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 How Technology In Agribusiness Affects Climate Change, A Concrete Solution. 

Date of Publish - Tuesday, 12th February 2019
igniting_minds

UN and Future Food Institute launched a new tool to face the 10 Years Challenge of the future.

We eat what we pollute and we pollute by eating. That’s what I said during my TEDx and as Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gives humanity 12 years to keep the global temperature under 1.5 degrees Celsius, unless unprecedented effects, we need to stop this feeding this negative connection and we all need to improve awareness on our contribution to this phenomenon.

Indeed, we all know that climate change affects agriculture, destroying the land, increasing the number and dangerousness of pathogens and of microorganisms which find a perfect environment caused by global warming, decreasing the nutritional properties of products, just to mention few. Climate change already has a negative impact on agricultural productivity, threatening food security for a growing global population which is expecting to reach 9 billion people by 2050.

At the same time, not everyone knows that agriculture is not only a victim of climate change but it also is one of its main contributor. Climate change is at the end of our fork, says Barack Obama. Pesticides, food loss and waste, water management, and soil degradation are in fact a major driver of climate change. Changes in land cover that leave the soil less protected hasten the mineralization of soil organic carbon, a process that releases carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. It means that agriculture contributes to climate change through burning of crop residues in fields which also releases methane and nitrous oxide; because of production, transportation and crop production inputs; because of energy used in field operations, mainly for the mechanical tilling of soil, and because of pumping for irrigation; mineralization of soil organic carbon and associated loss of soil carbon.

Climate change is the end result of increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activity, which leads to an enhanced greenhouse effect. And in this process, agriculture plays an essential role as it produces one third of greenhouse gases emissions and the majority of this quantity comes from Developing Countries.

That’s why humans need to fix food systems, re-think agriculture in the light of an already existing technology and adopting a centered climate smart agriculture approach for both adapting to the effects of climate change and reducing GHG emissions to contribute to climate change mitigations.

Indeed, according to FAO, climate smart agriculture (CSA) is an approach to develop actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support sustainable development and ensure food security under climate change. It addresses the challenges of building synergies among the closely related factors of climate change adaptation, mitigation and productivity and income increase and minimizing their potential negative trade offs. This approach is aimed to achieve sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes; adapting and building resilience to climate change; reducing and or removing GHG emissions, where possible.

To shift from a mainstream agriculture to a climate smart agriculture approach, innovation is essential. Indeed innovation is a transversal tool to shape a new agricultural model which can easily identify the environmental factors altered by climate change and their impacts/effects on crop production as well as recognize and reduce the main impacts of climate change on soil and land resources, affecting not only sufficient yields to increase food security, but also soil degradation and loss of soil organic carbon.

So, in concrete, which are the concrete solutions we currently can count on? We are speaking about technologies that affect the entire food value chain, from farm to fork and behind. Precision agriculture, artificial intelligence, blockchain for food traceability, controlled environmental agriculture, internet of food, big data, personalized nutrition, future of proteins, scalable sustainability and circular systems, food care and the future of food services, agro innovation in smart cities (these last 4 topics are the themes of the Future Food Institute 4 books written after the food innovation global mission), innovation for clean and available water as well as water conservation and re-use, genomics and biodiversity and much more. In an iper-connected World, humans have the chance to change agriculture and its relation with climate change, both as victim, and as contributor and as possible solution in itself, thanks to the soil’s capacity to sequester carbon.

In this framework, one of the most important initiatives at a global level is the one taken by UNIDO ITPO Italy, the Italian Investment and Technology Promotion Office of the United Nations Organization for Industrial Development, which, together with Future Food Institute, the the global ecosystem based in Italy, in Silicon Valley and in Asia, launched last February 6th the third edition of the International Award "Innovative Ideas and Technologies in Agribusiness for Developing Countries”.

The international contest is aimed to select the best technologies and the most innovative and sustainable solutions worldwide applicable to agriculture and agro-industry sectors which could lead to social and economic improvement of Developing Countries and to achieving Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030. The participation to the contest is open to startups and companies, researchers and universities, research and technology transfer centers, associations and NGOs from all over the world. Applications must be submitted by March 31st, 2019 through the dedicated website: www.unido.it/award2019

The proposals will be evaluated by a jury composed by experts belonging to the agricultural, business and institutional context, representing, among others, FAO, Food and Agricultural Organization, FFI, the CNR – Italian National Research Council -, and Azimut. The awarded categories will be seven: including women, young people under 35 years, new entries focus on the nexus between food, climate change and biodiversity. Furthemore, a special mention will be confer to the project that is potentially more innovative for the future of agribusiness and for developing countries.

Why is it considered one of the most interesting initiative worldwide?

Because so far, the International Award has already recollected almost 500 applications from over 80 countries and 5 continents. In the previous two editions, it has been built a unique knowledge heritage which represents an amazing database and a global observatory on that technology which can actually have a positive impact on climate change.                
With this Award, UNIDO ITPO Italy and Future Food Institute are going to face the 10 Years Challenge of the future: the most urgent challenge for the Planet. Indeed, the International Award is facing challenges like: supporting rural poor that are the first victims of climate change, as Pope Francis quotes; decreasing the risk of hunger and poverty, especially in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia; contributing in decreasing the damage and loss caused by climate-related disasters in developing countries, which have been in agriculture.

Some possible solutions can be identified in clean and plant-based meat production; idro/aquaponics; ICT for farming and precision agriculture; new local superfoods production and biodiversity; new diets and a new awareness on human lifestyle impact on climate change; climate smart agriculture.

Who successfully applied in the previous editions? Let’s see some example.

Yarok: Israeli tech system to enable fresh food producers in developing countries to detect hazardous bacteria quickly, with results in 45 minutes.

Zazu Africa Marketplace: changing banking in Africa through a digital marketplace whose purpose is to connect farmers with bulk buyers across emerging markets using USSD and SMS technology.

 

Coffee Flour: the pulp of the coffee fruit, which is usually a waste product, becomes Coffee Flour, a nutrient-dense gluten-free flour. This enterprising company is converting Billions of pounds of coffee cherry pulp which often goes to waste into a flour that can be used as a nutritious alternative to grain-based flours.

 

BioCoPac Plus: A sustainable bio-based coating from tomato processing by-products for food metal packaging. An innovative technology for the production of a bio-lacquer obtained from the re-use of the tomato waste and to be used as coating for food contact applications in metal cans.

NASYS: the only Company in the world, in the sensor industry, able to develop and put on the market, NANOTECHNOLOGICAL SENSORS and NANO SYSTEMS, tailor made. NASYS has a laboratory for the growth and development of sensors and sensor systems. It is also equipped with cutting-edge chemistry and microbiological laboratories that can support the customer in the tailor-made study of their product.

 

ECO2Mix: A new system that reduces water pH injecting CO2 instead of acids, it has a unique mixing process, CO2 recovery chamber and reuse functionality, giving the process more than 95% efficiency unique in the market. The developed a safe and ecological CO2 injection process to treat irrigation water that helps farmers to have a better water quality to irrigate.

Ignitia: this company provides hyper-local weather updates, via SMS, based on GPS location. Since the commercial launch in 2015, they have established partnerships to work with small scale farmers. They send daily, monthly and seasonal rain forecasts to help farmers avoid adverse impacts of an ever changing climate.

 

This year, the award ceremony will take place on May 15th 2019 in Rome and it will be a great showcase for the winners. The event will be held during the opening day of EXCO 2019, the first international exhibition of development cooperation, which this year will take place simultaneously with the annual meeting of all the Development Cooperation Agencies of the European Union member States. The day after, during the same fair, “Gli Stati Generali delle Donne”, the most important Italian national movement for diversity and equal opportunities, will launch the Women Pact for Climate and Environment, which enhance the achievement of SDGs starting from civil society and women.

Climate change is the biggest and most urgent challenge that humanity is facing. So we urgently need to change ourselves and our habits and lifestyles, and not climate.

 

Author:

Claudia Laricchia : Chairman of Environment and Innovation Committee of the Italian Federation for Human Rights (FIDU); Head of Institutional Relations and Global Strategic Partnerships of Future Food Institute and climate leader of The Climate Reality Project founded by Al Gore.

 

Author :
Claudia Laricchia

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