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 Milestones

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

Climate change is destroying a barrier that protects the US from hurricanes

Why the fight against nature loss should be a business priority

In an era of global uncertainty, the SDGs can be our guide

Fair completion rules and the law of gravity don’t apply to banks

State aid: Commission approves €380 million German rescue aid to Condor

Future fit: 3 ways fashion can be more sustainable

Data Protection Regulation one year on: 73% of Europeans have heard of at least one of their rights

The British are the most positive in Europe on the benefits of immigration

FROM THE FIELD: ‘A piece of me’ was taken

Ignorance or Refusal: Determinants in the individual’s choice for palliative care

EU Commission – US hasten talks to avoid NGO reactions on free trade agreement

France breaks budget promises once again and the EU’s finance offices are shaking

6 ways social innovators are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

Hope for ‘long-elusive progress’ in negotiating peace in eastern Ukraine

Australia’s record heatwave: From fainting tennis players to dead fish

Yemen war: UN chief urges good faith as ‘milestone’ talks get underway in Sweden

WHO chief underscores need to address climate change following visit to Bahamas

The impact of COVID-19 on the life of the elderly

5 Ways Companies Can Progress More Women into Leadership Roles

This Latin American country is keeping COVID-19 firmly under control. How?

Shaping Europe’s digital future: op-ed by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

Reducing disaster risk is a good investment, and ‘the right thing to do’, says Guterres

Burning Amazon rainforests: Darting towards the doom of Human Race

Young people meet in Malta to shape the future of Europe

The four top Americans who flew to Europe perplexed things about Trump’s intentions

3 actions for business to prepare for a post-pandemic future

Germany and OSCE support an east-west dialogue in Ukraine without exclusions

The global liberal order is in trouble – can it be salvaged, or will it be replaced?

Humanitarian Aid 2016: The needs, the highlights, the crisis and the relief

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Safeguarding civilians, strengthening Ebola response in DR Congo, marking Fistula Day, updates on CAR and Syria

Burundi election countdown amid ‘deteriorating’ human rights situation

This Syrian national has been trapped at Kuala Lumpur airport for 3 months

UN chief urges Hamas and Israel to ‘step back from the brink of another devastating conflict’ in Gaza

EU’s new environmental policy on biofuels impacts both the environment and the European citizen

These 3 countries are global offshore wind powerhouses

We need to talk about mental health at work, say employees

COVID-19, higher education and the impact on society: what we know so far and what could happen

Investing in education and skills can improve the health of both humans and planet. Here’s why

We need better alignment between climate and trade. Here’s a roadmap

The unpleasant truth of plastic straws

Asia and Pacific on course to miss all Sustainable Development Goals, says UN region chief

How global tech companies can champion ethical AI

European Union launches WTO trade dispute against Colombia’s unfair duties on frozen fries

EU Cohesion policy: Commission and EBRD promote innovative use of data in public procurement involving EU funds

FROM THE FIELD: What do you want to be when you grow up? One day I will…

Why the downturn is good news for subscription companies

Aid convoy for north-east Syria postponed over security concerns – UN relief chief

China’s stock markets show recovery signs while EU is closely watching in anticipation of the €10bn investment

Governments should step up their efforts to give people skills to seize opportunities in a digital world

Digital Single Market: Europe announces eight sites to host world-class supercomputers

Technological innovation can bolster trust and security at international borders. Here’s how

Challenges remain in DPRK despite ‘slight’ improvements in health, wellbeing: UNICEF

Gender Hierarchy in Medicine: From University to Specialization

On youth unemployment: unemployment is even bleaker for youth with disabilities

Youth not prioritised in new Commission

Can ECB’s €60 billion a month save Eurozone?

‘Complacency’ a factor in stagnating global vaccination rates, warn UN health chiefs

The EU Commission is lying to the “Right2Water” campaign

‘You can and should do more’ to include people with disabilities, wheelchair-bound Syrian advocate tells Security Council in searing speech

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

More Stings?

Comments

  1. Bill Brown says:

    I am very impressed with the mission of the company https://slopehelper.com/ “No more hands in agriculture”. I really think this is where agriculture should aim

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