Recently, I had the opportunity to participate on a panel at
the recent kick-off of National Geographic’s eight-month series, “The Future of
Food: How to feed our growing planet.” It was exciting to be around some key
thought leaders on issues in food and agriculture. As we at The
This video gives you a quick overview of the series:
The overall event was keynoted by Jon Foley from the University of Minnesota, who wrote the cover article in last month’s edition of National Geographic magazine to kick off the series. In his article and talk, Foley describes a “five-step plan to feed the world.”
Foley’s Five Steps:
- Freeze agriculture’s footprint.
- Grow more on farms we’ve got.
- Use resources more efficiently.
- Shift diets.
- Reduce waste.
Foley’s five steps really resonate for me when I think about the work we are engaging in on sustainable agriculture. For example, in the northern corn-growing provinces of China, the local government has a goal to increase corn production by 10% by 2020. The first instinct locally is to plant more hectares of corn. However, through our sustainable agriculture project with Cargill, WWF and local corn farmers, we are proving that this goal can be met on existing farmland. This means conserving land in an ecologically sensitive region of China. The project we are undertaking is small in the grand scheme of corn production in China, let alone corn production globally. However, through 60 demonstration farms and train-the-trainer sessions, we plan to reach 25,000 farmers through this three-year effort. This is one small demonstration of how we can “freeze agriculture’s footprint” and “grow more on the farms we’ve got.”
“Using resources more efficiently” is something that’s top of mind for every corporation, business and farm. This is a resounding sentiment we hear on visits across our agricultural supply chain. Fifth generation farmers take care of the land so that their family will still be farming it in another five generations. However, there is not always a connection between local impacts and regional and global impacts. There might be opportunities to scale approaches to the regional level rather than only optimizing at the farm level. And, we need to make sure there are feedback mechanisms so farmers understand the impact they may be having beyond their farm.
“Reducing waste” will be critical to feeding nine billion
people. We can clearly feed more people by wasting less. Globally, about
one-third of the food produced is wasted. In developing countries, this is between
the field and processor. In more developed economies, more waste is between the
processor and consumer. I call this the “fifth banana” effect. When grocery
shopping, I always buy a bunch of five bananas. But invariably, one of them
goes to waste before it is eaten. Ever have that same problem? Push yourself
the next time you walk through the supermarket. Being shoppers that plan ahead, we
can waste less food.