The global call for action to secure a food future is growing louder, and it’s easy to see why. Climate-related events, such as devastating floods in Pakistan and extreme drought in the Horn of Africa, have destroyed essential crops and farmland.
Covid-19 and conflict continue to exacerbate stress in food supply chains. The United Nations estimates that by 2021, 11.7 percent of the world’s population (more than 923 million people) will face severe food insecurity.
The impact is staggering. Deciding how to respond effectively can be equally overwhelming.
These challenges transcend international borders and affect individuals, communities and countries. Cooperation must therefore be at the heart of any response. This is why it is now more important than ever that stakeholders at all levels, from governments and investors to the research community and the private sector, are involved in finding innovative solutions to global problems.
Technology can provide a solution
With so many challenges ahead, where do we start? I strongly believe that one core area where we can focus our efforts together, especially in enhancing food security, is technology.
Why do I believe this? Our experience shows that the development and adoption of advanced technologies is critical to avoid the climate crisis directly negatively impacting our food systems. In recent years, we have witnessed the development of remarkable innovations that are redefining the way we produce food.
Advances in hydroponics and vertical farming are allowing fresh vegetables to be grown with less water in some of the world’s driest climates. AI and robotics solutions help detect inefficiencies and improve agricultural yields. Cutting-edge research in plant biology can improve crop resilience.
It is these types of innovations that will fundamentally reshape the world’s agricultural systems. From my point of view, the possibilities of technology are extraordinary. Proprietary and collaborative research into advanced materials, autonomous robotics, quantum computing, renewable energy, and more can lead to new solutions that push the boundaries of what was hitherto possible.
Harnessing public-private partnerships and innovation
We see the future of technology as an opportunity to help address global challenges. Public-private partnerships focused on promoting new and improved solutions across borders and sectors need to continue to be a priority. That’s why ASPIRE is the lead partner of the Global Food Tech Challenge, organized by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and Tamkeen, to help start-ups take their promising food innovations from the lab to the market.
Abu Dhabi invests heavily in bringing together stakeholders in research, technology and innovation to find solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, including reimagining our food system.
Institutions that foster collaboration will continue to be at the center of efforts to accelerate promising new ideas through cross-border and intersectoral collaboration.
Dr Ray O Johnson is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Technology Innovation and ASPIRE.