Ten innovations that could transform the future of food and farming

A new Discussion Starter from Clim-Eat showcases ten innovations that could play a role in transforming food systems to make them more sustainable, inclusive and climate-smart.

These include six technical advances, such as green ammonia fertiliser made without using fossil fuels; use of hydrogen-oxidising bacteria to produce protein; and the development of nutritious, edible food packaging with the help of nanotechnology. They also include a further four innovations that act as accelerators, supporting the uptake of technical advances. These focus on new models for public agricultural research-for-development that could benefit from so-called swarm intelligence, and the use of behavioural science to encourage political and personal action

The Discussion Starter, “Tweaks and Disruptions: Reconfiguring food systems through innovation,” is the latest in Clim-Eat’s series of briefing papers on the future of food systems. It comes at a time when the current global food system threatens humanity’s ability to operate in a safe planetary space and leaves 2.3 billion people food insecure. The Discussion Starter provides an overview of how each innovation works, including important details such as their state of readiness, feasibility, and likely impacts on human health and the environment. All the innovations in the Discussion Starter are considered of particular relevance to small and middle-income countries.

“As many tire of what feel like very laboured international processes for tackling climate change and transforming food systems, these innovations – just a few of many possible examples – should provide some reassurance that there are some truly gifted minds doing groundbreaking work,” said Phil Thornton, Clim-Eat’s Research and Innovation Strategist, and author of the Discussion Starter.

“We all know that there will be no magic bullet when it comes to transforming food systems,” he continued. “Instead we will see the emergence of multiple innovations on multiple fronts and in multiple contexts. This Discussion Starter gives a glimpse of what’s already emerging and provides a welcome ray of hope that we can rise to the challenge.”

“At the same time there’s no getting away from the urgent need to massively reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from food systems as quickly as possible,” he cautioned. “Innovations have a huge role to play in this, but while they’re under development we don’t have time to lose. Collectively, simple lifestyle choices can make a big difference – for example, by shifting to healthier diets, reducing food waste, and reducing our energy consumption, where we can.”


Read the other Clim-Eat Discussion Starters:

The price tag for transforming food systems under climate change

The future of urban agriculture: Is it time to re-write the rules of agriculture?

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