December 21, 2015

Big Ideas and Emerging Innovations

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Rethinking Fertilizer Production and Application to Fight Climate Change
Few breakthrough innovations have had an impact on food security equal to that of nitrogen fertilizer. It is estimated that around 2 billion people have been saved from starvation in the last 45 years from its use. But, fertilizer production and application currently accounts for around 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the industry is constantly looking for new ways to keep this number to a minimum, with improved nutrient management, precision agriculture, and specialty fertilizers playing an important role.
Is Powdered Food an Eco-Dream or Just Weird?
A powdered mix made of crushed fruit, seeds, and nuts is poured into a flask, cold water is added, it’s given a shake, and out comes a thick, greeny brown sludge. Ambronite—from ambrosia, the word for the food of the gods in Greek mythology—is just one of a number of products being sold by companies that claim drinkable meals are more efficient and sustainable than traditional meals.
How Synthetic Biology Could Solve Our Banana Problem
Bananas might be extinct within just a few years, and that could open the door for biologists to come up with a new, synthetically modified banana to replace the yellow Cavendish banana we’ve come to love. This new banana would look and taste like a real banana and it would have almost the same DNA as a real banana—except that it would be engineered in a bio-foundry by a team of technologists.
A SkyMall for Farmers Would Have Fish Bubblers and Poop-Powered Coolers
What if a cow's manure could help refrigerate her own milk? That's one of this year's winning ideas for Powering Agriculture, a program started in 2012 to identify innovators who are creating Earth-friendly ways to increase food production in low-income countries. A partnership between USAID, the governments of Germany and Sweden, Duke Energy, and the Overseas Private Investment Corp, the program awards $500,000 to $2 million to startups tackling clean energy projects for small-scale farmers.
Firm Bets on Biotech That Changes How Food Is Produced
Intrexon has modified diamondback moths to pass along a gene that causes female offspring to die before they can reproduce. The modified insects, designed to breed with wild versions, could curb a resilient pest that costs the world’s cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower farmers billions of dollars a year in lost revenue and crop-protection expenses.
The next Big Food Safety Technology Could Be from This Ancient Root
A new invention could improve food safety by borrowing a trick from ancient civilizations: using spice to fend off germs. Researchers have found a way that the antimicrobial properties of the spice turmeric might be employed without making foods taste like it. You could imagine using this technology to coat the insides of cans (a substitute for BPA perhaps)—to provide a new line of defense against food-borne illness.


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.


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WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA