End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
Our changing world is bringing new challenges that must be overcome if we are to live in a world without hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in any of its forms. Can we achieve Zero Hunger by 2030? It seems like a big goal, especially as experts estimate that 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.
Released in 2019, the UN “The State of Food Security and Nutrition” report shows that the global level of the prevalence of undernourishment has stabilized; however, the absolute number of undernourished people continues to increase, albeit slowly. Consequently, intensified efforts are needed to implement and scale up interventions to improve access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food for all. 2 billion people, or 26.4 per cent of the world population, are experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity.
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, where harsh climatic conditions retard food production. 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 between 2011 and 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 for easy answers.
Achieving food security depends on a multipronged approach. To start, we need to better utilize the food we produce. It is 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 an American 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 most pizza deliveries. 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, its production is resource-intensive 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.
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. Crop yields can be maximized by combining weather forecasts with data from sensors, aerial photos, and soil properties. At the same time, precision farming helps to minimize 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 SAP developed for Stara S/A, a Brazilian agricultural company that is active in all regions of Brazil and exports to more than 35 countries. 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 behaviors increases. On top of that, consumers increasingly expect fresh, safe, and ethically as well as 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.
Worldwide, more than 30% of the food produced is lost or wasted. With a global population expected to grow to nearly 10 billion by 2050, improving supply chain efficiency could greatly contribute to the reduction of food scarcity in a sustainable way.
Another challenge is that millions of people around the world are the victims of foodborne illnesses each year. So it is no surprise that consumers increasingly seek the provenance of their food purchases, including certifications such as UTZ. Food providers must have visibility into the entire production and distribution transaction history – and the ability to act upon it if recalls become necessary.
SAP has launched SAP Logistics Business Network, material traceability option – a blockchain application that helps address these challenges. In complex food supply chains, companies often have limited visibility into the source of food ingredients. The material traceability solution for farm to consumer by SAP captures and analyzes product genealogy data. Leveraging blockchain technology, it provides a trusted environment so that companies can safely share product information and inform their supply chain partners in case of product issues.
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, in order to 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.
Most Ugandans farm small plots, barely making a living, but the Kalangala Palm Oil Growers Trust is changing that. By supporting local farmers, subsistence farmers are becoming successful entrepreneurs. KOPGT is growing and using SAP software to expand their organizations, improve efficiency, and keep all major players connected digitally.
In support of smallholder farmers and improved food security in Nigeria, the Convention on Business Integrity’s for-profit arm, CBi Innovations Limited (CBiIL) has chosen the SAP Rural Sourcing Management solution to support 850,000 small maize producers and integrate them into the agricultural value chains.
More examples of how our customers and partners work with us to help ensure sustainable supply of food and reduce food waste include:
To increase awareness and inspire continuous change, SAP is harnessing the power of Big Data. Utilizing technology such as SAP HANA, the Data for Good Initiative is a series of data visualization articles focused on the United Nations’ SDGs. Starting with Goal 2, which is to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture,” these interactive data visualizations are created by analyzing hundreds of complex data sets gathered from government agencies and social organizations. They help to facilitate a data-driven discussion of the SDGs as well as viable solutions, while encouraging readers to interact with the data.