Roythornes Banner Image

Food and Drink

Jack Bobo

Jack Bobo is the Director of Global Food and Water Policy at The Nature Conservancy, one of the world’s largest conservation organisations. Jack joined TNC in January 2022, and leads a team of agriculture and fisheries policy experts working to create a more sustainable future. This includes:

  • promoting a just and sustainable future for agriculture and fisheries that works for people and the planet
  • advocating for fisheries policy change in countries around the world to reduce illegal fishing
  • promoting adoption of regenerative agricultural practices through multilateral environmental agreements to enhance resilience of people and nature
  • increasing awareness of the current threats to freshwater biodiversity and advancing policies that can mitigate those risks.

Prior to joining TNC, Jack was the CEO of Futurity, a food foresight company helping food tech startups, big food brands, and governments understand the future of food as well as consumer trends and behaviours.

One business success

  • How people communicate matters. The words we use can divide us or bring people together. Five years ago, the nascent field of cultivated meat (sometimes referred to derisively as lab grown meat) was widely referred to as  clean meat. Producing meat from animal cells was viewed as a way of reducing the need for livestock production and, potentially, reducing the associated environmental footprint. The term clean meat implied that traditional meat was dirty or unethical. In 2017, Jack began working with the companies developing these products. Over a span of 10 months the companies in the space came to the conclusion that the term clean meat was denigrating some members of the food system and creating unnecessary tension. As a result, the companies agreed to drop the term clean meat in 2018.

Two challenges for the sector

  • For ten thousand years farmers were asked to do one thing. Produce more food. Now, we are living at that one unique moment in all human history when farmers are being asked not just to produce more food, but better food. Food that is better for people and the planet. Today agriculture is the single biggest driver of biodiversity loss around the world with 80 percent of deforestation attributable to expanding agricultural land.
  • As if the challenge of feeding nearly 8 billion people wasn’t enough, global population is projected to grow to 9.5 or 10 billion by 2050. With rising incomes that means that food production will need to increase by 50 percent or more. The growing population, coupled with increasing impacts of climate change, are going to make it exponentially more difficult to feed the planet in a way that doesn’t destroy the natural environment.

Three forecasts for the sector

  • The world is faced with rising food insecurity today triggered by climate disasters and war. Geopolitical and climate risk will be part of every C-suite conversation of companies in the food and agriculture sectors. Governments can and will respond to these challenges by diversifying their supply chains. Companies should anticipate these actions and position themselves early to source food and ingredients from a broader range of export markets. The risk of not doing so has been felt across the middle east and around the world over the last year in the wheat market for those who focused only on commodity price.
  • Demand for sustainable and regenerative food production will grow over the next decade driven by consumer demand, shareholder advocacy and government policy. Companies that get ahead of the trend will benefit in terms of market share, but will also benefit from a more resilient supply chain that can better withstand the inevitable climate shocks that are to come.
  • Food is medicine. Today 75 percent of Americans are overweight and 42 percent of those people are obese. Obesity rates have skyrocketed in nearly every country around the world. The cost to healthcare systems and quality of life are staggering today and yet they will be dramatically worse in a decade if something isn’t done. The recent White House Conference on Nutrition highlighted this challenge and the need to mobilize society in the United States to fight back. Other countries will be following the U.S. lead. Expect major policy changes from governments to find ways to reverse the tide of obesity.

October 2022