If you asked people to nominate ten industries operating world-wide in which innovation is currently playing a prominent part, few would mention the wheat industry among their top ten nominees. If you’re not personally involved in the wheat industry, and particularly if you have no other connection with other areas of agriculture, you’re probably largely unaware of how innovation is influencing wheat.
As a significant part of the human diet for between 8,000 and 10,000 years, wheat has been with us almost since the very beginnings of civilisation. And it remains a staple food in many parts of the world today. In 2014, a year in which the human population numbered (on average throughout that year) approximately 7.2 billion, more than 729 million metric tonnes of wheat were produced worldwide. Effectively, that’s the equivalent of over 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of wheat produced per person and it makes wheat the most abundantly-grown crop of them all.
For many people, wheat is just … well, wheat. A mundane grain which we are aware exists, perhaps mostly because flour, which is one of the end-products of wheat, might be sitting in a packet on a shelf in the kitchen (especially if you’re from a European background). And we are likely aware of it, while giving little thought to it, as going into breads, pastas, or noodles that we might buy and eat weekly, even daily. For most of us, it’s the end products of the wheat grain that we see, not necessarily the wheat plant or wheat grain itself. The wheat itself remains largely hidden. It’s the end products that we see on an almost daily basis. And which end-products we see, of the very many that exist, depends very much on the food preferences in our diet, the cultural influences on our eating habits. These can vary significantly between cultures and between countries.
Despite the apparent mundaneness of the end-products of wheat (but don’t be deceived), it would be totally inaccurate to think that innovation is not taking place, or is hardly taking place, in the wheat industry. Innovation in the wheat industry doesn’t just exist. It thrives. And from this week, we will begin to show you some of the innovation that lies hidden in an industry that you probably thought was among the most static, the least changing, of industries.
Welcome to a world of innovation within a world of wheat. And welcome to the first of our Industry Illuminations.