How tech is helping the agriculture sector curb carbon emissions

agricultural sector

(Xavi Moll, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Alzbeta Klein, Director and Global Head, Climate Business , International Finance Corporation (IFC)


UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed stated that 2018 was a record-breaking year for climate, but 2019 doesn’t look much better. As the list of extreme weather events and climate shocks grows, so does our shared responsibility to act.

For the agricultural sector, these weather events are particularly devastating, with increased cycles of more frequent floods and drought hitting many farmers. The good news is that, two years ago in Bonn, the world’s governments finally acknowledged for the first time that agriculture has a major role to play in our changing climate. Following a series of intense all-night discussions and years of division and deadlock, governments at COP23 finally agreed on the connection between industrialized farming and our warming climate.

The world’s leading climate scientists have concluded that how we farm and use our land (whether for food production, forestry, or other types of land use) is responsible for about one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. If we include emissions caused by the processing, transport, storage, cooling and disposal of the food that we consume, then that figure rises to more than 40% – an unthinkable price for how we farm and eat.

With the global population set to rise from 7.3 billion to 9.7 billion between now and 2050, world governments are faced with an overwhelming dilemma: how to feed the future without putting irreparable strain on our planet’s already overburdened soils and oceans? I believe that technology can get us there.

Agricultural technology – or agtech – approaches like precision farming, drought- and pest-resistant seeds, mobile phones and digital technology platforms are a solution. They boost farmers’ profits by cutting costs and increasing yields and benefiting customers the world over. But more technological innovation is needed. Fortunately, some of the International Finance Corporation’s partners are at the forefront of innovation when it comes to agtech.

Take Planet Labs, an innovative geospatial start-up that uses 149 earth-observing satellites to generate a daily stream of high-resolution images of the earth’s surface for farmers to understand crop and soil changes from pre-season to harvest.

Planet Lab’s goal is to take images of the Earth’s entire surface every day to make climate change visible, accessible and actionable, according to Tara O’Shea, Planet’s director of forestry. Founded in 2010 by three former NASA scientists, the company visualizes daily changes across the Earth’s surface in real time. Until now, satellite imagery data was not frequent enough to react to crop stress in a timely manner. Planet’s daily imagery has been a game changer in the digital ag space – enabling farmers to manage their precision agriculture at scale and farm more efficiently, profitably, and sustainably.

Agriculture isn’t just a rural concern. As urban density increases around the world, and more and more people move to cities, locally sourced food is taking on greater importance. Crop One Holdings is a “vertical farming” company that is transforming the landscape of indoor farming in urban areas.

The term vertical farm is relatively new. It refers to a method of growing crops – in Crop One Holding’s case, leafy greens and lettuce – usually without soil or natural light, in beds stacked vertically inside a controlled-environment building. One of the company’s 320 sq ft units can substitute up to 19 acres of farmland and use 1/2500th of the water usage of field-based growing. In Boston, a Crop One Holding one-acre farm produces yields equivalent to that of a regular 400-acre farm.

Crop One drastically reduces the length of transportation as well as carbon use, due to the farms’ proximity to consumers. There is no soil used in the growing, nor any chemical intervention or pesticides. Competitive field products are usually 12 to 15 days old by the time they are delivered to a store, resulting in significant losses for the retailer.

Vertical farms that rise to the challenge of climate change are still in the early stages of development, but a recent $40 million joint venture between Crop Oneand Emirates Flight Catering to build the world’s largest vertical farming facility in Dubai suggests that agtech business models are showing potential to scale across markets.

That’s good news for my climate business team at IFC, who are helping existing and potential agribusiness clients acquire and leverage new agricultural technologies for both large scale and smallholder farms. Our “climate-smart” approach targets animal protein, land and crops, and food losses, yielding $1.3 billion in investments since 2017. Agtech can accelerate these investments and help farmers adopt more sustainable agronomic practices.

 

At this year’s One Planet Summit, IFC signed two agreements with the Kenya Tea Development Agency Power Company Ltd. (KTDA Power): one that enables carbon credits, and another that will support KTDA with various advisory activities such as financial literacy training for farmers, soil testing for productivity improvement and development of a wood-sourcing strategy.

How we farm matters. In addition to record-breaking temperatures, super typhoons and drought, Deputy Secretary-General Mohammed has also spoken about how 5G technology and AI can build smarter agricultural systems. Feeding our growing population requires revolutionary transformations in farming and land cultivation. Adopting pioneering agricultural technologies with the potential to increase yields while limiting greenhouse gas emissions is an essential step. If agriculture is to continue to feed the world, then we must enable technology to shape the farms of the future.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

The three US financial war fleets

‘Moral obligation and political imperative’ to support Syria on path to peace: Guterres

Combatting terrorism: EP special committee calls for closer EU cooperation

Migrants and refugees face higher risk of developing ill-health, says UN report on displaced people in Europe

Veteran UN Syria Envoy to step down, pledges to work ‘until the last hour’ for peace

Dozens killed and injured by new airstrikes in western Yemen, UN coordinator condemns ‘outrageous’ toll

Cross-border cooperation: the EU Interreg programme celebrates 30 years of bringing citizens closer together

Commission adopts €4 billion investment package for infrastructure projects across 10 Member States

The EU resumes budget support assistance to the Republic of Moldova

EU Parliament approves CETA: the EU-Canada free trade deal sees the light in Trump’s gloomy era

Revamp collective bargaining to prevent rising labour market inequalities in rapidly changing world of work

Seize the opportunities of digital technology to improve well-being but also address the risks

The influence of the multilateral agreement on migrant health

Russia must urgently step up fight against foreign bribery

Achieving a European Education Area by 2025 and resetting education and training for the digital age

Light at the end of the Eurozone tunnel

European Business Summit 2015: In search of a vision for the future

The most unlikely innovators are changing ICT for development – it’s time we took notice

These photos show some of the world’s smallest things massively magnified

Harmonised Unemployment Rates (HURs), OECD – Updated: February 2020

Quality Education on the table at the European Parliament

We need to rethink neuroscience. And you can help us

State aid: Commission approves €300 million public support for the development of ultrafast broadband network in Greece

A long German political winter is on the way

Greece will probably stay in the Eurozone but at what cost?

The Parliament accuses core EU countries of exploiting their dominant political position

Visa facilitation and readmission: agreements with Belarus now in force

Microplastics, microbeads and single-use plastics poisoning sea life and affecting humans, says UN Environment

Busting the myths about coronavirus

Why education and accountability are important for developing countries?

Governments, businesses ‘walk the talk’ for investment in sustainable development: UN forum

Germany caught with selfish double standards in euro area policy

COVID-19 has hit Black Americans hardest. Healing this divide would lift the nation

“Be aware where you put your I Agree signature on and something else”; now Facebook by default opts you in an unseen private data bazar

Guterres lauds UN peacekeeping, highlights need to bridge ‘critical’ gaps

France pushes UK to stay and Germany to pay

The clothes of the future could be made from pineapples and bananas

COVID-19 not yet a pandemic, says UN health agency chief

Which EU countries have to correct their economic policies?

Mental Health in the COVID-19 era

EU fundamental rights under threat in several member states

Why income inequality is bad for the climate

What options the new President of Ukraine has?

“China is the only BRICS country to have either met or possibly slightly surpassed my expectations”, BRICS inventor Jim O’ Neil from Switzerland; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

The right approach to addressing overcapacity problem from a Chinese perspective

Sustainable Infrastructure and Connectivity in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): a stimulating China-EU dialogue at European Business Summit 2018

Three scenarios for the future of geopolitics

4 innovative renewable energy projects powering Europe’s green future

Media and entertainment in flux: it’s time for the close-up

FROM THE FIELD: Finding refuge in the ‘beautiful game’

Our tourism system is broken – time to customize

Jordan flash flooding: UN chief ‘saddened’ by loss of life

Is corporation tax good or bad for growth?

Impacting society with digital ingenuity – World Summit Award proclaiming the top 8 worldwide

VP McGuinness on women’s rights: “Not an option, but a duty”

Banks get trillions and the unemployed ECB’s love…

The Eurogroup protects Germany and blames others

How one traumatised child survived genocide and started a movement for mental health

United States: UN chief ‘deeply saddened’ by deadly California wildfires

New UN-Syrian Action Plan signals an ‘important day’ for child protection, says UN envoy

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s