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Imagine a world where algorithms are used to optimize growing conditions on every fertile square meter of land. Where whole ecosystems are re-engineered. Where drones and surveillance systems manage the farm. Where farmers are forced off the land into e-commerce villages.
Imagine a world where food is treated like a strategic asset and food transit routes are militarized. Where powerful governments and their flag-bearer corporations control resources and food supplies across vast economic corridors.
Imagine a world where many foods are grown in petri dishes, vats, and bioreactors. Where people's eating habits are invisibly nudged using reams of metadata they have unknowingly surrendered via digital wallets. Where AI assistant apps decide on people's food intake based on genetic information, family history, mood, and data readings from inside their waste bins and digestive systems.
This may sound like science fiction. But the "4th industrial revolution" is already sweeping through food systems. For proof, we need look no further than the changing complexion of the agri-food sector, where mergers and market disruptions are occurring at a dizzying pace.
E-commerce platforms like Amazon and China's JD.com are now among the top ten retailers globally. With agribusiness increasingly reliant on cloud, AI and data processing services, big tech firms like Amazon, Alibaba, Microsoft, Google, and Baidu are moving into food production. Meanwhile, Blackrock and 4 other asset management companies own 10 – 30% of the shares of the top agri-food firms.