Technology and the digital revolution is set to pave the way for tackling food security through first-hand trade deals and farm-to-fork communication.
Delegates at the third bi-annual Youth Ag-Summit held in Brussels heard how the global agricultural sector must engage with upcoming digital techniques if it had any chance of meeting a production demand of almost 10 billion people by 2050.
Georgie Aley, chief executive of the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology, said the rise of the digital revolution had made it easier for both suppliers and consumers to interact with the food supply chain through what she called ‘collaborative consumption’.
She said: “It has really opened up this e-commerce, a whole new business world and an ability for us to trade at a much smaller scale and for anybody to trade.
“Boundaries to consume or the boundaries to promote a product into the market have been very much reduced.”
Ms Aley told of an opportunity for farmers to work with digital, mobile and data technology, whilst MEP for south-east England and member of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee Richard Ashworth encouraged farmers to be prepared to work through a period of ‘the most amazing technological advances in the industry’.
About 100 delegates from more than 49 countries spoke about their own entrepreneurial visions, with food start-ups using Whatsapp, Facebook and links with multi-collaborative businesses such as private hire company Uber.
Caleb Harper, principal investigator of the Open Agriculture (OpenAG) initiative at the MIT Media Lab, told of his idea of exporting climate across the globe through coding weather patterns in a controlled boxed environment.
Each data set from a successful climate logs the specific information needed to produce high yields for that crop before sending the pre-made code to users of the box worldwide.
Mr Harper hoped to use the models to tap into the ‘genetic diversity’ of fruits and vegetables and open up existing cultivars to combat world hunger and climate change.
The technology has so far reached 50 countries and 1500 farmers.
He added: “When people say ‘oh the tomato in Tuscany from the north-side of the slope with the happy cow next door gives amazing nutty flavour’ – no, the abiotic and the biotic stress acts among the plant genes to cause an expression of the things you like.
“So in the box we design climates and those climates then design expressions on the other side of the plant, such as nutrition and flavour.”