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Food and Beverages | Friday, May 20, 2022
Rising incomes have increased protein consumption worldwide, but they have also brought new challenges: Agriculture's greenhouse-gas emissions are rising.
FREMONT, CA: The Green Revolution, a burst of technology in the 1960s, significantly increased agricultural output across developing economies. Rising wages have increased protein consumption globally but have also created new challenges: greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture are increasing, and various behaviors, from waste to overfishing, endanger food supply sustainability. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted these concerns, and the disease has disrupted supply chains and demand, increasing food waste in farms and fields while jeopardizing food security for millions.
A new agricultural ecosystem will be required to reduce the growth in agricultural GHG emissions while meeting the world's food needs. In the short term, reducing emissions will largely depend on current technologies and possibilities. However, cutting-edge technology (such as gene editing, innovative feed additives, and aerobic rice) is also required.
Reduced emissions from farm equipment
Shifting from typical fossil-fuel equipment, such as tractors, harvesters, and dryers, to zero-emission counterparts can produce the most significant amount of emissions reduction from a single measure. Unfortunately, the current market penetration of zero-emission technology in farming is smaller than in consumer vehicles: market leaders are simply piloting proofs of concept. With the correct investments from machinery makers, it should be possible to achieve total-cost-of-ownership parity between internal-combustion engines and zero-emissions sources (such as battery electric power) by 2030.
Monitoring animal health
Emerging biological technology and computer capabilities, including gene sequencing and artificial intelligence, enable farmers to detect and prevent disease by applying predictive algorithms to existing and new data sources. However, integrating this technology has proven costly, and farmers have yet to understand or embrace them fully. Furthermore, health concerns differ widely by place and species, making a silver bullet doubtful. Innovative business strategies and commercial investment is required to overcome these limitations.
Breeding based on the focus on GHG
While genetic-breeding projects are still in their infancy, the government and industry are driving adoption. The agricultural sector and the government of New Zealand have initiated a "world first" genetics effort to breed sheep that emit less methane per mouthful of grass. Even with such initiatives, widespread adoption will necessitate economic incentives, such as market rewards or credits for methane reductions.