How to Feed the World: Increasing Food Supplies Using Agrochemical Innovation, Collaboration and Big Data
In his 1798 publication An Essay on the Principle of Population, Robert Mathus put forth a theory that population growth would eventually be checked by disease and the lack of food. Fortunately for the seven billion plus people currently living on earth, he was wrong. Although Mathus assumptions have proven incorrect, his warning is still valuable today, particularly because experts have forecasted that nine billion people are expected to inhabit the earth by 2050. According to these same experts, feeding this many people will require food production levels to rise by approximately 70%.
Accomplishing this feat will be difficult, but not impossible. Pulling it off will require coordination between farmers and agrochemical laboratories, as well as a focus on innovation, collaboration and using big data to produce more food.
Increasing food production by 70% over the next 45 years will require some out-of-the box thinking. We will need to figure out ways to increase crop yields and find food stuff replacements. There are a number of agrochemical products and methods that are helping farmers to increase crop yields. One recently developed method is called fertilizer deep placement. It is a is a new way of distributing fertilizer through a briquette that release nitrogen gradually over time and has helped small farmers increase yields by 18%.
Other companies are focused on replacing part of the current food chain with supplements. EnviroFlight is attempting to replace traditional livestock feed with feed made from insects. Traditional livestock feed is composed of crops like corn or soybeans, expensive foods stuffs that could also be used to feed humans or power cars. EnviroFlight proposes replacing some livestock feed with insect-based feed, thus freeing up other crops to be used elsewhere.
Innovations such as these will have to continue in order to feed the projected nine billion people.
Charles Darwin once said, “It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” The scientist who published the theory of natural selection also reasoned that collaboration improves a species’ chance of success. This is particularly true when trying to feed massive amounts of people.
Over the next few years, it is essential that agrochemical laboratories collaborate with farmers, governments and other scientists in order to address the food shortage issue. Data that is produced needs to be simple, clean and efficient. To ensure that collaboration between these parties can occur effectively, agrochemical laboratories should consider implementing an electronic laboratory notebook (ELN).
The benefits of an ELN include the ability to record all data digitally. This format makes it easy to share with others. Additionally, ELNs keep information stored in a centralized database where access controls can be granted to collaborators for ease of use.
It is only by working together that we will succeed. Compared to paper lab notebooks, ELNs reduce the friction of the collaboration process and allow for immediate action.
Farmers have always been familiar with every inch of their land, but have not had the ability or time to do much with this data. However, the systems and software associated with big data will create new opportunities for farmers to use this information.
The most promising farm-based big data systems are referred to as precision technology. These systems use sensors in the ground that monitor soil quality and water content. This information can then be sent into farming systems so that they can adjust as needed. It is big data tools like precision technology that will enable farmers to feed the projected nine billion people.
A Better Tomorrow for Humankind
Mathus may have been wrong, but his voice still provides a warning to the power and consequences of population growth. He assertion will continue to be false as long as agrochemical laboratories and farmers continue to innovate, collaborate and harness of the power of data to increase the food supply. For more information regarding the Accelrys Notebook and how it can be harnessed to help address a potential increase in innovation and output within your laboratory, please visit our website today.