Food production has always been impacted by unpredictable external factors. Weather events like droughts, floods, early freezes, hail, and heavy rain; pests and blights; shifts in demand due to population changes and economic volatility have had often devastating effects on food systems. Technology has significantly reduced uncertainty; we have weather forecasting, techniques to boost crop resilience, and tools to accurately predict supply and demand. The system has become more interwoven and therefore the impact of external pressures, like droughts, have been amplified. As a result, the continued rise in commodity volatility pressures on the food system in recent decades remain, and in some ways have become more challenging.
Among the greatest pressure is resource scarcity; water, nutrients, soil, and farmland are all required by our agricultural system, but are in many cases becoming increasingly degraded or limited. Intensification and specialization have made our food systems and farms more efficient but less resilient, and more prone to shock. Hence, the impact of external factors is amplified. Torrential downpours that lead to nutrient run off on degraded soil are an example. The food system is also strained by climate change, which is shifting weather patterns, increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, and in many cases exacerbating resource scarcity. Meanwhile, global population growth will require our food system to feed more people than ever before.
These challenging conditions illustrate the value in thoughtfully designing effective, regenerative systems that eliminate the concept of waste and are resilient to external shocks. Because ultimately, the question isn’t whether these pressures will persist—it’s how effectively our systems can respond through resilient design.