Showing results for: Production efficiency/intensity
In this paper, FCRN member Nicholas Bowles of the University of Melbourne reviews existing data on the environmental impacts of the livestock sector and considers these impacts in the context of planetary boundaries. The paper reports that efficiency alone is unlikely to be adequate to shrink livestock’s impacts to a sustainable level, and that dietary shifts will also be necessary.
The UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has published its 2018 environmental progress report. FDF members report a 53% reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions from energy use in manufacturing operations since 1990, and a 39% reduction in water consumption since 2008.
This report from Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the Global Dairy Platform shows the global dairy sector’s greenhouse gas emissions and outlines the measures the sector could take to contribute to climate change mitigation.
The UK’s Global Food Security programme has published a report on innovation within the UK food systems, focusing particularly on the contribution of data technologies and artificial intelligence to food security.
In a column for the Guardian, George Monbiot writes about the potential to create food without plants, animals or soil, using instead bacteria that feed on hydrogen (generated by solar-powered electrolysis of water) and carbon dioxide from the air. Monbiot argues that this form of food production could eventually drastically reduce the amount of land needed for the global food supply chain, and suggests that the new foodstuff could be used as an ingredient in processed foods.
California agritech startup Iron Ox has unveiled an “autonomous farm”, where robots move plants and transplant them from one stage to the next. Artificial intelligence controls pests and diseases and adjusts growing conditions. The farm is not entirely automated, as humans still sow seedlings and package the harvested crops. The farm produces leafy greens and herbs.
This review paper reports that organic agriculture has lower yields than conventional agriculture, by 19-25% on average across all crops, according to three meta-analyses. Lower yields may be due to the lack of use of synthetic fertilisers - organic systems are often limited by low levels of nitrogen or phosphorus - and higher susceptibility to pest outbreaks. Widespread uptake of organic farming (to produce the same amounts of output as today) would probably require some conversion of natural habitats to farmland, because of this lower land-use efficiency compared to conventional agriculture - an important consideration, as the area of certified organic production has increased from 15 million ha in 2000 to 51 million ha in 2015 (although this is only 1% of agricultural land).
FCRN member Waleed Fouad Abobatta of the Agriculture Research Centre, Egypt, has published a paper on the applications of nanotechnology in agriculture. FCRN readers may be particularly interested in the use of nanotechnology to reduce use of fertilisers and pesticides through greater application efficiency.
Rob Bailey and Bernice Lee of UK think tank Chatham House have written a piece exploring food system trends, including rising food demand, plateauing yields in key crop production regions, global convergence on a diet dependent on calorie-dense but nutrient-poor crops and a lack of genetic diversity in staple crops. The authors conclude that current food system trends are unsustainable, saying, “The continued intensification and expansion of agriculture is a short-term coping strategy that will eventually lead to food-system collapse.” They call for interventions at key leverage points in the food system.
FCRN member Ben Phalan of the Universidade Federal da Bahia has written a paper discussing the strengths and limitations of the land sparing-sharing framework, which aims to allocate land use and production intensity so as to maximise the value of land for wildlife while still producing enough food for people. He notes that most studies show that wildlife would be favoured by producing food intensely on as little land as possible, and addresses some common criticisms of the model.
A information site about clean meat and cellular agriculture has been launched by the Cellular Agriculture Society. It discusses applications of cellular agriculture including lab-grown meat, leather and silk and introduces terminology such as “neomnivore”, i.e. a person who only eats cellular agriculture products.
Cultured meat, also known as in vitro, clean, lab-grown or synthetic meat, is meat grown as muscle tissue in the laboratory. This paper reviews the state of cultured meat technology, analyses social concerns and examines some of the issues that start-ups in the industry face.
Developed by SDG Academy, this free course explores the challenges to ensuring a healthy and sustainable diet for our growing world population, as well as the central role of agriculture in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
You can view the full video recording of the panel talk “Reinventing the plastic bottle” which was hosted by the Hoffmann Centre for Sustainable Resource Economy at Chatham House. Speakers discussed problems created by single-use plastic bottles and some possible solutions.
A wireless soil probe that measures soil conditions every 15 minutes could help farmers to apply fertilisers more efficiently and prevent overwatering. Each probe has 23 sensors and sends data to a software interface that summarises the information for farmers. Factors measured include levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, pH, moisture, temperature and aeration.
This article explains the technological changes behind the three-fold increase in global crop production between 1961 and 2014, i.e. since the Green Revolution. It examines the 58 countries that are responsible for 95% of food production and assesses the impacts of changes in land use, inputs and efficiency.