In other words, our unchecked appetites are causing havoc.
The real question, then, is not whether Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies will help us grow more food. Some of the most exciting developments may not be on the farm at all. While much attention has been focused on farm-level improvements, an equal if not greater amount of disruption may be occurring in supermarket aisles, online and through aggregation apps.
The potential for change becomes apparent once you consider the complexity of the food system. It matches the million farms that produce our food with the 7. Digital technology is a game-changer for the agri-food system, because it dramatically reduces the cost of matching buyers and sellers in markets. In turn, greater efficiency in upstream and downstream markets could result in higher prices for farmers and more competition between middlemen. Cargill, the American grain trader and beef packer, is reportedly having to rethink its business model and move toward more integrated food operations as a result of digital disruptions, including the democratization of crop pricing information.
By connecting agri-entrepreneurs directly with buyers , the Chinese tech, e-commerce and artificial intelligence company Alibaba is reportedly reducing poverty in remote villages. A future in which rural communities are fairly rewarded for cultivating and conserving local resources would be a welcome development indeed, upending decades of rural to urban migration. The food sector is currently so riddled with inefficiencies otherwise known as "market failures" that it has started to attract serious tech business interest and solutions.
Winnow is a start-up zeroing in on food waste in commercial kitchens by connecting scales and data analytics. Protix is betting that it makes more sense to feed insects, raised locally on food waste, to Dutch poultry, than to use Peruvian anchovies, shipped halfway across the world then ground into fishmeal.
Disruptive technologies could help distribute food, wealth and data, reduce hunger and waste, and empower farmers to produce more valuable, climate-resilient and nutritious foods for their clients. Or they could spur a consolidation of the food sector, allowing a few companies to dominate the market, limiting food choices and expanding bad practices rather than correcting them.
Some of the policy choices that can steer the food system toward better outcomes have been clear for years. Green certification schemes, user-friendly nutrition information, local procurement rules and incentives for conservation all have a role to play in the battle for more nutritious and sustainable food systems. Change is about more than technology. Policy innovations are urgently needed.
At stake is the depth of agricultural transformation and the maximization of its dividends for millions of small-scale food producers , as well as for food entrepreneurs and consumers around the world. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum. I accept. Global Agenda Agriculture, Food and Beverage Environment and Natural Resource Security Fourth Industrial Revolution The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing how we grow, buy and choose what we eat Disruptive technologies could help distribute food, wealth and data, reduce hunger and waste, and empower farmers.
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