Feeding the World: Agriculture and the Health of the Planet

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Speakers: Alloysius Attah, Co-Founder and CEO, Farmerline Group; Werner Baumann, Chairman of the Board of Management, Bayer AG, Founding Partner; David MacLennan, Board Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Cargill; Sara Menker, CEO and Founder, Gro Intelligence

By 2050, we’ll need to feed two billion more people globally. How can we do that without overwhelming the planet? Speakers at the ongoing Bloomberg New Economy Forum explored potential solutions to this global challenge.

Agriculture is among the greatest contributors to global warming. Farming drains natural water reserves and runoff from fertilizers and manure disrupts water ecosystems. Agriculture also accelerates the loss of biodiversity. The environmental challenges posed by agriculture are huge, and they’ll only become more pressing as we try to meet the growing need for food worldwide.

At the same time, agriculture is facing unprecedented challenges:

In places like Africa, smallholder farmers struggle to access information, fertilizers and seeds.
Further, climate change is exacerbating challenges resulting in low yields, increased attacks by pests and diseases, weather extremes and unpredictable weather patterns affecting planting and harvest seasons.
Access to capital both at the farm level and the entire agriculture ecosystem is still lacking including in models that fit the uniqueness of the sector.

To meet the global challenge of feeding the world while ensuring sustainability, key areas must be considered:

Agriculture has become more sustainable; now more than ever, agriculture must play its part in reducing greenhouse emission
As we reduce the footprint from agriculture, we at the same time need to increase yields to meet the needs of a growing population. This includes reducing waste across the entire food chain.
We need to build better resilience in agriculture to ensure consistent yield even as climate patterns become more erratic.
Emerging economies need to invest in infrastructure like roads, storage facilities and market mechanisms that would see reduction in post-harvest loss and quality and quantity of food.
We need to ensure access to capital and models that serve the unique needs of agriculture ecosystems and the players therein.
Embracing digital tools can help increase to access to capital, information for farmer education and training and data needed by farmers at a scale.

Meeting the rising demand for nutritious, affordable food requires innovative, productive and sustainable food and agriculture systems. Multi-faceted, collaborative solutions involving consumers, producers, agribusinesses, transporters, processors, retailers and policymakers can transform our food and agriculture systems to achieve a healthy population and a healthy planet

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