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How can technology put food on the table? A discussion with The Economist

25 Sep 2019

Robert MacDougall

Head of Enterprise Public Policy, Vodafone Group

When it comes to the apparently simple business of keeping our bellies full, we’re living through complex times.

A shocking 795 million people or 13% of the world are currently suffering from chronic undernourishment.

And the world’s population is still exploding – by 2050, we’re expected to hit 9.8 billion people.

It’s predicted that most of these people will be born in Sub-Saharan Africa, an area of the world already struggling with foot shortages today.

At the same time, we’re seeing a growing middle class in rapidly developing markets who expect the same level of variety. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predict that global food production will need to continue to rise past 2030 to keep up with increasing demand[1].

And with research  indicating that agricultural productivity in the EU has slowed down in recent years due to low investment in R&D and limited adoption of new agricultural processes , the  case may look dire[2].

Feeding the future

However, several significant technological developments and innovations have been made in recent years which may help usher in a new age in food production – ‘farming 2.0.’

These developments are what I, along with a panel of experts from the Seed Biotechnology Centre at University of California, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Crop One Holdings, will be discussing at this year’s Economist’s ‘Feeding the Future’ event on the 26th September.

We’ll be addressing the impact IoT is having, not only through facilitating better data analytics, but also how it’s helping enable ‘smart farming.’

Already sensors are aiding farmers to gather more integral, granular data. This data is leading to better decision making across the food supply chain, resulting in better resource and waste management.

We’ll also discuss how 5G, AI and other emerging technologies will be contributing towards this fight.

So, join us this Thursday to find out how we plan on feeding the future and follow the event on social media to find out more.


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