June 11, 2018

Big Ideas and Emerging Innovations

Bryon Majusiak, a senior mechanical engineer with Blue River Technology, works on his computer next to a tractor as others assemble a See & Spray agricultural machine that combines computer vision and artificial intelligence to detect and precisely spray herbicides onto weeds in a farm field in Sunnyvale, California. REUTERS/ Stephen Lam

Now Cropping Up: Robo-Farming
Manufacturers are racing to develop what they see as the future of farming: robo-tractors and other farming equipment to help produce more food, more sustainably at a lower cost. The next generation is tractors that can drive entirely by themselves. After that: ones that can plant, fertilize, and spray pesticides.

Veteran Tesla Engineer Leaving for Greener Pastures: AgTech Startup Plenty
Nick Kalayjian, a high-ranking Tesla engineer, is joining Plenty, a San Francisco-based ag-tech startup. Co-founded by CEO Matt Barnard, Plenty is a unicorn in the fast-developing indoor agriculture space, luring Silicon Valley talent and capital to create high-yield vertical farms that use a fraction of the energy and water needed for field-grown crops.

How AI Might Create More, Not Less, Work Opportunity
A very near-term benefit of AI is to help reduce the labor shortage in labor-heavy industries such as manufacturing and agriculture. What’s happening in these industries is that there’s actually too much work that people don’t want to do. Agriculture, for example, is the least digitalized industry. This is a clear opportunity for innovation.

Experts Say Algae Is the Food of the Future. Here's Why.
The UN projects food production will need to increase as much as 70 percent by 2050 to feed an extra 2.5 billion people. To survive, we need to reinvent the way we farm and eat. Experts say algae could be a possible solution. Unlike most crops, it doesn't require fresh water to flourish. About 70 percent of the planet's available fresh water goes toward crops and raising livestock.


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 Margaret Cornelius, Nicolas Gatti, Peter Goldsmith, Edward Martey

Guest Commentary - Addressing the barriers to soybean production in Africa

High input costs and lack of access to credit prevent smallholder farmers from investing in their soybean crops. Barriers such as these have kept soybean yields low in Africa. The Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab is working to address them through incremental input bundles.