IBM Research predicts five innovations that will change our lives within five years.

What if, within five years, the food supply chain was simpler, safer, and less wasteful?

IBM researchers are working to transform the food supply chain as we know it

Within the next five years, the Earth’s population will cross the eight billion mark for the first time. Our complex food supply chain—already stressed by climate change and a finite water supply—will only be tested further. To meet the demands of this crowded future, IBM researchers are exploring new technologies and devices, scientific breakthroughs, and entirely new ways of thinking about food safety and security.


Predictions

#twinning: Farming's digital doubles will help feed a growing population using less resources.

Imagine a planet where instant access to critical data on the world’s farmland could be provided to anyone that needs it. In the next five years, this will become reality when a digital twin of the world’s agricultural resources is readily available.

Spoiler alert: Blockchain will prevent more food from going to waste.

Within five years, we’ll eliminate many of the costly unknowns in the food supply chain. From farmers to grocery suppliers, each participant in the food ecosystem will know exactly how much to plant, order, and ship. ood loss will diminish greatly and the produce that ends up in our carts will be fresher—when blockchain technology, IoT devices, and AI algorithms join forces.

Mapping the microbiome will protect us from bad bacteria.

Within five years, food safety inspectors around the world will gain a new superpower: the ability to understand how millions of microbes coexist within the food supply chain. These microbes—some healthy for human consumption, others not—are everywhere –in foods at farms, factories, and grocery stores. The ability to constantly and cheaply monitor the behaviors of microbes at every stage of the supply chain represents a huge leap in food safety.

Dinner plate detectives: AI sensors will detect foodborne pathogens at home.

Within five years, the world’s farmers, food processors, and grocers—along with its billions of home cooks—will be able to detect dangerous contaminants effortlessly in their food. All they’ll need is a cell phone or a countertop with AI sensors.

A radical new recycling process will breathe new life into old plastic.

In five years, the disposal of trash and the creation of new plastics will be completely transformed. Everything from milk cartons and cookie containers to grocery bags and clothing will be recyclable, and polyester manufacturing companies will be able to take in refuse and turn it into something useful again.