End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
Can we achieve zero hunger by 2030? Is it possible? It seems like a big goal, especially as experts estimate food production must grow by 70% to feed 2.2 billion more mouths by 2050. There is no easy way to provide food security, but with careful management across the entire supply chain and with the help of digital technologies, we can ensure enough food for everyone today and in the future.
Achieve zero hunger by 2030 – is it possible? It seems like a big goal, especially as experts estimate food production must grow by 70% to feed 2.2 billion more mouths by 2050.
The answer is yes, it is possible, making zero hunger the second of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Though 2.2 billion is a large number, ending hunger is achievable if the world – you and I and every other person on this planet – adopts more-sustainable practices.
This won’t be easy, especially with the strains that climate change will bring. Half of the extra 2 billion inhabitants are expected to live in sub-Saharan Africa, precisely where harsh climatic conditions may retard food production most. Famines have become a part of 20th-century history – is there a risk they will return with a vengeance by 2050?
As the planet’s temperature rises, weather patterns change and once-rich farmlands with ideal temperatures and abundant rain can dry up and wither. California, a major supplier of food in the United States, has suffered from five years of drought from 2011 until 2017, draining crucial water tables and making the country’s breadbasket unsustainable as food prices rise. What will happen if this drought surges again in the near future?
Some may hope for a technological cure-all, but ending hunger and counteracting disasters, such as droughts, are too complex, and there are no easy answers.
Achieving food security depends on a multipronged approach. To start, we need to better utilize the food we produce. It’s estimated that upwards of 30% of food is wasted. With limited time to consume perishable foods, better forecasting of demand through the use of Big Data can help deliver products to the right markets. Another option to counter food waste is to provide surplus to those who are hungry. GOODR is a start-up using blockchain technology to collect and distribute food surplus in a fresh and safe manner to nonprofit organizations. On average, it delivers available food within 12 minutes, faster than a regular pizza delivery. GOODR customers can leverage tax incentives for their donation and save disposal cost while doing good. Based on its pick-up volumes and products, GOODR can also provide valuable data feeds into the demand planning of canteens and retailers.
In addition to reducing food waste, the market’s consumption patterns also need to change. As much as many of us love a medium-rare steak, it is resource intensive to produce and not within reach for everyone on the entire planet. Countries that are larger consumers of beef can change their habits to help the world. Doing so will improve our health, save significant amounts of water, and free up land for crops at the same time.
Improving land utilization and agricultural output is critical to success. We’ve done it before; we can do it again. The move to a three-crop rotation dramatically increased agricultural yields in northern Europe in the 17th century. In essence, in any given year, farmers planted grain in one field, legumes in another, and left the third fallow. The addition of legumes into the mix ensured that nitrogen levels were naturally restored after growing grain, avoiding the growing concerns about increasing nitrate pollution in groundwaters. Output jumped as a result of the new knowledge.
Easing hunger is what Brazilian start-up Aegro Informática Limitada is aiming to achieve with smart farming. Partnering with SAP, Aegro built a platform and user-friendly app to give Brazilian farmers the power to make better decisions and address erosion and productivity loss. The solution won the company a second place SAP Innovation Award in 2016.
Mechanization in the 18th and 19th centuries further improved output by increasing the amount of cultivated land. Before, dependence on manual labor greatly limited the size of farms and farmable land. However, mechanization had little impact on yield per acre, which did not improve until after World War II.
Explosive growth in crop yields, as illustrated by corn, began in the 1950s. A large part of this improvement resulted from the introduction of new plant varieties developed through careful breeding. The creation of new varieties is crucial to meeting future food demand, especially ones resistant to changing weather patterns caused by climate change. Many scientists believe that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are the only way to adapt fast enough, though concerns persist about potential health and environmental consequences.
With arable land shrinking and without widespread adoption of GMOs, our only hope is to better manage crops using precision farming. Combining weather forecasts with data from sensors, aerial photos, and soil properties, precision farming maximizes crop yields while minimizing the application of fertilizer, pesticides, water, and other costly resources and their environmental impact. With the help of real-time sensor data, farmers apply the right amount of fertilizer to grow as much food as possible. Optical sensors on tractors can identify weeds and precisely apply herbicides. By better forecasting weather and local market demand, farmers can optimize harvest times, reduce food waste, minimize environmental costs, and improve their bottom line.
An example of precision farming is provided by a solution developed by SAP for Stara S/A, a Brazilian agricultural company that is active in all regions of Brazil and exports to more than 35 countries. The Internet of Things revolutionized Stara’s business of manufacturing agricultural equipment. SAP S/4HANA helps farmers use real-time data to apply the exact amount of fertilizer required for each individual plant and then analyze results for increased productivity and minimal fertilizer waste.
New techniques in growing food are showing a lot of promise by helping us rethink the concept of farming. With 70% of the global population expected to live in urban areas by 2050, growing produce in vertical farms is an innovative and weather-independent way to meet local demand. Furthermore, hydroponic gardens are environmentally friendly, cutting greenhouse gas emissions without having to transport foods across a global supply chain and effectively reusing grey and rain water. Recent projects prove these gardens can cost-effectively supplement local diets with selected fruits and vegetables.
The food supply chain will face significant pressure over the coming decades, as the world’s growing middle class makes impossible demands for more meat and dairy. Unfortunately, when demand cannot meet supply, the risk of fraud and other unethical business behavior increases. On top of that, consumers increasingly expect fresh, safe, and ethically and legally sourced food products. To provide consumers with the information they are asking for, Naturipe Farms LLC has partnered with SAP to lead retailers and consumer products companies to improve food safety and reduce waste. The higher level of trust and transparency required between companies is delivered by blockchain technology, which provides an unchangeable and certified data record from farm to fork. In an attempt to tightly control the safety of its food supply chain, the French retailer Carrefour S.A. runs a similar approach in cooperation with IBM. In contrast to the past, the advances in available technology, namely blockchain, allows farmers, consumer product companies, and retailers to proactively provide seamless transparency and visibility into the safety and social and environmental footprint of produce to meet consumer expectations.
There is no easy way to provide food security, but with careful management across the entire supply chain and the help of digital technologies, we can ensure a sustainable future of food and enough food for everyone by 2050. As part of our vision and purpose, SAP is proud to be partnering with food manufacturers and farmers such as Stara and Naturipe Farms, so that everyone can eat and live better.
Babi International Corp, a fast-growing breakfast bun company in China, innovated with SAP to tackle one of the food industry’s biggest global challenges: food waste. With SAP S/4HANA, Babi can monitor every stage of the production and delivery process, from the receipt of raw materials to the loading of delivery trucks to the preparation of the final dish. Matching daily inventory with customer demand, Babi delivers exactly the right orders to each of its more than 2,700 stores while avoiding food waste and spoilage.
Waterwatch Cooperative U.A. is on a mission to provide smallholder farmers around the world with essential information about weather, water supply, and crop conditions, so they can make better decisions and support the goal of global food security. Using SAP Cloud Platform and the SAP HANA business data platform, Waterwatch Cooperative worked with SAP to develop the Crop Disease Alert app. For a nominal cost of US$1 per field per year, the app brings together near-real-time actionable information from a variety of sources – satellites, drones, sensors, and farmers – and provides agricultural best practices to users. The Crop Disease Alert app is expected to support over one million smallholder farmers by 2019. It is already helping to reduce yield loss due to crop diseases by 40% and cut the use of pesticides by 20%.
Edesia Inc. is harnessing the power of peanuts to feed children and end malnourishment for 220 million worldwide. SAP funded a project to deploy the SAP Business One solution to incorporate all of Edesia’s business operations and data under one main umbrella, making the whole production process more efficient and effective, and enabling Edesia to reach more people than ever before.
The SAP Rural Sourcing Management mobile app runs on SAP Cloud Platform. It combines mobile and desktop access to track products from farm to factory. The introduction of mobile business apps provides farming organizations with access to important data immediately to help simplify and digitalize business processes. The solution covers farmer registration, e-procurement, transportation, geoinformation, traceability, and analytics. Central collection and monitoring of data, such as payments or cashless transactions, open the door to financial services for smallholder farmers. The most recent example is CBI Innovations Ltd. (CBIiL), the for-profit arm of CBI Nigeria, which chose SAP Rural Sourcing Management to integrate 850,000 small maize producers into the country’s agricultural value chains. CBIiL will be combining the use of SAP Rural Sourcing Management with its network of private extension services agents.
Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited is a New Zealand farmer-owned cooperative that helps its customers farm more productively, proﬁtably, and sustainably. It also fosters knowledge growth and decision-making. The heart of Ballance Agri-Nutrients is helping farmers create sustainable, viable businesses. To drive better on-site productivity and profitability for its farmers, Ballance needed the right foundation for establishing its company's digital future. Placing SAP S/4HANA and SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence solutions at its digital core with the help of its consulting partner Soltius, Ballance is executing operations on a technology road map based on simplification and real-time transactions. With simple, intuitive, and streamlined business processes, the company is helping both internal and external customers conduct business better and increase productivity.
Welthungerhilfe aims to eradicate hunger and malnutrition worldwide by 2030. With just about 2,500 employees, the German NGO helps millions of people in need by organizing long-term development cooperation projects and delivering rapid disaster relief. To optimize the deployment of emergency first response teams to the poorest regions in the world, Welthungerhilfe has overhauled its employee processes with SAP SuccessFactors solutions. In the aftermath of a natural disaster, it is crucial for the NGO to identify the people with the right skills, personality, and experience for the job and fly them out within 24 hours to save people’s lives and alleviate suffering.