Innovation centers and technologies are changing the way we think about agriculture

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DSM’s Co-CEO on Thursday highlighted the deep connection between climate change and food systems, highlighting the importance of moving quickly and using technology to address the challenges that come with it.

Speaking to CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe, Geraldine Matchett said that food systems are “a major contributor to climate change as about 25% of … greenhouse gases come from the agri-food sector”. You are also “one of the biggest victims”.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, “food systems” encompass everything from production and processing to distribution, consumption and disposal.

A key element in this is agriculture, which is affected by climate change. Indeed, the FAO has described climate change as “both direct and indirect effects on agricultural productivity, including changing rainfall patterns, drought, flooding and the geographical redistribution of pests and diseases”.

Given the above, it’s no surprise that many view the challenge of producing enough food while adapting to climate change and reducing the ecological footprint of agriculture as enormous.

Later this year, these issues will be explored in depth at the COP26 Climate Change Conference and UN Food Systems Summit to be held in the Scottish city of Glasgow and New York, respectively.

In view of these events, Matchett described himself as “very optimistic”. She added, “When (a) it is recognized that it is urgent, but there are also many innovations that are already in place to address this, we can move.”

Matchett went on to explain how she believed she was going to put a renewed focus on agriculture at COP26.

“I think one of the most important actions that needs to be taken is that each country embed the agricultural area in its goals,” she said.

There is a “very understandable reason why this was very difficult at first: it is because the food sector is not just a few large companies or corporations, but millions of farmers, millions of families.”

Matchett acknowledged the reach of this area was vast, and also discussed how carbon sequestration and other technologies related to agriculture and ranching could change things for the better.

The United States Geological Survey describes carbon sequestration as “the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide”. Carbon capture can occur naturally – for example through forests – or through man-made systems developed by humans.

“There are many things that you can actually make heroes of the farming community in order to fight climate change and be better off at the same time,” she added. “So there is a great opportunity, and that’s the beauty of this room: it’s full of possibilities.”

Ideas and innovation

An example of this is perhaps the Cauca Climate-Smart Village project in Colombia, an initiative that has focused on developing agricultural practices that are hoped to be both sustainable and resilient to future challenges.

Ana Maria Loboguerrero is Head of Global Policy Research at the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

In an interview with CNBC last year, Loboguerrero said the Cauca project shared evidence with farmers of “the practices, the technologies that can help us increase productivity and food security that can help us adapt to to improve climate change. ” and variability and that can help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “

During a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday moderated by CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick, the idea of ​​bringing new technology and innovation to agriculture was reiterated by PepsiCo’s CEO Ramon Laguarta.

“The concept of demonstration farms is proving to be very powerful,” he said.

“To build demonstration farms where we have the new techniques and where … neighborhood farmers learn from their colleagues is a huge concept (and) we have many demonstration farms all over the world.”

“The second concept that we are working on with the World Economic Forum and a few other colleagues is innovation centers,” said Laguarta.

“There’s a lot of money … a lot of ingenuity, fintechs in … other areas – there isn’t enough in agritech,” he continued.

“And I think we can play a role – including large public sector companies – to build innovation hubs and bring technology and innovation closer to the farmer.”