Each year researchers at IBM list their five in five – ways in which technology will change the world in the next five years. This year, the overarching theme is on feeding the world by using technology to reduce hunger and waste, and it’s no surprise to us.

Within the next five years, the world’s population is predicted to hit the 8 billion mark, with one billion of them not having access to adequate food supplies. Does technology hold the key to solving this? IBM seem to think so. This technology could also see itself moving into the business and events industry, with a number of innovations lending themselves perfectly to the planning stages of conferences and events.

Here are five technological solutions being proposed, which will be discussed at IBM Think conference in San Francisco this week:


Digital twins will allow the world’s agricultural resources to be readily available in the next five years. Building digital twins enables us to learn from simulations by using highly accurate sensors and data-gathering technology to create increasingly detailed and close-to-reality simulations. This means the ecological impact of farming can be monitored and minimized, by allowing us to achieve a better understanding of the interactions between agriculture and the natural environment. Leading supermarkets will also be involved in this process and will be able to gather and share data with each other through their own digital twin simulations.


Within five years, we’ll eliminate many of the costly unknowns in the food supply chain thanks to Blockchain. With real-time analytics enabling a deeper understanding of how food moves through the food chain, and where wastage occurs, growers will be able to make more informed decisions around what quantities should be planted. With this data, artificial intelligence systems can be developed to manage the distribution of food resources to wherever it is needed.


In the next five years, food safety inspectors around the world will gain a new superpower. Microbiomes allow businesses to have the ability to understand how millions of microbes coexist in the food supply chain. Microbes including bacteria can enter the food chain at any point – in farms, factories, and grocery stores – increasing the quantity of food while also posing a health risk.
Understanding how they travel and interact with the food chain will lead to further reductions in food waste and lessen the human cost of illness due to contamination.


Within five years, the world’s farmers, food processors, grocers and home cooks will be able to detect dangerous contaminants effortlessly in their food thanks to AI. This will be made possible by AI enabled sensors in the home or through mobile devices which can detect dangerous bacteria such as e.coli or salmonella. Already in development by IBM scientists, mobile bacteria sensors aim to reduce the time taken for testing for the presence of dangerous pathogens from days to seconds. These developments aim to reduce the human cost – particularly in areas of the developing world where poor access to antibiotics and medical care mean outbreaks can be disastrous.


IBM think that the disposal of rubbish and the creation of new plastics will be revolutionised in the next five years thanks to technology. Along with increasing public awareness about the pollution being caused by our reliance on disposable plastic, advances in this field will cut the damage to the atmosphere as well as reduce the environmental cost of the production of plastics. This will include new methods of catalytic polymer digestion such as VolCat, which involve developing chemical processes to more effectively break down plastic refuse into a state where it can be fed back into the manufacturing process. This will mean a decrease in the fossil fuels used to create new plastic, as well as reduced carbon emissions from the chemical processes.