Global Knowledge Initiative Publishes New Report on the Role of Innovation in Transforming Food Systems in Emerging Markets

Picture of a lightbulb with a plant growing inside of it

Washington D.C., USA: The Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, has published a report examining how innovation can help improve food systems in emerging markets over the next 20 years. Recognizing the profound, large-scale changes happening around the world and the staggering amount of food that is lost on its way from farm to market (upwards of 50%, as estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), a team of GKI researchers set off to uncover the innovations most aptly suited to support humanity in feeding its growing population in a sustainable way. Engaging with 50 experts from around the world, the team harnessed the power of collective intelligence to illuminate new technologies, processes, policies, and business models that can revolutionize food systems in both the short- and long-term. In the short-term, the report lays out 22 investible innovations that can help to reduce the problem of postharvest food loss over the next 5 years. These are innovations with significant potential to positively impact peoples’ lives, particularly considering that in Sub-Saharan Africa between 30-60% of all food grown never reaches consumers. Looking farther out, the report identifies the most significant macro-level trends shaping food systems in emerging markets, and points to long-term opportunities for emerging areas of innovation, such as quantum computing and synthetic biology, to fundamentally transform the way we produce, process, distribute, store, sell, purchase, and even eat food. Amira Bliss, Associate Director at The Rockefeller Foundation, said about the report, “To tackle the complex food and agriculture challenges of today, we need to deploy the most appropriate and innovative solutions that will improve conditions for tomorrow. This report takes stock of the most relevant disruptive innovations that could be applied today and in the future. The Foundation and our partners are eager to utilize this thorough assessment of transformational innovations that have high potential to change the landscape for, and improve the livelihoods of, smallholder farmers and other vulnerable populations.” […]

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Fighting Food Loss begins with Coordination and Collaboration

Women sifting through tomatoes ready to sell to customers

This post was originally featured on written by Chase Keenan and Renee Vuillaume for the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, GKI’s partner in the Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition Network (PLAN) Recent studies in Nigeria estimate that if we could reduce food loss and waste of a single crop—tomatoes—by 25% we could improve the diets of nearly one and a half million children by providing them with the required daily dose of Vitamin A. These aren’t additional tomatoes that need to be grown, these are grown tomatoes that don’t get eaten. In a country where upwards of 30% of all children are Vitamin A deficient, this seemingly simple solution of ensuring the food that farmers grow gets eaten could make a huge difference. But we know it isn’t that simple. Addressing postharvest loss of nutritious foods is complicated. Changes must occur at the intersection of agriculture, transportation, energy, environment, policy, trade, and public health, among other sectors. While challenging, this reveals a critical piece of the solution: collaboration among disparate fields and connection between businesses and the knowledge and resources they need to reduce losses in their operations. To this end, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) created the Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition (PLAN), which seeks to (1) coordinate measurable actions to reduce losses in perishable and nutritious food supply chains, and (2) increase access to these foods for vulnerable populations.  Launching the Network In partnership with the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), we launched the PLAN Network in May 2017, hosting an event that brought together agribusiness, finance and investing, government, and social sector actors from Nigeria and the United States. Together, they began laying the foundation for their common objective: connect agriculture businesses in low-resource countries to the information they need to improve their operations, reduce losses in their supply chains, and ultimately bring more nutritious foods to market. During the launch, PLAN members imagined what the network could accomplish, and zeroed in on several key […]

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When Simple is Difficult: Agriculture Technology in the Age of Innovation

A pair of hands holding potatoes freshly harvested

This post was originally featured on the Chicago Council of Global Affairs’ Blog, Global Food For Thought As a US Peace Corps Volunteer in a rural Ugandan village in 2010, I never expected my neighbors to own satellite TVs. We couldn’t buy carrots at a market within a 30-kilometer radius.  I planted beans with my neighbors by stuffing my cheeks with seeds like a chipmunk, slicing rows in the ground with a hoe, and spitting the seeds into the soil at two-foot spacing.  No one in my village owned a plow or had access to diverse, quality seeds, but I could watch Al Jazeera each night. This bewildered me. Why do some technologies spread like wildfire across the globe while others stagnate in the prototype stage, in a seemingly perpetual cycle of minor iterations? In 2015, almost 4.5 billion people owned a mobile phone, about 2.5 billion of them smart phones.  In 2016, 3.5 billion people had access to the internet. Innovation diffusion theorists have a lot to say about what it takes for an innovation to spread. Risk. Market potential. Social influence. But the “invisible hand of innovation diffusion” is agnostic to the societal value of a successful innovation; sometimes, the technologies that stick aren’t the technologies that are most needed. And sometimes what’s needed are the most simple or incremental innovations. For example, the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), in its role as the Innovation Partner for The Rockefeller Foundation’s YieldWise initiative, recently conducted an Innovation Scan for solar drying technologies appropriate for smallholder farmers in Nigeria who grow tomatoes. Nigeria is Africa’s second largest tomato producer, but 40-50 percent of the harvest is lost before it reaches a market. The remaining portion faces price volatility during the harvest glut. Drying offers one solution to this challenge. Smallholder farmers in Nigeria are familiar with drying their excess or damaged tomatoes. They often do so in the sun on mats, rocks, or roofs; it is a slow, unreliable process that can […]

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