The food challenge

An interesting interview here with Brussels-based agriculture expert, Patrick Worms.

“Ensuring food security for the 10 or 11 billion people that will soon live on a planet buffeted by climate change,” he says, “is a challenge which no single technological breakthrough will be able to meet on its own. We’re going to need everything.”

For Patrick that runs from GMOs/biotechnology to tractors, fertilisers, irrigation, agro-forestry, agro-ecology and beyond.

Permabusiness readers will be interested, firstly, in another perspective on the coming food challenges. These will likely affect you, your customers, your employees and suppliers. When food is in short supply, prices go up. This means less money to pay for other services, and potential social unrest, both of which are relevant whatever business you are in.

It also means that business opportunities will emerge to fill the gaps. “The best return on investment you can get right now ,” Worms says, “are [the] unexploited species.” 

Making step-change improvements to existing ‘western’ approaches is relatively difficult. Maize, wheat, rice have already been engineered by farmers for thousands of years. So the opportunity lies in wild species that have not yet been domesticated, like the baobab, the ‘safou’ (a small, electric-blue mango), and others. Here it is much easier to pick the best variety, and multiply that simply by taking and growing cuttings. The effects on net yields can be dramatic.

And in the bigger picture, this business opportunity is also an opportunity to make the system more stable. Trees, for example, “are a cheap technology… that does not depend on fossil fuel inputs. Trees enhance soil quality and take carbon dioxide out of the air. They protect crops from extreme weather and from pests. Their leaves are fodder, their wood is timber and energy, and their fruits are nutrition.” Done correctly, this means that for businesses entering this area there is potential for stable, secure, diverse revenue streams.

As so often, the crisis contains the opportunity.

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