Agricultural technology ‘absolutely essential’ to meet world food needs


With total food demand expected to increase by 70 percent in just under 40 years, and food prices forecast to rise as much as 100 percent, there is “enormous opportunity” for innovation and investment in agricultural technology, according to a recently published white paper from the Kauffman Foundation and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

The paper calls on entrepreneurs to “seize untapped potential” for innovation in agricultural technology in order to increase food productuion while minimizing environmental impact.

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“We face the challenge of producing more food in the next 40 years than during the entire course of human history, on a planet showing signs of environmental stress,” says the paper’s author, Suren G. Dutia, senior fellow at the foundation, located in Kansas City, Mo.

Investors in agricultural technology “will be absolutely essential to meet this goal,” he says.

The key question, the study says, is “How are we going to feed everybody in a way that sustains the planet?”

The answer, Dutia says, is agricultural technology, “which has the potential to completely reshape global agriculture by dramatically increasing productivity, while reducing the environmental and social costs of current agricultural production practices.”

Innovations in agriculture have tripled worldwide food production over the past half-century, the paper notes, with only a small increase in the amount of cultivated farmland. Agriculture is one of the world’s largest economic sectors, with net farm income of around $120 billion and farm assets at around $2 trillion, with little leverage.

Data were analyzed from 900 ag tech companies that are showing “a robust and steady stream of new business startups in areas of crop and animal production, processing, manufacture, and distribution.”

Over the last six years, there was an average of 132 new ag tech startups each year, the majority in the U.S. heartland and corn belt.

Since the 1980s, public sector financing for agricultural research and development has seen a significant decline, but private sector funding has increased — over the last decade totaling $8 billion annually for crop inputs, and $2 billion annually for animal inputs.

“New sources of capital are emerging that seek environmental and social returns, or at least having these returns blended with economic returns,” the study says.

Dutia identifies five major areas in which public and private sector efforts can help drive forward the development of agricultural technology: (1) Educate and promote the need and opportunity for ag tech; (2) increase capital flow to ag tech; (3) develop human capital to meet the needs of tomorrow; (4) transition to new technology around the theme of “green and lean” efficiency”; and (5), develop regional ag tech entrepreneur support systems to accelerate innovation.

Read the entire report at




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