May 22, 2017

Big Ideas and Emerging Innovations

A worker harvests vegetables at Sky Greens vertical farm in Singapore. REUTERS/Edgar Su

A Farm Grows in the City
Since getting food to people who live far from farms is costly, more startups and city authorities are finding ways to grow food closer to home. High-tech “vertical farms” are sprouting inside warehouses and shipping containers, where lettuce and other greens grow without soil, stacked in horizontal or vertical rows, and fed by water and LED lights, which can be used to control the size, texture, or other characteristic of a plant.

A Climate Change Solution beneath Our Feet
Researchers at UC Davis are advocating for greater awareness of soil’s ability to sequester carbon and act as a defense against climate change.  Soil can potentially store between 1.5 and 5.5 billion tons of carbon a year globally. That’s equivalent to between 5 and 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide. While significant, it’s still just a fraction of the carbon emitted, making it just one of many solutions needed to confront climate change.

Sneakers Made from Corn? Seat Cushions from Soybeans?
Facing overstuffed silos and forecasts for another huge harvest this year, US farmers are trying to find new uses for their corn and soybeans. Robust demand for processed foods, animal feed, and biofuels isn’t keeping up with a record glut of crops in the United States and around the world. So, to sell the surplus, farmers and trade groups are wooing new customers, from car makers to toy companies.

Agrosmart Founder Puts Soil Analysis on Farm Phones
When Mariana Vasconcelos founded Agrosmart in 2014, her youth made it particularly difficult to get the agricultural technology business off the ground. But thanks to help from start-up accelerator programs, the company’s technology—which uses data harvested from the sensors it supplies that are installed in farmers’ fields—is now monitoring 50,000 hectares in nine of Brazil’s states. The aim is to boost production of corn, wheat, sugarcane, coffee, fruits, and vegetables.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA


| By Laura Glenn O'Carroll

Climate Solutions, Economic Growth, Global Stability? Rural Girls Hold the Key

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is thrilled to announce a new blog series, Stakeholder Girls, which highlights the central role that rural girls must play in consideration of the 2018 G7 priority theme areas. Each week in June, as the leadership of the G7 meets, we will discuss the central role of rural girls in responding to climate change, preparing for the future of work, economic growth and equality, and building a more secure world. If leaders do not consider the unique strengthens and concerns of rural girls, progress on each of these themes will be curtailed.

| By April Dodd

Guest Commentary - World Milk Day Celebrates Small Farmers

Farmers worldwide care for about 365 million dairy cattle. In developing countries, most farmers’ herds are very small, containing just 2-3 cows on average. Small herds support family nutrition and are sources of year-round income through milk sales.