Top Three Scalable Innovations to Tackle the Food Insecurity
The global population is expected to exceed 8.5 billion by 2030. By then food insecurity is expected to affect almost 10 percent of the population or 840 million people. Climate change and soil degradation have already caused a decline in the availability and quality of food. The situation further deteriorated following the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. What should we do to tackle the food crisis? Here are three scalable innovations that can help to feed the world.
Data-driven soil remediation plans
Although technology based on artificial intelligence (AI) has enhanced crop monitoring and harvesting as well as processing and marketing, the technology rarely reaches the small farmers who really need them. Of the total of 608 million farms in the world, only 38 million are served by AI solutions. The rest, mostly small farmers, have been left behind.
Many small farms in India have severely degraded soil conditions causing reduced yields so food insecurity is an ongoing danger to them. To make technology and experts available to them, Dimitra, an AI-powered agritech company, is striving to deliver data-driven farming to small agricultural enterprises on the subcontinent. The process of Dimitra starts with evaluating crop performance with satellites and IoT soil sensors. Then machine learning is deployed to analyze the data and help farmers to make better decisions. In addition, soil samples are collected on the ground by human labor. The combined information is used to generate soil remediation plans for individual small farmers. Dimitra is aiming at serving 1.3 million Indian farms with its data-driven platform.
“Every smallholder farmer, regardless of economic status, should be able to benefit from simple, beautiful and useful technology.” – Jon Trask, CEO, Dimitra
Mobile-based farm advisory
Farming is a complex, unpredictable, and individual business. Farmers must make decisions about “what”, “when”, and “how much” constantly. Today, digital technology helps to remove some complexity and uncertainty and allows them to make more precise decisions. One of the possible ways of supporting decision-making is via farmers’ mobile phones.
Africa accounts for more than half of the world’s population affected by food insecurity, which was already a serious problem in Kenya prior to the COVID pandemic. The situation deteriorated after the breakout of the pandemic. Fortunately, innovative projects from nonprofit organizations and agencies have helped to reduce food insecurity in Kenya.
One of the projects is PlantVillage, an algorithmic agriculture advice solution. PlantVillage’s algorithms are based on the integration of artificial intelligence (AI), satellite technology, and field force. Kenyan farmers only need to input three details – crop type, location, and planting date – before they receive PlantVillage’s algorithm advice on their mobile phones. The project has provided food security for 36.6 million people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
In 2020, the PlantVillage project helped manage Kenya’s worst locust outbreak in 70 years.
Tackle food insecurity by avoiding food waste
Apart from increasing food production, avoiding food waste is another important element of reducing food insecurity. According to FAO, one third of food production is either wasted or lost. Unconsumed food also contributes to an estimated eight to ten percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The global volume of food wastage is estimated at 1.6 billion tonnes of “primary product equivalents”. Total food wastage for the edible part of this amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes. – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Food loss can happen either early during food production and processing or later as rampant food waste at restaurants, supermarket, and households. Various smartphone apps around the world have been developed to save surplus food.
Too Good To Go is a mobile app developed in Denmark that allows customers to purchase unsold extra food at reduced prices from restaurants and stores. The app covers major cities in Europe and North America. Similar apps are developed in other parts of the world, including Yindii in Thailand, Treatsure in Singapore, and No Food Waste in India.
There are also solutions for tackling food insecurity by reducing food waste earlier in the supply chain. Instock is a group of restaurants in the Netherlands that serve surplus food sourced from food producers and brokers. Logistics platforms such as Kenya’s Twiga Foods and Ghana’s Cheetah improve the efficiency of the supply chain by connecting farmers and vendors with food outlets and markets.
Another category of apps uses AI to analyze and prevent waste. These AI-based solutions include Winnow, which helps commercial kitchens prevent food waste, Wasteless, which helps supermarkets and online grocery stores to reduce food waste and extend the value of food items, and nosh and Mimica Touch, which help households to track fridge and pantry contents.
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