That’s about the number of people who look to the oceans for the primary source of protein today. And for good reason. For millennia, the oceans have been filled with abundance as they make up 70% of our planet’s surface. Seafood is some of the healthiest protein known to man reducing cardiac disease, obesity and improving brain function.
~3 Billion people is also the number of new humans on the planet since I was born four decades ago. In this same exact time period, we have found that we can address the rising need for seafood from our plateaued ocean productivity by growing fish on farms. Aquaculture is so productive today, more tons of fish are harvested than cattle worldwide. This tremendous growth has come at a cost, namely >80% of our fisheries are at capacity or in decline now. 3 billion people also happens to be the number of new people expected to join us at the Earth’s dinner table by 2050.
The population is growing, but the planet is not. Aquaculture will double by 2030 where 2 out of 3 fish consumed will be raised on a farm. ALL of these new fish will require sustainable aquafeeds. Today, the vast majority of aquafeeds rely on marine resources to some degree further complicating this formula. Some fishmeal can be harvested sustainably including waste scraps from existing operations but traceability to maintain best practice or to expose social injustice issues remain in its infancy.
Ultimately, harvesting a new generation of crops like single cell proteins can be part of the solution. Technologies and strategies that can maximize land and other resource efficiencies will be advantaged. The new 3 billion are enjoying better foods, prepared more innovatively than any other generation previously. This current foodie revolution will only continue along its course faster and more dramatically building momentum, but also to meet the demands of welcoming 2050’s next 3 billion. Vegetable-based hamburgers that bleed, microbial proteins and cricket bars are just a couple of examples. With challenges come opportunity and food security is of the biggest tests before us today.