Over the next 25 years, agriculture will confront tremendous challenges.
In the context of economic globalization, a majority of the world’s food is imported from emerging markets making countries more and more interdependent. While this is excellent for creating mutually beneficial relationships, food security is a growing problem for many countries for a variety of reasons.
The challenge facing agriculture is how to exploit existing and future opportunities without further endangering our remaining environmental assets.
This is a call to action for innovating agriculture to overcome the following challenges:
1. Countries are not equally distributing the burden of food growth.
The top three food consumers per capita are Austria, United States, and Greece. The top three producers of food are China, Indonesia, and Thailand. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, Latin America produces 52% of corn, 77% of beans, and 61% of potatoes.
The greatest consumers of food-energy are over-consuming, under-producing, and relying on imports from emerging markets.
Additionally, infrastructure and technological solutions in parts of Indonesia, Thailand, and other emerging markets are extremely under-developed. Something as vital as getting crops to market can be difficult.
When we start to look at irrigation infrastructure and natural disaster prevention, global agriculture becomes even more fragile. This delicacy is one of many problems, Seedstars Bangkok winner, Fairagora works to solve by providing advisory services in compliance and sustainability for businesses and non-profits, with a focus on agriculture and food industries. Their work has helped to support efforts of The Southeast Asian Shrimp Aquaculture Improvement Protocol or SEASAIP.
US-Based AquaSpy is another startup with impressive passion to increase food production. They have innovated efficient growing by offering realtime monitoring of soil moisture, nutrients, and root depth.
These are great steps toward stabilizing the sustainability of our global food network. Startups around to globe are working to help farmers manage their resources.
2. Farmers are aging, and the young are moving to the city
Population increases and longer life spans suggest food requirements of developing economies may have to double in planted crops by 2050.
Youth make up roughly one-fifth of the population in emerging economies, yet they are leaving their rural homes and choosing life in the city. They do not want to be farmers like their parents and grandparents.
Despite the fact that 60% of Africa’s population is under 24 years of age, the average age of farmers is 60 years old, slowly dying out.
Forty years ago, 67% of Thailand's workforce worked in agriculture. Now, they constitute only 37% of the labor force despite a 14% increase in unemployment.
This means farmers now have bigger plots of land to tend and more difficulty keeping up. As food scarcity becomes a bigger issue, governments will invest in solving the problem—not just with farmers, but food scientists and entrepreneurs.
3. We waste one-third of ALL food
Industrialized economies waste more than $680 billion, and developing economies waste more than $310 billion.
In emerging economies, 40% of those losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels. Tech entrepreneurs, such as Mimosatek, are already working to minimize this loss by carefully monitoring growing conditions and alerting farmers of unfavorable conditions.
Unfortunately, in industrialized countries, more than 40% of losses happens at retail and consumer levels due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance, such as throwing away spotted bananas.
We live in an age where 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That's about one in nine people on earth.
If we could save the wasted food, it would be enough to feed about 3.5 billion people.
This wasted food doesn't just represent underfed people; we also waste labor, water, energy, and land. The United Nations made food security and sustainable agriculture their number 2 priority objective, second only to targeting poverty. Their comment that “it is time to rethink how we grow, share and consume our food,” should serve as a cry for innovators and entrepreneurs all over the world to step up to their calling.
“If done right, agriculture, forestry and fisheries can provide nutritious food for all and generate decent incomes, while supporting people-centred rural development and protecting the environment.” But this is no easy task.
This year, we have the privilege of hosting one of the most important conversations in the world. Our workshop These Seeds Can Speak brings together AgTech entrepreneurs and one of the world's food/ag tech giants to cover how IoT and Data Analytics paired to bio science are disrupting the food industry.
To join in on this conversation, come to the Seedstars Summit on April 6th in Lausanne, Switzerland. You can request your ticket to this invitation-only event here.
If you have a start up aimed at solving one of these problems, we want to hear from you! Let Seedstars help you grow your idea and grow healthy communities everywhere.