With 1/7 of the world’s population, or 868 million people, hungry, and the global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, the oft asked question is: “How will we feed the world?” The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) maintains that securing global food security and improving the health of populations will be dependent on the cultivation of sustainable food systems.
Here we’re highlighting six innovative technologies that are helping farmers feed themselves and the world in a more sustainable, equitable and profitable way.
Mobile farm, contrary to what it sounds like, is not a moving farm, but a digital technology that allows Kenyan farmers to receive current pricing information on their products. Across the world farmers face issues with middlemen eating into their profits, but this is a particular issue across Africa due to low access levels to the internet. More often than not farmers will be offered meagre prices for their produce which will get sold on by the trader for a much higher profit. Because the farmers miss out on the higher profit margins, it limits their ability to expand and produce higher yields. With M-Farm farmers can simply text #20255 and receive pricing information on their products, along with being able to find buyers for their produce. This technology gives them a say in their market and has the potential to dramatically increase a farmers output.
This is something that literally everyone who owns a smart phone can get involved with. It’s a project run by The Lunchbox Fund and for all of you food snappers it means when you ‘share’ your dinner on social media you will literally be sharing your meal with a child somewhere in the world. When you snap a photo of your dish with the Feedie app at participating restaurants, the restaurant makes a monetary donation equal to one meal to The Lunchbox Fund. So far over 12 million meals have been shared with plans to expand this year.
3. Vertical Farms
Unlike Mobile Farm, vertical faming does exactly what it says on the tin – food that grows up instead of out. In an ever growing world with a finite amount of space some of the bigger questions in the agricultural sector are centred around space utility and we’re finding answers in surprising places. Born out of a place where limited space is a daily struggle, vertical farms are bringing food security to slums across Africa – protecting them and their families from global food price hikes and also allowing them to create some extra income. Two Kenyan agricultural researchers, Nancy Karanja and Mary Njenga, are the masterminds behind this urban agriculture drive and they are working closely with a group of female famers in Kibera to establish the farms in to more households.
4. The Wonderbag
Created by British business woman Sara Collins the Wonderbag is a slow cooker that requires absolutely no electricity. Although the Wonderbag isn’t an innovation that helps to produce food, it is an innovation that is helping to save the food families have. Around 20% of all staple food in Africa is burned due to cooking on open fires, but with the wonderbag this risk is taken away. Another great thing about the Wonderbag is that because it doesn’t require any energy homes can save up to 30% of a household’s annual income – freeing up money and easing poverty. Although the Wonderbag is not a charitable product, those who can’t afford to pay the full amount are offered subsidised price.
Plantwise aims to improve food security by reducing crop losses by collecting, organizing and disseminating critical knowledge about plant health. Its goal is to help smallholder farmers and researchers minimize the spread of pests and disease by detecting plant health problems earlier and providing better recommendations for treatment. It operates a network of physical plant clinics and offers diagnosis and treatment support information as well as practical on the ground training for potential plant doctors through its online Knowledge Bank.
6. Digital Green
Digital Green seeks to improve food security and alleviate rural poverty by disseminating targeted agricultural information to small and marginal farmers in India through digital video. The company’s technology, COCO, captures local agricultural knowledge, techniques and best practices from farmers and extension agents through video production. DVDs of these videos are distributed to local mediators who organize screenings, facilitate discussion and answer questions. The technology differentiates itself from others, because it is able to operate offline, without the browser being interrupted, and only requires Internet connectivity when a user is ready to sync their data with the the company’s global database.