New technology will make Norway’s food production more efficient

Published November 01, 2018

There is no way around it: food production must become sustainable. Norway is striving to do its share with the help of ground-breaking technology and more efficient use of resources.

According to a new UN report, in 2017, one in nine people in the world went to bed hungry, while one in three suffered from malnutrition. Meanwhile, the earth’s resources are limited and under increasing pressure. It is abundantly clear that the world needs efficient and sustainable food production systems. This calls for new technology, more efficient resource use, and responsible and sustainable value chains.

Norway is making strides in creating sustainable food production systems. The Government has launched the Food Nation Norway initiative (see below). Companies, meanwhile, are doing their part by developing innovative solutions ranging from freshness indicators for food packaging to agricultural robots.

Here are some of the most exciting food production solutions from Norway right now.

7Sense irrigation sensors for agriculture

Techno farmers are leading the way

Food producers have an important role to play in achieving the targets set out in the Paris Agreement. For Norwegian producers, innovation and new technology will be critical to reducing emissions. The country already has one of the world’s most modern and high-tech food production sectors – with widespread, fast-paced digitalisation.

Land-based food production in Norway has nearly doubled since 1960. Labour input, meanwhile, is 35 per cent lower than in 2000. This is due in good part to use of advanced technology. Norwegian dairy farmers, for example, lead the field in using milking robots. Technology can help farmers to improve animal welfare and produce more food in an environmentally sound manner, while saving time and money. Moreover, the technological transformation is attracting more young people to agriculture.

In Norway, a handful of innovative start-ups are helping to modernise traditional agriculture. These include N2 Applied, whose on-farm system lets farmers produce fertiliser using locally sourced manure and renewable energy. Soil Steam International, meanwhile, has developed a machine that uses steam to clear soil of fungi, weeds, seeds and nematodes, without the use of pesticides. Nofence has created the world’s first virtual fencing system for grazing animals. Saga Robotics has developed Thorvald – an autonomous agricultural robot that can carry out a variety of tasks in the field. Lastly, 7Sense has developed irrigation sensors for reducing water loss. Innovation is driven both by political initiatives and by the industry itself.

Saga Robotics autonomous agricultural robots

Marine technology for exploiting raw materials

Norway is known throughout the world for responsible and sustainable management of marine resources. The country’s extensive expertise in this area is increasingly sought-after internationally and thus has potential for value creation in its own right. Companies, organisations, the public administration and the research community collaborate closely to develop innovative, sustainable solutions for use of marine resources.

Nevertheless, more knowledge is needed to increase processing and achieve full utilisation of raw materials from the seafood industry. Today, approximately 80 per cent of the fish exported by the Norwegian aquaculture industry is unprocessed. The residual raw materials from the industry should also be exploited – both for the sake of the environment and to boost value creation.

Resource use efficiency is about finding new ways to exploit resources fully. Rather than throwing out nutrients, input factors, minerals and metals, they should be reused and recycled. Companies and researchers have been exercising their creativity in this area. The company Marealis has used shrimp shells to produce the active ingredient Marealis RSPC, which controls blood pressure. Norilia, meanwhile, has drawn on expertise from the fish processing industry to produce a high-quality protein from residual raw materials from poultry.

Glitne land-based fish farms for halibut

Responsible consumers influence the food industry

There is tremendous public engagement in achieving more sustainable food production. This will require improved food transparency and traceability, and one of the tools to help attain this is blockchain technology. The food industry can use blockchain technology to document the entire value chain, describing the journey of a food from when it is taken out of the soil or the sea until it ends up on a plate on the consumer’s table. These stories will be important for building Food Nation Norway.

Reducing food waste is also vital to creating a sustainable food industry. Norwegian companies are doing their share in this area as well. KeepIt Technologies has designed an indicator for food packaging that monitors temperature and shows the actual remaining shelf life. Start-ups TotalCtrl and Foodlist, meanwhile, have taken different approaches to solving the food waste problem, creating apps giving retailers and restaurants better control of their inventories. All of these technologies can also help to increase revenues and improve food safety.

TotalCtrl digital innovations to reduce food waste

Food Nation Norway

Food Nation Norway is a broad political framework for business development and value creation based on safe and healthy Norwegian food. The Government is challenging the food industry, organisations and individuals to commit themselves to an action plan that also focuses on good plant health, good animal and fish welfare, and documentable quality in all segments of the food chain. The vision of the Food Nation Norway initiative is to achieve by 2030 sustainable production and use of food, exceptional food and drink experiences, and reduction of food waste in accordance with national and international commitments, among other aims.

Kraftkar winner World Cheese Awards San Sebastian 2016

Photos, from top: Nofence virtual fencing system; 7Sense irrigation sensors; Saga Robotics autonomous agricultural robots; Glitne land-based fish farm for halibut/Arve Ullebø; TotalCtrl app to reduce food waste; Kraftkar award-winning cheese, Per Kvalvik/Hanen.