Published: 23 January 2018

Innovation with a Purpose: The role of technology innovation in accelerating food systems transformation

What if we could harness the power of technology innovation to help transform global food systems?

What if we could harness the power of technology innovation to help transform global food systems?

By 2050, global food systems will need to sustainably and nutritiously feed more than 9 billion people while providing economic opportunities in both rural and urban communities. Yet our food systems are falling far short of these goals. A systemic transformation is needed at an unprecedented speed and scale. At the same time, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is driving disruptive technology innovations across many sectors. Agriculture and food systems have been slow to benefit from these developments – the sector lags significantly behind in harnessing the power of technology and making it widely accessible.

This report, developed by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with McKinsey & Company, identifies emerging technology innovations that have the potential to drive rapid progress in the sustainability, inclusivity, efficiency and health impacts of food systems to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Focusing on 12 key technology applications, it estimates the concrete benefits which could be delivered in terms of reduced water usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and food waste; increased productivity and farmer income; and reduced obesity and undernourishment of consumers. It highlights the significant economic, environmental and health benefits that could be realized through the broad adoption of certain technologies and enabling actions that can support and scale them. It recognizes that technology is just one of a wide range of solutions that need to be applied in tandem to transform food systems and that a “systems leadership” approach is needed to engage all stakeholders towards that shared goal.

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