially huge bioenergy market, contribute to overall development in the many agriculture-dependent developing countries, adopt more efficient and sustainable production methods, and adapt to climate change. Additionally, the world’s arable land is already fully employed and shrinking -- the world has lost a third of its arable land due to erosion or pollution in the past 40 years. All these factors put enormous pressure on improving the production efficiency of the world’s supply of food to meet the demand.

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