August 13, 2018

Big Ideas and Emerging Innovations

Panama disease is on the march, wiping out banana plantations worldwide and raising fears that bananas are on the brink of extinction. Scientists have been racing to devise preventative measures against the disease before it reaches Central and South America, where 80 percent of exported bananas are grown. Quarantine measures and the sterile culturing of plantlets are two solutions that aim to curb the disease’s proliferation.
This Climate Change Hack Would Reflect More Sunlight. Not Such a Bright Idea, Study Says.
Some engineers say injecting reflective particles into the atmosphere could be used to counteract global warming by changing the reflectivity of the planet. But it may not be as advantageous as previously thought.  Food crops wouldn't suffer as much heat stress as they would without the intervention in the atmosphere, but they also wouldn't receive as much photosynthesis-powering sunlight.
Chennai-based Future Farms was one of the first ag-startups in India to utilize hydroponics and set up rooftop farms. Future Farms now grows 16 crop varieties across 15 acres of land spread over 10 states. Founder-CEO Sriram attributes much of Future Farms’ recent growth to the Stanford Seed Program, a year-long leadership program designed for high-potential Indian business leaders and startup founders to scale their ventures.
Agtech seed stage funding continues to trend upward. This means that more and more companies are receiving financing to focus on solving problems, scaling, and gaining a competitive edge. Some of these companies are going to pivot into the right niche and have transformative impact.
J.R. Simplot Company announced an agreement with DowDuPont Inc. and the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University to acquire gene editing licensing rights. The nascent gene editing technology could one day be used to help farmers produce more crops and make grocery store offerings stay fresher longer. Simplot is the first agricultural company to receive such a license.
The FDA granted GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status to the heme protein ingredient used in the Impossible Burger, an all-veggie burger that “bleeds” and sizzles just like meat. But two days later, Europe's highest court ruled that gene-edited crops should be subject to the same strict regulations as genetically modified organisms. It was a major setback for advocates of genetically engineered crops.


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.