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7 Food And Agriculture Innovations Needed To Protect The Climate And Feed A Rapidly Growing World

By PTI December 04, 2023

More than 130 countries signed a declaration on Dec 1, committing to make their food systems—from production to consumption—a focal point in national strategies to address climate change

7 Food And Agriculture Innovations Needed To Protect The Climate And Feed A Rapidly Growing World
The Innovation Commission for Climate Change, Food Security, and Agriculture, founded by Nobel-winning economist Michael Kremer, has identified seven priority areas for innovation in a recent report. Shutterstock
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In a historic move, food and agriculture took centre stage at the annual United Nations climate conference in 2023, with over 130 countries signing a declaration on December 1.

This commitment signifies a collective effort to prioritise food systems—from production to consumption—as a key element in national strategies to address climate change.

The declaration draws attention to the increasing challenges faced by the global food supply due to disruptions from extreme weather events, coupled with its significant contribution to climate change, which accounts for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. To navigate this tension, agricultural innovation is gaining prominence in international climate discussions.

The Innovation Commission for Climate Change, Food Security, and Agriculture, founded by Nobel-winning economist Michael Kremer, has identified seven priority areas for innovation in a recent report. Three standout innovations are highlighted for their potential to scale up rapidly and deliver economic benefits:

Accurate, accessible weather forecasts:

Due to the escalating vulnerability of crops to extreme weather, accurate weather forecasts are crucial for farmers. However, access to such forecasts is limited in many low- and middle-income countries.

Investments in technology to collect and disseminate forecast data widely, using platforms like radio, text messages, or WhatsApp, can yield significant economic benefits for economies.

Microbial fertilisers:

Expanding the use of microbial fertilisers, which use bacteria to enhance nutrient absorption in plants and soil, can reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizers—a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Studies show that microbial fertilisers could increase yields by 10 percent to 30 percent in healthy soil, generating billions of dollars in benefits.

Reducing Methane from Livestock:

Livestock contribute two-thirds of agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions. Innovative methods, such as adding algae, seaweed, lipids, tannins, or synthetic compounds to cattle feed, can reduce methane emissions by up to 100 percent.

Scaling up these methods could lead to benefits for farmers in terms of improved growth and milk production.

The Innovation Commission also identifies four additional priorities for innovation:

Implementing better rainwater harvesting.

Lowering the cost of digital agriculture for efficient resource use.

encouraging the production of alternative proteins to reduce demand for livestock.

Providing insurance and social protections to help farmers recover from extreme weather events.

While promising, these innovations face challenges in terms of commercial incentives for development and scalability. Public and philanthropic investments, consistent with national strategies and in collaboration with governments, the private sector, and civil society, could play a crucial role in realising these innovations at a scale that benefits millions globally.

Similar to the successful model of Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, which addressed the global distribution of vaccines, COP28 officials aim for a unified global response to climate change, food security, and agriculture.

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