As part of our agroecology in action series, Arianna Giuliodori, Secretary General of the World Farmers’ Organization talks to Farming First about how technologies and innovations should be made more widely available for farmers.
Farming lies at the heart of many of the world’s most urgent challenges. The farming sector will therefore play a key role in defining the path for future sustainable solutions.
In this guest post, FAO Livestock Development Officer Anne Mottet outlines new research that reveals humans and livestock do not compete for earth’s resources as much as previously thought.
We cannot expand the Earth boundaries. Our natural resources are finite. But every day there are more people on the planet, and how to feed them all remains a number one issue.
The livestock sector is often cited as being particularly burdensome on the environment. In addition to the methane gas livestock emits, animals require a lot of nutritious feed. This feed needs to be grown on agricultural land, using water, energy and nutrients. It can be argued that this is an indirect and resource-intensive way of feeding the world. The picture is however more complex.
There is currently no official and complete international database of what livestock consume. This is why FAO explored this issue in a recent study. What are livestock eating and how much animal food is produced with it? Continue reading
By Tamar Valdman, on behalf of Saillog
Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is not your typical caterpillar-moth species. Fall armyworm is an invasive pest that affects over 80 plants, such as maize (corn), and can cause more than $13 billion in agricultural losses. In the United States, the pest was first reported as early as 1797. Around the 1970s, the U.S. reported losses between $32-$138 million annually. Farmers in Western countries can afford to use the latest high quality pesticides, while those in low income nations have limited access to pesticides that are up to the job. Thus, the 2016 fall armyworm outbreak in Africa, which began in West and Central Africa, has since been deemed a humanitarian crisis. Currently, agriculture experts estimate fall armyworm may cause yield losses between $2.4-$6.2 billion per year in Africa. Maize is a major staple crop and over 200 million people depend on it for food security. Therefore, regional and international organizations and governments are collaborating on effective pest management approaches.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Feed the Future, Land O’Lakes International Development, and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Researched teamed up to create a Fall Armyworm Tech Prize. The competition offers twenty selected startups that focus on digital solutions for identifying, treating, and tracking fall armyworm in Africa a chance to win one of five prizes. Saillog, a Farming First supporter that is dedicated to sustainable agriculture, was one of twenty startups chosen to participate in the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize.
Saillog leverages computer vision and artificial intelligence algorithms for plant protection management, offering a smartphone app called Agrio that uses image recognition algorithms to diagnose hundreds of crop diseases, pests, and nutritional deficiencies. Agrio supports 11 languages, has over 50,000 downloads worldwide, and is rated in the top 100 best educational apps in seven countries. Nvidia, a global leader in artificial intelligence, stated Saillog’s algorithms have, “superb accuracy” and Forbes recently called Saillog’s team, “Food Waste Fighters”.
Saillog’s algorithms are being trained to specialize in identifying fall armyworm. It was a right place, right time type of situation when farmers in India uploaded images of fall armyworm to Agrio and the algorithms identified the pest. Through mid-July, Saillog’s artificially intelligent global alert system, called AgrioShield, sent warning notifications to the smartphones of farmers in high risk zones; hundreds of farmers received suggested preventative protocols written by Saillog’s agriculture specialists. On Monday, July 30, 2018, the Indian Council of Agriculture Research-National Bureau of Agriculture Insect Resources announced Dr. A.N. Shylesha and his team recorded fall armyworm on maize in the Chikkaballapur district in Karnataka state, India. Due to fall armyworms’ high mobility, international organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) suspected the pest would spread to Asia, though until last month there were no confirmed cases.
“We are witnessing an intersection of advances in technology and the potential for efficacious containment of outbreaks. We experienced a similar situation in India when we were at the forefront of tracking the spread of chilli leaf curl virus”, said Dr. Nessi Benishti, the CEO and Founder of Saillog.
“There are no treatments for crop viruses. Prevention and early detection are critical factors in containing the spread. Image-based artificial intelligent systems like Agrio are important tools in agriculture. We are seeing an increase in the spread of diseases and pests globally, such as with the fall armyworm. We are at a point in time when information is easily accessible and communication between individuals is heightened. We once had a case where an individual growing crops in his living room in Fiji uploaded images of diseased potatoes, and a Professor in the United States who happened to specialize in potatoes helped him cure the disease. It is these occurrences, and ones like detecting foreign species early, that depict the impact of our technology”, said Dr. Benishti.
Bill Lingren on behalf of Trécé tells Farming First readers how a pest infestation brought together farmers and an agriculture firm from across the world.
An agricultural emergency on the other side of the world has provided an Oklahoma-based company with the opportunity to help protect a critical crop in a faraway nation—as well as bolster and expand its own manufacturing operations back at home.
The crop is hazelnuts. And the country is the Republic of Georgia, where hazelnut orchards have been under attack in recent years by an infestation of the brown marmorated stinkbug (BMSB).
The invasive pest represents a serious threat to the livelihoods of the small producers in Georgia who grow the nuts. According to one study conducted in early 2017, for example, the infestation was expected to reduce the prior year’s value of Georgian hazelnut exports and income to 40,000 smallholder farmers by more than $60 million.
The situation was critical enough to spur one international development organization, CNFA, to expand a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project which it oversees in order to address the infestation.
After competitively testing a variety of solutions, CNFA last year selected Trécé Inc., an Adair, Okla.-based manufacturer of insect monitoring systems and pheromones, to provide tens of thousands of its state-of-the-art BMSB lures and traps—manufactured at Trécé plants in Adair and Chelsea, Okla.—to protect Georgia’s hazelnut sector and safeguard other key agricultural products. CNFA then worked directly with Georgia’s National Food Agency to deploy the products and train local farmers in their use.
Encouraged by the additional business generated by the contract financial implications of the award, Trécé began expanding its international development efforts. In March 2018, for example, the company organized and independently sponsored a team of U.S.-based scientists to travel to Georgia with Trécé’s own scientists to study the BMSB infestation, which is attacking not only hazelnuts, but also many of the country’s other orchard and field crops, such as grapes, corn, peaches, apples and vegetables.
Trécé’s efforts have paid off. The company this month broke ground for a new facility as part of a corporate expansion which the firm credited in part to new revenue generated by its participation in the Georgian international development project. The groundbreaking at Trécé’s main Adair facility—attended by U.S. and Georgian dignitaries, members of state and local government, and academia—was part of a day-long event that also included the blessing of a new office building, and a plant and lab tour.
The Georgia project is a prime example of the double benefits generated by international development work. It is a win-win project that produces real, positive, measurable results on two sides of the world. The project has put Trécé’s products into the hands of thousands of smallholder farmers in Georgia to help them combat a serious infestation using the latest science, while also providing financial rewards for Trécé, our employees and their communities.
These kinds of business relationships are critically important to U.S. companies like ours—those which operate in rural areas, and success in rural Georgia helps support our success in rural Oklahoma by generating additional new capital investment, jobs and income right here at home,. As we’ve seen at Trécé, international development can produce very desirable outcomes which can open many more doors to new opportunities.
26th – 27th November 2018
A growing world population, dwindling agricultural resources and rising concerns about climate change are adding pressure to an already strained global food system. With global hunger on the rise after declining for over a decade, it is clear that countries, companies and individuals must reassess approaches to food production and consumption. In this context, the annual Chatham House Food conference will explore practical solutions to build a more resilient food system and feed the global population sustainably, focusing on the responsibility of key actors in achieving these goals.