The world population is expected to exceed 9 billion in 2050, according to the United Nations, and that means food production will need to increase by 70 percent.
While the need for more food is challenging, it also creates the incentive to develop new technologies to boost agricultural production and efficiency. One example is the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems at the University of Florida.
The innovation lab, funded by a $49 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, will focus on six countries in West and East Africa and South Asia.
Feeding the World
Food insecurity is already an issue across the globe, says Paul Genho, a former manager of Deseret Ranches of Florida and currently an independent consultant to various agriculture firms. He is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Florida and is a recognized expert on the global food challenge ahead. Genho has received the Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award presented by Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.
Genho says the main cause for hunger in areas of the world is a lack of abundant, healthy soils good for growing various crops.
“Africa, Southeast Asia and even China cannot feed themselves. They don’t have the soil capacity to do that,” he says. “Much of the world lacks the natural resources to feed themselves beyond a meager or subsistence diet.”
The salvation is the abundant lands in North and South America, Genho says. “They have the ability to produce a tremendous amount of food, and will be the source of food for world into the future.”
Quantity and Quality Matter
With fertile soil, experienced farmers and a good water supply, Florida has a global role to play. Florida’s nearly 48,000 farms produce vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and proteins including fish, beef, pork and poultry.
Florida ranks third in the country in the production of fruit, tree nuts and berries, and is home to 1.7 million cattle and 66.7 million chickens.
In terms of food, a 70 percent increase in production means 1 billion tons more wheat, rice and other grains and 200 million more tons of beef and other livestock.
Feeding the world requires keeping up with the growing demands of the middle class, Genho says. “This growing middle class demands ‘better’ diets,” Genho says. “This means an increase of meats, dairy, nuts and other luxury food items. This results in a greater demand and higher prices for commodities.”
Population growth, a growing middle class, non-food use of commodities, and political, financial and transportation barriers are all global factors that magnify the issue of hunger and feeding the world, Genho says.
“But we can fix this. This is not a crisis without hope.”
Solutions include fostering a competitive, free market system; viable, profitable agriculture to assure an abundant and reasonably priced food supply; and facilitating the entry of bright and talented young people into production agriculture.
“Agriculture is the future, and agriculture is the solution,” Genho says.