Food security — agricultural innovations

Innovation is essential to achieve global food security. Only it is not a technical challenge.

Afterbefore has a list of the 10 big things we must have to achieve global food security to 2050 and beyond

Here is a closer logic look at one of them

Testable, reliable, and marketable agricultural innovations that are readily deployed at scale.

A farm has been in the family for generations. At least as far back as great grandpa’s grandpa and probably longer and it has always been about sheep. Yearling lambs were popular for a while in great grandpa’s day but mostly it’s fleece of the fine merino kind.

There is some tinkering with paddocks, herd size, and genetics. And when there is spare cash a dusting with fertilizer happens. One time, when the government promoted pasture improvement, grass and legume seeds were thrown around liberally, but otherwise, the routine is as predictable as the sunrise.

Sheep graze, they grow, they are sheared and they grow again.

It is a simple enough pattern that has worked for over 150 years. The farmer knows how it works. He anticipates problems and knows when to dip, move, and sell off the herd, all thanks to a host of specific skills for looking after animals. This skill set and experience he diligently passes on, just as his father, grandfather and great-grandfather did.

This is a tough sell environment for any innovation. Any new idea is battling tradition, expertise and the assurity that wool has gone to market for generations.

A more efficient clipper system for the shearers might get the once over. It is a small investment, does not change procedures and reduces backache. It could be a winner.

The latest all-in-one chemical dip has a similar chance. It is an improvement at the margins that is well within the comfort zone.

Huge bags of biochar that are spread out on the paddocks and supposed to make the grass grow. Well, that is something different. What’s wrong with superphosphate? That has worked for years and this black stuff is more expensive anyway. What guarantees are there that it’s a one-off application?

You want me to invest on mobile electric fences, keep all the animals in one mob and move them every day. Are you mad?

Rest half my paddocks for 10 years? Now you are just being a dick.

This is the real problem for agricultural innovation. The further out of the comfort zone, the harder uptake will be. Innovations that are disruptive have very little chance of success. No sane farmer would risk his livelihood on a hunch.

Except that is what he is doing. He is taking a risk on the hunch that what went before will continue after.

So one of the 10 big things we must have to achieve global food security to 2050 and beyond is sellable innovation — ideas that can get a hold in the market and propagate through it to improve production efficiency for farms and sectors.

And this is a human problem, not a technical one.


Afterbefore provides evidence and analyses to help innovators meet the market potential. Contact us for more details.

 

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