May 29, 2018

Big Ideas and Emerging Innovations

Workers sort salmon, brought from a fish farm in the Barents Sea, at a processing factory in the Arctic port of Murmansk, Russia. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

The Laser Battle against Blood-Sucking Parasites of the Deep
The world’s largest salmon fishery, Marine Harvest, is threatened by sea lice. The outbreak is in its early stages, but the company began to test a new device, dubbed Stingray, to keep sea lice at bay. It uses AI programming to identify aberrations in color and texture on the fish’s scales. When it detects lice, the bot zaps them with a surgical diode laser beam, killing the pest but leaving the fish unscathed.

This Robotic Pollinator is like a Huge Bee with Wheels and an Arm
A new technology, Bramble Bee could help feed our kind. The innovation determines if a flower is ready for pollination then uses a small 3D-printed brush to gently stroke the blossom. This transfers pollen from the plant’s anthers to its pistils, where pollination commences. The robot will even remember what flowers it already hit, so it can make multiple runs as the plants mature in the greenhouse.

The Newest Thing in Beer: Ancient Yeast
There is a new movement brewing in the beer world: trying to find the weirdest, funkiest yeast. Small genetic differences within species account for the many strains of yeast, which along with hops and other ingredients, determine the aroma and flavor of beer. Global drinks companies are hoping new and exclusive brews with a story behind them will entice consumers who are increasingly migrating to wine and spirits.

Blockchain Technology is being Used in the Early Disruption of Kenya’s Agribusiness
IBM has been working with the Kenya-based food logistics startup Twiga Foods to facilitate micro-lending options for food vendors in emerging markets. After analyzing purchase records recorded on mobile devices, IBM researchers determine creditworthiness, after which they use blockchain technology to administer the entire lending experience from application to receiving offers to accepting terms of repayment.

Will AI be a Bane or Boon for Global Development?
Global predictions for AI in agriculture suggest it will be worth more than $2.6 billion by 2025. Increased investments are propelling the development and commercial deployment of technologies, from yield prediction algorithms to drone irrigation and discovery of next-generation proteins in biotechnology.

Following a Tuna from Fiji to Brooklyn – on the Blockchain
Each stop on a fish's journey, from the landing dock in Fiji to the processing facility to the truck that drove it to Brooklyn, can be cataloged on the blockchain. Supply chains appear to be a legitimate use case for the technology, tracking materials as they move around the globe. There are promising signs, but also serious hurdles to deploying this tech broadly in logistics. It likely will be years, if not decades, before that happens.


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 Lisa Moon

Guest Commentary - Reduce Food Loss & Waste, Feed Millions

Studies show that one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, enough to feed 1.9 billion people-almost the same amount as are experiencing food insecurity. Food banks are uniquely positioned to address the paradox of global hunger and food loss and waste. 

| 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.