Agritech and aquatech can help tackle the hunger pandemic
By Bendik Søvegjarto, CEO, CageEye
The Corona pandemic has caused a global health crisis that cannot be solved by focusing on the healthcare system alone.
National lockdowns have caused mass-unemployment and sudden poverty for millions of people, and as food production and food supply routes have been disrupted, we have already seen more food banks in wealthy countries, and we can expect more famines in countries where people are poor.
The United Nations World Food Programme has warned of a hunger pandemic that could cause 300,000 deaths per day. The number of people facing acute food shortages is set to almost double this year, from 135 million to 265 million people (1).
This could be prevented. There is actually enough food in the world. The anticipated food pandemic could be halted by solving logistical and security challenges.
However, as the global population grows to 10 billion people (2), we must do more than merely tackling the current crisis. Demand for food is set to soar, perhaps even double, by 2050, so we must produce a lot more food and we must do it in responsible ways that protect our fragile earth. We must find ways to provide more protein-rich food from the world’s finite resources.
Future food security and the creation of a resilient food system will rely on our ability to understand and respect the needs of every species; from plankton to plants, from fish to fowl, and of course people. Our ability to learn to better understand and interpret nature’s signals, to optimize food production based on the rhythm and cycles of nature, will rely on modern technology.
In agriculture, satellite images help food producers detect storms, droughts and floods before they occur, so they can act to reduce their impact or prevent them altogether. Drones and robotics help them monitor and manage operations and their interaction with nature.
In aquaculture, environmental sensors help farmers understand the impact of wind conditions, water temperature, oxygen content and water currents. Hydroacoustic sensors and machine learning help them read the behavior of the fish, and respond to their feeding requirements.
As technological solutions spread and as more farmers learn to gather, analyze and respond to data, both agriculture and aquaculture become more efficient. This will result in the provision of billions of additional meals every year, without increasing the acreage farmed, without increasing the number of farmed animals and fish or other maritime species, and with only slightly increasing the volume of feed required. It will be done while simultaneously protecting the environment and improving the health and welfare of both animals and fish. Farmers will make more money and create more jobs and prosperity, even as prices fall to make food affordable for more people.
Sustainable farming, both on land and at sea, offers the solution. We know what to do and we know how to do it. Together, we can eradicate hunger, and we can make the world a better place.
Bendik Søvegjarto is the CEO of CageEye, an Oslo-based aquatech company dedicated to sustainable aquaculture.