Advancing Sustainability and Efficiency: Are You Prepared for the Future of Agriculture?

Apr 20, 2021 9:15 AM ET

How can we ensure access to a sufficient supply of healthy, diverse, and safe food for a growing global population – while limiting the impact on the environment and coping with climate change? This is one of the key challenges of this century. And innovation in global agriculture is a central part of the solution.
Despite short-term market shocks from COVID-19, the ag input market is expected to grow on average 3% annually over the next decade, driven by megatrends in population growth, demand for protein and pressures on harvests from climate change. Worldwide demand for food, feed and fuel will continue to rise – and evolve – significantly over the coming decades. This is driven by overall population growth and the rapid expansion of a global middle class: Reaching almost 5 billion people by 2030, the share of the global middle class will have almost quintupled over the past three decades.1 With an overall larger population as well as rising living standards and changing attitudes towards nutrition, transparency and sustainability, food consumption patterns are becoming more diverse and demanding.2,3 
Securing a sufficient supply of quality food is just one side of the coin—agriculture needs to meet these growing demands by using natural resources more efficiently and responsibly.

Rising pressure on ecosystems, such as climate change and soil erosion, already impacts farming today: We are losing 12 million ha of agricultural land and approximately 1/3 (or 1.3bn tons) of the globally produced food annually.8,9 Offering sustainable solutions in agriculture will thus be key in addressing environmental challenges and in unlocking unseized market potential.
The impact of climate change has led to a vicious combination of resource scarcity, harvest loss and soil degradation. Without intervention, this is how 2050 is expected to look:5,6,10,11

How do we tackle these unprecedented challenges? The global agriculture industry must advance sustainability and economic efficiency through relentless innovation. 
The crop science industry is a global growth market which consists of numerous dynamics, innovative technologies and approaches ranging from chemistry, biology, biotechnology, and data science platforms to new business models, such as vertical or carbon farming. Adding new technologies to provide integrated and tailored solutions for farmers as well as driving digitalization and sustainability will be at the core of transforming the industry. For instance, successfully implementing smart farming alone, by ensuring widespread connectivity within and across farms, could unlock billions of additional value.12 Technologies like drone farming have the potential to boost yields by enabling farmers to monitor crops frequently and intervene remotely.12

A range of innovations from the genetic level to the operation of entire farms has the potential to significantly reduce the environmental footprint of global agriculture. This includes reducing carbon emissions or even removing CO2 from the atmosphere or protecting biodiversity via digitally enhanced and sustainable farming practices. In this context, new gene editing technologies such as CrispR/CAS9, are valuable additions to the wider toolbox and could potentially improve a crop’s resistance to weather extremes and diseases significantly – all while increasing resource efficiency. 

"One of the most potentially radical changes ahead of us in global agricultural technology is gene editing and in particular the so-called "CRISPR" technology."
UBS, Chemicals Sector Outlook 2020 

This is the big picture of global agriculture: A sizeable number of critical challenges that must be solved. But these challenges have opened-up an entire world of new opportunities – for those who are at the forefront of innovation. 

Click here to learn more