Resolving conflicting drivers in global food security through agri-food innovation

Sustainable, inclusive, resilient, efficient, economical, seamless, nutrition-sensitive. Such are the adjectives commonly associated to modern food supply chains. Yet many of these drivers often work in opposition to each other. For example, delivering highly nutritious perishable food to consumers by ensuring an unbroken cold chain is juxtaposed with the energy savings driver; elimination of international trade restrictions to ease food access may also negatively affect local economies (Godfray et al., 2010). Further, increasing agricultural output to reduce food scarcity also has significant environmental consequences (Meyfroidt, 2018).

It is therefore not surprising that some key food security actors struggle to develop strategies that fulfill international expectations. For example, a recent analysis of large agricultural companies identified commitment to a median of only nine sustainability targets out of 40 potential targets linked to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Further, the targets adopted were largely inward-focused, with little positive impact beyond the company itself (BCG, 2018).

In ICEF13 (23-26 September 2019 | Melbourne, Australia, I will be talking about the conflicting drivers affecting food security initiatives, and the role of innovative interventions in resolving these conflicts. I posit that strategic innovations implemented across the food supply chain – from production initiatives based on genomics to the use of Big Data to optimise supply and demand – can: a) maximise positive outcomes across multiple objectives, with a view to enhance food security; and b) provide broader, more inclusive positive impacts across food value chains. The examples provided will cover private, NGO and institution-driven innovation initiatives, including cocoa, rice, horticulture and dairy value chains. Finally, some reflections about the role of cooperative approaches between food security stakeholders will be discussed: this author believes that collaborative innovation can deliver solutions to the many disruptive external events that global food security faces.

Please visit the ICEF13 congress site for more information:

BCG. (2018). It’s time to plant the seeds of sustainable growth in agriculture. 22 p.

Godfray, H. C. J., Beddington, J. R., Crute, I. R., Haddad, L., Lawrence, D., Muir, J. F., et al. (2010). Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People. Science, 327(5967), 812.

Meyfroidt, P. (2018). Trade-offs between environment and livelihoods: Bridging the global land use and food security discussions. Global Food Security, 16, 9-16.

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