April 9, 2018

Big Ideas and Emerging Innovations

Bees fly near a thermosolar hive in Chrudim. REUTERS/David W Cerny


Why These Bumblebees are Wearing Itty-Bitty QR Codes
Researchers superglued QR codes to the backs of bumblebees to look at how worker bees know to jump in and collect food when a designated forager dies. The technique can also help researchers understand lots of other bee behaviors, including the abnormal kind that can result as populations are threatened by pesticide use.

Soup, Beer, and Soap from Food Waste? Dutch Shoppers Say Yes
The Wageningen branch of Jumbo, one of the biggest Dutch supermarket chains, and 18 additional Dutch companies have launched the Verspilling is Verrukkelijk, or “Waste is Delicious,” initiative as part of a new national program, United Against Food Waste. The government is aiming to halve the amount of food thrown away by its 17 million people to become the first country in Europe to meet this global development goal by 2030.

The Next Big Thing in Agriculture: Smart Collars for Cows
Several startups are betting that high-tech collars for livestock could render the fences obsolete, enabling farmers to round up animals more easily. Virtual-fencing startups on at least three continents are looking to sell the collars, which track an animal’s location and use audio signals and mild electric shocks to direct movement. Their products are supposed to make shifting a herd as easy as drawing a line on a smartphone app.

The USDA Says Crispr-Edited Foods Are Just as Safe as Ones Bred the Old-Fashioned Way
The USDA announced that it would no longer regulate crops that have been genetically edited. The decision only applies to crops that have had some genes taken out, or which have had genes that are endemic to the species added to them. Transgenic crops, which are modified to include DNA from other species, will still be closely monitored by the regulatory agency.

Young Saint Lucians Set to Change the Agricultural Sector
The Climate Smart Greenhouse, created by two young scientists, is going to change the reality of food production in Saint Lucia. The controlled environment allows farmers to manipulate the temperature, humidity, energy from sunlight, and atmospheric conditions. Researchers hope to create a database and consultancy program, which will inform local farmers when and how to change the conditions as well as soil nutrient content when needed.


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 Colin Christensen , Eva Koehler

Guest Commentary - The Plague You’ve Never Heard About Could be as Destructive as Covid-19: How the Threat from Desert Locusts Shows the Need for Innovations in how Organizations Scale

The international community needs to mobilize to combat the plague of locusts devouring East Africa. At the same time however, we should also consider the long-term investments we must make to build lasting resilience to climate change among smallholder populations.

| By Sarah Bingaman Schwartz, Maria Jones

Guest Commentary - Reducing Food Loss and Waste by Improving Smallholder Storage

Reducing postharvest losses by half would result in enough food to feed a billion people, increase smallholder income levels and minimize pressure on natural resources. The ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss works with smallholders in Bihar to improve storage and reduce loss. 

| By Mark Titterington

Guest Commentary - A European perspective on the journey to a regenerative agriculture system…

Regenerative farming practices can lead to improved soil health and farm productivity and profitability, boosting crop quality and yields, improving the resilience of farms to extreme weather events and reducing the propensity for soil degradation and run-off, but most excitingly, creates the opportunity to actually draw down and store carbon from the atmosphere in agriculture soils.

| By Peter Carberry

Field Notes - Brokering Research Crucial for Climate-Proofing Drylands

9 out of 12 interventions identified for agriculture by the Global Commission on Adaptation involve research and development. For smallholder farmers in drylands, some of the most vulnerable to climate change, the role of innovation brokers may prove just as important as doing the science itself. 

| By Julius A. Nukpezah, Joseph T. Steensma, Nhuong Tran, Kelvin M. Shikuku

Field Notes - Reducing Post-Harvest Losses in Nigeria's Aquaculture Sector Contributes to Sustainable Development

While increasing fish production and productivity in the long term are practical strategies for addressing malnutrition in Nigeria, reducing post-harvest losses of fish is an economic and a rational strategy of increasing value of aquaculture businesses that lead to sustainable economic development.