Want to know how you’ll be eating in 2050?
New platform highlights the game-changing innovations shaping the future of food
(New York City, Sept. 21, 2023) — Crop fertilizer produced in a plasma reactor, beef from low-methane cattle, and electricity generated from manure are among 30 “best-bet” food-related innovations showcased on the Food Systems Tech online platform – launched today – as part of a collaboration between the Dutch “think-and-do tank” Clim-Eat, and the Bezos Earth Fund.
The platform aims to help reduce the environmental impact of the food system – a catchall term for the ways in which food is produced, processed, distributed and consumed globally. Currently, the food system is responsible for around one-third of all human caused greenhouse gas emissions.
“Innovation is critical to the future of food,” said Andy Jarvis, director of the Bezos Earth Fund’s Future of Food program. “The challenge of transforming our food systems to feed 10 billion people within planetary boundaries is, quite frankly, immense. In order to respond to it, tapping into humanity’s innovation capacity is essential.”
“The innovations on the Food Systems Tech dashboard are the ‘best-bets’ that should whet the appetites of disruptors, entrepreneurs and investors from the public and private sectors everywhere,” he continued. “Some of the innovations are already of interest to the Bezos Earth Fund.”
Until now, there has been no easy, centralized way to check in on the most promising food systems innovations under development. Researched by a panel of climate change, agriculture and food specialists and vetted by scientists and industry leaders, the Food Systems Tech dashboard provides objective, expert assessments of the relevance, readiness and potential of each innovation. It focuses on the transformative technologies and approaches that might come into the mainstream in the next 20-30 years, with new innovations being added over the coming months and years.
It organizes the innovations into three key domains:
Next-generation crops: Climate change is likely to have a severe impact on crop yields and food security. Innovations in this domain include supercharging food crops to produce higher yields more sustainably via enhanced photosynthetic efficiency; developing shade-tolerance for heat-sensitive crops so that they can be grown out of the glare of the sun without a yield penalty; and expanding the capacity for nitrogen fixation – the capture of atmospheric nitrogen by some plants – to vital cereal crops like wheat, maize and rice. Work is also underway to improve nutrient-use efficiency of important food crops by developing advanced root systems, and to improve their carbon sequestration potential.
The future of plant nutrition: Food crops need nutrients to thrive. But currently, agriculture largely depends on delivering these via inorganic or “synthetic” fertilizers produced using fossil fuels. Innovations in this domain focus tapping into “green” nutrient sources. These include the recovery of phosphorus – a vital plant nutrient – from wastewater, and fertilizer formulations that use microbes to support plant growth and protect against pests. Other approaches involve using a plasma reactor to synthesize ammonia – another key plant nutrient.
Sustainable livestock: Livestock are critical to the livelihoods and nutrition of millions of people. But meat and milk production generates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and grazing land for animals is encroaching on forests and other wild spaces. Innovations include efforts to reduce methane production by animals by using specialized vaccines and feed additives, and re-engineer of the gut microbiomes of cattle. In addition, the development of high-protein livestock feed from insects and microalgae offer a more efficient, and sustainable way of ensuring the animals have a healthy diet. There is even work underway to convert manure to electricity using microbial electrolysis.
Dhanush Dinesh, Chief Climate Catalyst at Clim-Eat, said: “Food occupies a unique place in the climate and nature crisis: it contributes to the problem, it’s clearly affected by climate change too, but it’s also a critical source of solutions. The Food Systems Tech website showcases what some of the solutions might be, demystifies the various ways in which the scientific community is rising to the challenge, and allows users to think about where the bottlenecks might be, and where additional funding or policy support might be needed.
“This makes it an essential tool for the global community to navigate the innovation landscape, take stock of where we are, where we’re going, and where they might be able to step in and play a part,” he said.
The Food Systems Tech Dashboard will be launched during the INNOV-EAT Expedition, at Columbia University, New York City, today. As well as showcasing new food systems innovations, the event will share best practices, research findings, and case studies that highlight the positive impact these innovations can have on the environment, society, and the economy.
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Bezos Earth Fund
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Bezos Earth Fund
The Bezos Earth Fund is transforming the fight against climate change with the largest ever philanthropic commitment to climate and nature protection. We’re investing $10 billion in this decisive decade to protect nature and drive systems-level change, creating a just transition to a low-carbon economy. By providing funding and expertise, we partner with organizations to accelerate innovation, break down barriers to success and create a more equitable and sustainable world. Join us in our mission to create a world where people prosper in harmony with nature.
Clim-Eat is a “think-and-do” tank that aims to accelerate a just, global transition to sustainable food systems. It acts as a bridge connecting scientists and decision makers to support evidence-based policymaking in the areas of climate change and food.