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This video was sponsored by Google Science Fair. Enter the 2018 Google Science Fair at and check out their YouTube page at See official rules for full details:

As the population grows, the demand for food is only going to increase, but luckily, scientists are already working to solve this problem.

Hosted by: Stefan Chin & Olivia Gordon

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[Stefan] This video is sponsored by Google Science Fair - an online competition for 13-18 years olds. [Olivia] Every idea has the power to shape our world, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first. [Stefan] Join us in sharing your best ideas, and start your science fair project, at [Olivia] Stefan, I love science fairs. They’re all about bringing people together to solve problems. [Stefan] And I love winning prizes. [Olivia] Perfect.

Your prize is you get to co-host this video with me about how ideas scientists are working on today might transform how we eat. [Stefan] That’s great because I also love eating. Let’s do this.


[Olivia] Many people around the world already have a hard time getting access to food, and as the population grows, the demand for it is only going to increase. Eventually, a day might come where we just don’t have enough space, energy, or water to make food for everyone. [Stefan] The good news is, scientists are already preparing for that day.

Here are three innovative technologies already in the works that could transform the future of food. [Olivia] First, as popular as meat is, it also takes a lot of land and energy to raise animals. And in the future, we might not have enough resources to get everyone that particular type of protein. Back in the 1960s, one company developed a meat substitute with this concern in mind. [fyoo-SAR-ee-UM VEN-uh-NAH-tum] It’s called mycoprotein, and instead of being made from the jackfruit or beans you might find in a typical veggie burger, it’s made from fungus.

Specifically, the most common one is made from a strain of Fusarium venenatum. To make it, the fungus is fermented in a reactor with carefully controlled acidity, temperature, and amounts of nutrients. Then, it’s combined with a binding agent and mixed up until it’s roughly the texture of meat.

According to people who’ve tried it, it apparently tastes pretty good. Making mycoprotein takes significantly less land and energy than it takes to produce meat, and the process generates up to 90% less carbon dioxide. It also has more protein than tofu.

Unfortunately, it's also caused some people to have severe allergic reactions, and one survey of 1000 people suggested mycoprotein sensitivity could be more common than shellfish or peanut allergies. So if this is going to be a long-term solution, we’ll either need to find some way to test for those allergies, or find a different strain of fungi to use. And since researchers have already tried thousands of them, that could be tricky. [Stefan] Thankfully, growing fungi doesn’t take up much space, but if we want to eat something besides mycoprotein in the future, we’ll likely need more land.

Right now, more than 40% of Earth’s land is used for agriculture, and there’s only so much fertile ground left. That’s where another idea, called aquaponics, comes in. It’s a form of hydroponics, which is growing plants in a water and mineral solution, not soil.

But instead of getting those nutrients from a commercial fertilizer, aquaponics uses the waste from fish farms. To do it, you raise a bunch of fish in a relatively small area, but keep filtering the water to remove any toxins. As the fish go about their lives, breathing and pooping, the water becomes full of helpful minerals and nutrients, like nitrogen.

Then, those pass into a separate chamber and are filtered out by plants. In some models, the plants are just sort of held over the water so that their roots dangle into it. At the end of the process, you have a bunch of happily fed crops and clean water that can go back into the fish tank.

The main benefit here is that you can set up an aquaponics farm anywhere, since they work indoors. But there are some kinks we’ll need to work out first. For example, fish can provide almost all of the nutrients a plant needs, but getting the right balance of them can be difficult.

Pest control is also much harder, since adding pesticides to the water could kill the fish. You also need a bunch of fish. Which could get pricey … especially if you’re trying to do this in a desert.

Still, some farmers have already had success with this method on a small scale, so if we keep working on it, maybe we’ll all be eating fish-fed plants someday. [Olivia] Besides aquaponics, there’s another way we could get around a future farmland shortage: We could build up, instead of out. Their idea is called vertical farming, and it involves growing plants in stacked containers — like on shelves or different floors — so you could basically turn a skyscraper into a farm. This concept was first proposed around 2009, and it’s already been successful in tests.

Plus, it can also be combined with other technologies, like hydroponics. The biggest benefit to this method is that it uses way less land. If you built a 30-story farm on one city block, you could grow almost 100 times as much food as on a traditional farm of the same size.

Since these farms are indoors, you also wouldn’t need to worry about the weather or most pests. And if you used filtered wastewater to irrigate your crops, you’d basically have the perfect city farm. Then again, you would also need to construct a giant, custom-made building to make this work, and that wouldn’t be cheap.

And you would need a way to get your plants enough sunlight, too. One option would be to use artificial lighting, which has worked relatively well on current hydroponic farms. You could also rotate plants throughout the day to get them equal time near windows or skylights.

Possibly the biggest challenge, though, is that vertical farming isn’t very eco-friendly — at least, not yet. One 2015 analysis of a small farm calculated that vertically growing lettuce produces 2-5 times more carbon dioxide than lettuce grown in open fields. Most of that probably came from powering the building, since running artificial lights and irrigating crops uses a lot of electricity.

We could make this technology greener by using cleaner sources of energy, but since that’s not the only hurdle, it will probably be a while before cities are the new farmlands. [Stefan] So far, none of these technologies are perfect, and we’ll need future innovators and engineers to perfect them. That’s where the Google Science Fair comes in. [Olivia] That’s right. Google Science Fair is a global online competition.

If you’re 13-18 years old, you can submit a project between now and December 12 at [Stefan] So find a problem that you want to solve, whether it’s about the future of food or something else you’re concerned about. Then, think up an idea to solve that problem and test it out. [Olivia] Then, share your results with the world! You could win prizes like, well, Stefan, do you want to talk about the prizes? [Stefan] I sure do.

Your idea could win prizes like the National Geographic Explorer Award, which allows you to travel to the Galapagos Islands on a 15-day expedition. Or you could win a Chromebook and other goodies to help you bring your ideas to life. Or the Grand Prize, a $50,000 educational scholarship. [Olivia] Your project idea can be big or small, brand new, or improve upon an existing idea.

And you can do it entirely on your own, or as a part of a team of up to three people. [Stefan] We can’t wait to see what you dream up. Just go to to register and submit your idea by December 12, 2018. [Olivia] Thanks for watching and for making our world a better place! [OUTRO♩].