September 28, 2020
In the course of months, most of us have changed the way we behave towards food.
As much as the changes resulted as a precautionary measure of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on our behaviour towards food can be enduring.At the very bare minimum, the concept of food safety, food preparation and food shopping is set for a permanent and profound change across the nation. From the type of food consumed, its source, its preparation methodologies to the way it was produced and stored will be critically analysed. There is an imminent fear of contagion related to human contact.
A push to a more self-sufficient Australia
The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic scare in Australia was a big eye opener for the country. From toilet paper scarcity to empty aisles of flour and pasta, the nation was shocked by how poorly the supply chain managed when COVID-19 hit.
It became clear that Australia was relying far too much on consumable imports, which presented a clear problem when the global supply chain saw disruption.
As a result, the federal government had made a push for the economy to become more self-sufficient. Policies in both public and private agriculture sectors have been put in place by David Littleproud, the Federal Agriculture Minister, to ensure a thriving industry post-COVID-19.
An increase in local demand
COVID-19 has resulted in increased consumer awareness which demands more community supported farms and agriculture. In other words, locally produced has become more popular than ever before.
Food safety concerns have led to a higher desire to consume more nutritious foods, which in turn increases the demand to eat local. From a supply chain perspective, international reliance on food is decreasing combined with the existing disruption of global supply chains resulting from border closures due to COVID-19.
In fact, Australian muesli brand, Carman’s, was able to meet the 50% rise in demand during the COVID-19 crisis due to local production. In contrast, several other produce companies were able to make the product but had no packaging to put them into as they typically sourced for cheaper packaging from countries like China.
A change in food production and processing
Growing the agricultural industry is critical in helping the nation repair from COVID-19.
According to David Littleproud, there is a need to introduce renewable food processing systems to reduce ongoing operating costs which will create a more competitive processing sector. Concepts for improvement include food waste recycling in biodigesters to produce heat and methane for power.
There is an inclining trend for smarter farming and processing with a move toward renewable energy. From generating heat and electricity to developing fertiliser, these moves toward a more sustainable way of farming is the way forward in the agriculture industry.
A move toward greenhouse farming has seen a rise in America. The concept stems from a reimagination of how and when fresh food is grown. The “how” focuses on the versatility of setting a greenhouse in central areas, while the “when” allows for year round productions as a result of climate and temperature controlling capabilities in a greenhouse.
While greenhouse farming enables better sustainability, there is an equivalent driver behind the move toward greenhouse farming which is food safety.
Traditional farming in open fields has seen several product recalls as a result of contamination and disease. Greenhouse vegetables have a distinct advantage compared to open field produce due to the physical infrastructure and barriers of a greenhouse to keep pests out, as well as the ability to control the environment. Greenhouses use a hydroponic system which relies on water, giving it a lower chance of contamination as opposed to soil.
With greenhouse farming increasing in popularity throughout the American agricultural industry, it begs the question whether Australia will follow in suit.