How To Feed 10 Billion People

By 2050, there are going to be almost 10 billion of us
living on this planet. And all of us will need food to survive. If we don’t change
anything and we will go on in the way we are now consuming our food, then the next 40 years, we need to produce as much food as we did over the last 8,000 years. And that’s a huge challenge. Agriculture is the largest source of non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions. And, along with climate
change and urbanization, the resources that we
need to feed everyone, things like space and water, are becoming harder to find. That’s why scientists and
farmers across the world are finding new ways to help
us and our planet thrive. So you’re now in the central area of the Netherlands. And within this area we have
many different institutes and industries that are focusing on the big challenges in food. We like to study things in nature, try to learn from things in nature, and try to transfer this into solutions that can improve the quality
of life of humankind. Wageningen University is known as the Silicon Valley of agriculture. Students and researchers
from more than 100 countries work here in vast greenhouses and labs to determine the future of our
food and how we’ll grow it. The Green Revolution in the 20th century started by a guy named Borlaug and he was a plant breeder. And what I like about the story is that the guy got the
Nobel Prize for Peace. Not for science, but for peace. And the reason was that he came up with new cultivars of wheat that were able to produce more per plant. And, in that way, he
could offer a solution for the hunger that was quite important at that time in Asia and in Africa. The bad thing was, of course,
that these new cultivars also needed a lot of fertilizers, a lot of pesticides. And that’s the reason
why I think that we need a new Green Revolution. We need to produce more per square meter, but at the same time we need to use less fertilizer,
less energy, less water. So, more with less and better is really a summary of
our research programs. Along with the driverless tractors and agroforestry being developed here at the university’s research farm, the next Green Revolution
could rely on optimizing the most fundamental process
in every plant, photosynthesis. All life depends, now, on photosynthesis. So, it’s an essential
building block of life. For a long time, people thought this could
not be changed anymore. They thought this is a fixed thing. It already exist for
about 2 billion years, so very long time, and people thought the evolution would have taken care of this. And now it looks like it’s not. The team created a robot
filled with cameras that can image plants
while they photosynthesize using a property called
chlorophyll fluorescence. By examining photosynthesis
at the DNA level, they identified natural genetic variations in the way plants handle light. That data can be used to breed crops which are almost 50%
better at the process. Not only could that double yields, but the optimized plants
will be more efficient with resources like water
and nutrients in the soil. So, what the Green Revolution taught us how by changing the
architecture of plants, we could harvest more of the plant and that’s probably saved
humanity from a lot of trouble. Now, this new step in
looking at photosynthesis could mean the same. So, if we can improve with only a few
percentages photosynthesis, we would also be able to
improve plant productivity. And if you can do that in a
sustainable and durable way for a long time and making it
available to a lot of people, by just increasing one trait, then would give us a
tremendous boost forwards. On the other side of the world in China, improving food production to
feed its 1.4 billion people is already an urgent problem. This small-scale peasant economy means lower production at a higher cost. And, combined with food safety and sustainability challenges,
this creates major problems for the country’s agriculture industry. Dr. Li Shaohua is the research director at Sanan Sino-Science,
a joint venture between the Chinese Academy of
Science and a local LED maker. In 2016, they built this factory made up of eight three-story buildings to grow medicinal plants and vegetables. This one building covers
just under an acre of land but provides 1.8 tons of
produce every single day. Their secret? A modular planting system made up of one-meter square boards which contain lighting and
storage for a nutrient solution. The boards easily slot together and can be replaced quickly if they break. There’s no need for pesticides and the cooling system
recycles evaporated water back to the plants so that some use over 18 times less than if they were grown in a field. For now, most of the vegetables are sold to local supermarkets
across Fujian Province and one bag of lettuce costs 11 times more than others on the shelf. But the price is likely to get lower as the technology becomes more widespread. Solving problems in food production will also mean that you are
working on solving issues that affects the whole Earth. It’s a combination of feeling responsible for the environment and feeling responsible for
feeding the growing population.


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