Global visionary thinkers are mixing and matching technology both old and new to boost agricultural production sustainably in the years ahead: Drones that stream reams of crop data from farm fields. Mini aquaponics systems that can supply all of a restaurant’s fish and produce needs. Pastoral farms where cattle graze contentedly amidst a landscape of trees and shrubs.

The latest series of interviews from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) FutureFood 2050 publishing initiative explores the expanding array of agricultural innovations that will help feed the world’s projected 9 billion-plus people in 2050. Imaginative researchers and policy makers are looking far beyond the traditional bounds of agriculture to accelerate food production by using technology to improve—rather than replace—natural processes.

“We have a massive opportunity,” says Charlie Price, a UK-based proponent of small-scale ecosystems using aquaponics—the marriage of hydroponics and aquaculture. “We are potentially taking a natural system [fish and plants sharing a habitat] that’s evolved over millions of years and we are just copying it, rather than exploiting it. While it can be seen as complex, it is incredibly simple.”

FutureFood 2050 agricultural pioneers this month include:

  • Parviz Koohafkan: founder of the United Nations’ Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) initiative to preserve ancient farming methods that can play a crucial new role in food security for developing nations
  • Enrique Murgueitio: director of Colombia’s Center for Research in Sustainable Systems of Agriculture (CIPAV), which teaches farmers how to boost production by grazing cattle on wooded land using silvo-pastoral techniques
  • Charlie Price: UK biologist and aquaponics advocate who sees big potential for small-scale, renewable ecosystems
  • Scott Shearer: Ohio State University agricultural engineering professor helping to blaze new trails for precision agriculture technologies such as drones

FutureFood 2050 is a multi-year program highlighting the people and stories leading the efforts in finding solutions to a healthier, safer and better nourished planet to feed 9 billion-plus people by 2050. Through 2015, the program will release 75 interviews with the world’s most impactful leaders in food and science. The interviews with agriculture innovators are the eighth installment of FutureFood’s interview series, following sustainability, women in food science, food waste, food security and nutrition in Africa, aquaculture, futurists on food, and innovative agriculture Part 1.

FutureFood 2050 will also debut a documentary film exploring how the science of food will contribute solutions to feeding the world.

For more information, please visit FutureFood2050.com to subscribe to monthly updates, learn more about the project and read the latest news on food science.