Food and Water

Using technology to ensure the world won’t starve by 2050

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The impact.

Two billion people in the world currently suffer from malnutrition and according to some estimates, we need 60% more food to feed the global population by 2050. Yet the agricultural sector is ill-equipped to meet this demand: 700 million of its workers currently live in poverty, and it is already responsible for 70% of the world’s water consumption and 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The World Economic Forum’s Innovation with a Purpose Platform is working with over 50 partner institutions and 1,000 leaders around the world to leverage emerging technologies to make our food systems more sustainable, inclusive and efficient.

With research, increasing investments in new agriculture technologies and the integration of local and regional initiatives aimed at enhancing food security, the platform is already making substantial progress in improving access to nutritious and healthy food. To date, it has supported multiple regional and global initiatives that have engaged more than 200 stakeholders.

What's the challenge?

New technologies could help our food systems become more sustainable and efficient, but unfortunately the agricultural sector has fallen behind other sectors in terms of technology adoption. Technological investment in agriculture remains a mere fraction (less than 10%) of that invested in healthcare technology, for example.

But what if we could harness technology and innovation to nourish the world without harming the planet? Making this happen requires global collaboration involving partners from both the public and private sectors, and the Forum is leading a worldwide effort to drive innovation to transform our food systems.

Our approach.

Launched in 2018, the Forum’s Innovation with a Purpose Platform is a large-scale partnership that facilitates the adoption of new technologies and other innovations to transform the way we produce, distribute and consume our food.

The platform does this in three ways:

1. Facilitating an improved innovation ecosystem by connecting technologists with key players in the agriculture and food sector

Through events, workshops and online communities, the Forum brings together technology experts and agricultural leaders to exchange insights, build partnerships and create collaborative solutions for addressing some of the most significant challenges related to food security.

2. Advancing new and existing initiatives to develop and scale up technological innovations

Innovation with a Purpose supports both Forum-led and partner-driven initiatives that directly or indirectly accelerate technological transformation in agriculture. Examples of its work include: exploring the use of agricultural data in improving livelihoods for smallholder farmers in India and Kenya; supporting the development of a financing vehicle to help start-ups and SMEs deploy solutions for improving health and nutrition in underserved communities; providing recommendations for improving traceability and transparency in food value chains; and promoting the sustainable production of livestock feed.

3. Developing insights, supporting capacity building and measuring impact

The platform has released several insight reports, including one that identifies twelve technologies that have the potential to transform our food systems and a second paper examining how emerging technologies can provide better information about the origin, safety and sustainability of food and food supplies. In 2020 it released another flagship report looking at the role of financial and non-financial incentives in transforming food systems.

Current partners of the platform include AGRA, the Government of Maharashtra, Grow Asia, Indigo Ag, McKinsey & Company, the Rockefeller Foundation, Stanford University, the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the World Bank and the World Food Programme's Innovation Accelerator.

How can you get involved?

Led by the Forum’s Centre for Nature and Climate, Innovation with a Purpose is seeking innovators, leaders and experts who want to contribute to our global movement to ensure that we can sustainably and nutritiously feed over 9.7 billion people by 2050.

Is your organization interested in becoming a part of our growing community? If so, we encourage you to reach out to us today.

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Food and WaterEmerging Technologies
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