Introduction to Alternative Foods

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In 2016, about 815 million people, or 11% of the world population, were undernourished.

Although advanced food and agriculture technologies have eased hunger issues, warnings of food shortages have escalated recently for the following reasons.

First, the world population is projected to grow from today’s 7.6 billion people to 10 billion by 2050.

If that rate of growth continues, food production will not be able to keep up with consumption.

Second, rapid urbanisation has created an unprecedented expansion of the middle class who can afford high-quality fresh food.

To meet that demand, intensive farming has become more widespread with increasing amounts of chemical inputs like pesticides.

In this context, potential food sources must be identified to satisfy future demand sustainably.

With a shared understanding of the potential food shortage, many startups are jumping into the future food industry for commercialisation.

Food enterprises are turning their attention to alternative sources as a new growth engine with a blue ocean strategy.

According to a 2016 report by Boston-based Lux Research, the market size for alternative protein is estimated to expand by at least 14% annually up to 2024.

One possible future food source is insects. Globally, there are 1,700 edible insect species, and more than 2 billion people already consume insects.

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region like Thailand and PR China eat insects as part of the traditional diet.

The insect food market in North America, led by the USA, is also growing as consumer awareness and acceptance are gradually increasing.

Most insect food is richer in protein and lower in carbohydrates compared to meat.

Furthermore, raising insects requires fewer expenditures on transportation and facilities than conventional agricultural production, which lowers entry barriers for developing countries.

In addition to insects, clean food produced in an eco-friendly, sustainable manner includes “vegetarian meat.” Algae and seaweed are also being promoted as food sources.

In this course, you will learn about alternative food sources that are also known as future foods.

These food sources tend to be more environmentally sustainable and can be healthier than their counterparts.

Many of our currently patterns of production and consumption of food need to change if we are to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and promote sustainable development well into the future.

It is for this reason that many people – from NGOs to governments to the food sector – are searching for promising ways to make a major impact. 


Over the last 12 years, Dr. Afton Halloran has built up a robust background in the field of sustainable food systems. After all, in order to understand how a system works, you need to understand it from multiple points of view.

In mid-2017, she was awarded a PhD in International and Paediatric Nutrition with a specialization in Sustainable Food Systems.

Her thesis looked at the impact of cricket farming on rural livelihoods, nutrition, and the environment in Kenya and Thailand.

She completed MSc in Agricultural Development at the University of Copenhagen in 2012, specializing in urban agriculture as an urban land use in Tanzania and Copenhagen.

She holds her BSc (honours) in Global Resource Systems from the University of British Columbia.

Since 2012, she has been working on the topic of edible insects in sustainable food systems.

She is a co-author of the most downloaded publication in the history of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security.

She is also the lead editor of Edible insects in sustainable food systems. From 2015 to 2016, she worked as a researcher for the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems.

Dr. Halloran's latest work is at the Nordic Council of Ministers where she is an external consultant to a project called the Nordic Food Policy Lab.


Every effort has been made to ensure the relevance of the course and its factual correctness. However, the world of food & agriculture is vast and complex. Please take time to research your local context, restrictions and regulations before you apply any learning from Digital School of Food and Agriculture.