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


Commentary - Building a More Nutritious Future for All

A silent crisis is happening right now. It affects 165 million children globally, robbing them of the future they deserve and leading to more child deaths every year than any other disease. In a world of plentiful, nutritious foods and advanced science, this is unacceptable.

Commentary - Nourishing a Stronger Future

With less than two years until the end of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the health and development communities are looking back at what has been accomplished, and looking ahead to where we have opportunities to do more.

Commentary - Solvable problem

Whenever I have the privilege of spending time among the people that the World Food Programme (WFP) serves, I come away enriched with precious extra knowledge and inspired by the new ways in which governments are tackling the world’s greatest solvable problem – hunger.

The Chicago Council’s #GlobalAg summit in one word? Innovation.

With an introductory message from USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and keynote remarks from Helene Gayle, CEO of CARE; Lauren Bush Lauren, founder of FEED; and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, this year’s event was global agriculture’s version of the Oscars.

Commentary - Food Aid Reform: Making Every Dollar Count

Today, almost 1 billion people are hungry. By 2050, world population will top 9 billion, only increasing the demand for food, fuel, and natural resources and straining our ability – and the planet’s ability – to feed and nourish all.   

How the U.S. Can Lead on Food Security

Our national discourse is driven by a few topical issues with the occasional political scandal sprinkled in. With the economic recovery, immigration reform and the IRS controversy dominating today’s conversation, it’s no surprise that a monumental issue like food security gets lost in the shuffle.

Commentary - Supporting Business-led Agricultural Development in Africa

At the Initiative for Global Development, we believe business-led development will have the greatest socio-economic impact and be the most sustainable over time, since, by making products and services accessible to those in frontier markets, poverty will be reduced based on economic growth, not development assistance only.