November 22, 2019

Global Food for Thought: Indoor Farming | Climate Atlas | Investment in Asia

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Asia’s Food Sector Requires Significant Investment

By 2030, 65 percent of the world’s middle-class population will live in Asia. As populations become wealthier and more urbanized, they will demand more protein and nutritious produce. In order to meet the  food demands of this population, a new report finds the region’s food and agriculture sector will need $800 billion in investment over the next decade.

Key cities have been identified as potential hubs of innovation and investment in agri-food tech. With collaboration across sectors and increased policy support, these cities could drive the development and funding necessary to meet the region’s demand. OF THE WEEK

A worker holds a young farmed salmon at the Pacific port of Chacabuco, Chile. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria) ACTORS 

New President for World Food Program USA: Barron Segar, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer of UNICEF USA, has been named the new president and CEO of the World Food Program USA. His tenure will begin in January 2020.   

Can Big Corporations be Sustainable? As pressure mounts from consumers and investors alike, large corporations are working to become more environmentally sustainable. A September study from Deutsche Bank found that eco-friendly companies outperform their peers. Yet many activists remain skeptical that companies’ actions will line up with environmental promises.   


Are Alliances Still Going Strong? International collaboration has been found to be crucial to global food security. Yet recent comments from French President Emmanuel Macron on the “brain death” of NATO call the power of international alliances into question. Chicago Council President Ivo Daalder addresses these concerns in the latest #AskIvo video.


Chile’s Salmon Problem: In Chile, industrial fish farms have artificially created a successful salmon industry, but it has come at a price. Heavy use of antibiotics to create the industry has killed hordes of native fish populations. The Chilean government has tried to curb environmental impact, but power is being consolidated within the grasp of a few wealthy corporations.

The Complex Challenges of Indoor Farming: Although heralded as a necessary step towards a food secure planet, indoor farming faces many challenges. High start-up costs, urban rent, and a lack of governmental policy support all put pressure on indoor growing. Recent change in energy policy in the US, which may depress innovation and demand for LED lightbulbs, illustrates the vulnerability of the nascent industry.

Food Shortages in Bolivia: Protestors in support of former President Evo Morales have formed roadblocks on main routes, isolating several cities such as the seat of government, La Plaz. Resulting food shortages have pushed the interim government to supply La Plaz by plane, with hopes to aid other cities as well. Morales is a former coca farmer, as are many of his supporters. DIVE

What is vertical farming? Many indoor farming operations utilize vertical farming for production, and the global market is expected grow almost 25 percent by 2026. The process is meant to reduce resources by growing crops in vertically stacked tiers, ranging from floors of skyscrapers to warehouses. Most utilize hydroponics, aquaponics, or aeroponics, which all require less soil and water resources than traditional growing. The practice is heavily reliant on artificial light, which raises energy efficiency concerns. Additionally, vertical farming favors crops with rapid growth cycles, such as lettuce and herbs, which may serve as a limitation in the future. CRUNCH

Mapping the Weather to Come: Early next year will see the launch of Kenya’s Climate Atlas, the nation’s first localized weather modelling system. The Atlas will provide county-level weather projections from 2050 to 2100, allowing for highly targeted investments in resilient agriculture. Developers are working on similar atlases for Bangladesh and Indonesia.  

Data Won’t Be Lost at Sea: A new technology is providing the availability to track and transmit data on at-sea vessels. In some regions, this data can provide a near comprehensive view of fishing activity while in other regions, only a small fraction of activity can be viewed. This variation comes from different levels of adoption and a need for human verification and review.


New Polio Threat: The CDC sent a surge of staffers to Africa to treat new vaccine-derived polio outbreaks. These new outbreaks are a result of a treatment maneuver from 2016, switching the source of polio vaccinations. Experts say that in the age of social media and anti-vaxxers, coupled with this new rise of outbreaks, the threat is that more people will be susceptible to polio as a result of numerous forces.

New High in Forest Loss: Deforestation in the Amazon for 2019 rose to its highest in a decade. Environmental activist groups blame Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro for the deforestation, accusing him of weakening Brazil’s environmental agency and empowering illegal logging, mining, and ranchers with his rhetoric.

Policy, not Prosperity, Will Win against Climate Change: According to a new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, nations that adopt resilient policies now will suffer fewer climate-induced economic losses by 2050. When contrasting two countries with similar development, researchers found that a nation with more proactive policies would fare better. Overall, the global economy is expected to contract by three percent by 2050 due to climate change.  


Opinion: Coconut Trees’ Environmental Potential: The global demand for coconut has skyrocketed but a huge potential benefit has been overlooked. Coconut tree-based ecosystems are especially equipped for carbon sequestration, the natural process of capturing carbon and absorbing it into plants and the soil. Daphne Ewing-Chow argues that carbon sequestration in the coconut industry should be taken advantage of as an economic opportunity.

Finding Crops of the Future in the Middle East: Scientists growing crops in the Arab Gulf to test climate resilience. The region’s heat, scarce water resources, and often salt-tainted soil mirror conditions that may become the norm in many areas. Quinoa, salicornia, and date palms are some of the crops being tested.   


USAID Women’s Global Development Initiative: This week, advisor to the President Ivanka Trump and USAID Administrator Mark Green launched new partnership with the W-GDP Fund, an initiative working to enhance women’s global economic empowerment. The new partnerships include $2 million for WomenConnect Challenge grants, $1.5 million in a collaboration with the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs and Visa, $1 million for collaboration with the Peace Corps, and $800,000 in partnership with Palladium in Colombia. & COMMODITIES

Changing Online Groceries: A British online retail firm is trying to conquer the online grocery shopping market, a space that has yet to be proven competitive. The firm, Ocado, has already struck a deal with an American supermarket chain and hopes to beat out services such as Amazon Fresh.

USMCA Deal Embattled: There is increased doubt that the North America trade deal USMCA, will pass this year. After meeting with labor leaders, freshman Democrats remain skeptical that a deal will be reached before 2020. While the deal will increase access to markets for American farmers, concerns remain about how the new deal’s trade standards will be enforced.

US and Korea Reach Rice Agreement: The Trump administration and the South Korean government reached a trade agreement on market access for US rice this week. South Korea will provide access for 132,304 tons of US rice annually, valued at $110 million. EVENTS

Mona Eltahawy on The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls
Date: 25 November
Location: Chicago, Illinois

Global Summit on Food Microbiology & Nutrition
Date: 2-3 December
Location: London, UK
BCFN 10th International Forum on Food and Nutrition
Date: 3-4 December
Location: Milan, Italy

Taste of Illinois
Date: 8 December
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Edible Institute
Date: 25-26 January 2020
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Please share any tips or thoughts on what we can do better here.


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


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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. 

| By Janet Fierro

Guest Commentary - Rural Niger Women find Opportunity and Hope through Innovative Business Model

When researchers set out to find natural ways to manage a crop-destroying pest in sub-Saharan Africa cowpea fields they knew the results could have significant positive impact on smallholder farmers. What they may not have expected was the significance of the cottage industry it inspired and the entrepreneurial spirit of the rural women of Niger who led it.