May 30, 2013

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

By David Hong, Policy Manager, ONE Campaign
This was originally posted on ONE Campaign Blog.

Yesterday, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend The Chicago Council Global Food Security Symposium 2013, an annual event that brings some of the brightest and most innovative thinkers (and doers) to Washington, D.C. 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.

Advancing global food security through science, trade and business was the theme of this year’s event and there were several panel discussions featuring a diverse cast: academics and scientists; CEOs of start-up companies and nonprofits; and government officials. If you want, you can watch a webcast of the entire event here.

There were too many ideas and discussions to comprehensively document in this post, but one overarching theme was the power and vitality of innovation in addressing global hunger. Throughout the day, different speakers addressed the need to breathe creativity into one of the world’s most intractable problems. Fortunately, the rapid advances in technology and the sciences offer unprecedented opportunities to alleviate hunger and extreme poverty. Most of us can agree that the current model of global food production and distribution is not working if 870 million people are undernourished. Below are some exciting examples of innovation in the agriculture and food security world:

  • Digital Green: this India-based start-up harnesses the power of social media by allowing farmers to share best practices with one another. Groups are organized by Digital Green and watch instructional videos using a battery-powered projector. Over 130,000 smallholder farmers (70% women) have received agricultural extension training through their model in India, Ethiopia and Ghana. Recently, the organization launched “Farmerbook”, a Facebook-style platform that allows farmers to post videos, track each other’s progress, and get answers to questions.
  • Modern Meadow: Straight out of a science fiction novel, Modern Meadow is transforming the future market for meat production and animal products like leather. In response to the heavy environmental toll of consuming burgers and bacon, Modern Meadow is using tissue engineering to culture meat and leather without having to raise, slaughter or transport animals.
  • African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition, and Development (AJFAND): Based in Kenya, the AJFAND was founded by Dr. Ruth Oniang’o, who had a vision for an online peer reviewed journal to help budding African scientists publish their work and share findings on a global stage. Now her dream is a reality and this quarterly journal shares practice insight into issues that benefit farmers and the agriculture community. Recent papers look into the shelf-life of tilapia caught in Lake Malawi and the benefits and challenges of growing bananas in the highlands of Uganda.

Next year’s event could be improved by including farmers or farmer organizations during panel discussions to address their unique constraints and challenges in a way that business and science can understand. Not only is there a need to use a common language, there is a need to augment the productivity conversation to include other challenging issues such as postharvest loss and reducing risk for farmers. All in all, it was a great day of knowledge exchange and learning, and I’m excited for what will be discussed (and accomplished) in 2014.

Do more. Sign our petition to urge world leaders to make measurable commitments on chronic child malnutrition for 25 million children by 2016. 


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 Roger Thurow

Our New Gordian Knot

Fifty years ago Dr. Norman Borlaug recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting the "Goridan knot" of population and food production. Now the planet faces another seemingly intractable problem: how to nourish the planet while preserving the planet.