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Sustainable Ag

Population Growth & Climate Change: Investing In The American Food Ecosystem

The global population is swiftly growing towards an all-time peak: today, there are approximately 7.7 people on Earth. The U.N. predicts that number will grow to 9.8 billion by 2050, and to just under 11 billion by 2100. With increased population will come stark increases in demand for farmed goods. With limited land on Earth and the progression of climate change threatening precious natural resources, the agriculture industry must find ongoing ways to adapt to a rapidly changing planet. To meet the total demand for produce, feed, fuel, meat, and dairy, it is estimated farmers will have to completely double their total production in about 50 years.

Meanwhile, the planet is increasingly feeling the effects of climate change. Natural resources are depleting and ecosystems are strained, presenting new challenges to farmers. Along with new challenges, however, emerge opportunities for innovative problem-solving, technologies, and new ideas. As the world faces two major challenges – a growing population and climate change – embracing sustainable agriculture as a solution is made possible via more efficient technology.

Let’s dive further into this.

Industrial Farming: a Problematic Solution

Historically, in order to grow enough food for the increasing population, developers have turned towards industrialization to maximize productivity. But, cutting down rainforests, plowing over great plains, and building huge farming operations, has negative impacts on natural ecosystems.

For example, agricultural development is a leading cause of the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest, which is currently at risk of becoming a permanent savannah. The Amazon is a self-supporting climate and it influences the broad regional environment, including weather patterns. Though farmers are drawn to the ecosystem of the Amazon for ideal growing conditions, deforestation poses risks to the annual rainfall farms rely on for success. Industrial farming, aiming to maximize production, is on track to fully exhaust natural resources if it continues as is.

At the current rate large-scale agricultural sites contribute to climate change, they pose a major threat to the future of farming, making already vulnerable natural resources strained.

To mitigate climate change and keep up with the needs of a growing population, farmers and investors should turn towards maximizing the productivity of every single acre of land and utilizing regenerative farming practices. Renovating existing infrastructure for maximum sustainability and exploring new innovations in farmland management technology will help meet increasing population food needs.

Getting More out of Every Acre

Global food waste statistics are a major indicator of how the agriculture industry can shift operations to be more efficient with new technology. Mass farming operations waste 1.3 billion tons of product annually-- approximately ⅓ of all available food. At the same time, over 820 million people globally are under-nourished. These numbers tell us there is potential to redirect tons of would-be wasted food into productive harvests by changing farmland management practices. Food waste is often a result of overfarming, which can strain farmland and render it useless over time; using methods that avoid food waste will contribute to property longevity. Addressing food waste – perhaps by means of the steps laid out by Boston Consulting Group  – will aid in enabling farmers to produce a reliable global food supply and manage successful businesses.  

The AgTech industry is showing promising developments for improving farming accuracy and consistency, which will be crucial for maximizing the production of every acre of farmland. One company called Blue River Technology has a precision See & Spray system that accurately applies herbicides only where weeds are propagating. Farmers nationwide are using fast drip irrigation systems with highly technical features, such as deep-soil drip and soil analysis reads. Additionally, CropX creates sensors that report soil temperature and moisture levels to prevent over-watering. Innovations like these indicate that scientists are looking for new ways to use resources that are more targeted while improving the quality and quantity of harvests.

Incorporating regenerative agriculture practices is one sustainable solution to prepare for a growing population. Regenerative farming relies on methods that don’t just temper the effects of climate change but actively work to reverse or supplement for changing environments. Farmers nationwide are exploring employing organic farming tactics, establishing a diverse crop rotation of ecologically native produce, reducing artificial herbicide and pesticide use, allowing for rest periods to develop healthier soil. Regenerative farms will be more stable and resilient, and indeed may be a necessity.

Investing in the American Food Ecosystem

As the future of our food supply largely hinges on innovative technological progress, many farmers and their investors are making sustainability a top priority. Innovations in sustainable agriculture are driving huge shifts in the economy, setting records like the $1.5 billion total value of the AgTech sector in 2017. The move towards sustainability is shown in the market, making organic farms the potential best and most lucrative solution for the challenges farmers are facing.

Research shows that with proper management and by incorporating hi-tech and sustainable approaches, farms could very well be able to double or triple their yields. Guided by sustainability, the agriculture industry may very well be able to satisfy the needs of the growing population, and your investment in a sustainable farm will fund the innovation.

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Disclaimer: FarmTogether is not a registered broker-dealer, investment adviser or investment manager. FarmTogether does not provide tax, legal or investment advice. This material has been prepared for informational and educational purposes only. You should consult your own tax, legal and investment advisors before engaging in any transaction.

Sara Spaventa