Challenges Conclusion

Hi Everyone,

The team cannot thank you all enough for your contributions to the challenges discussions. We’ve been keenly following the insights you have been sharing, helped us draft a list of challenges to take to the lab where more experts gave us invaluable additional feedback.

We wanted to use this channel to update you on our internal process and thinking around challenges in food systems.

We worked to identify three Grand Challenges in food systems that need to be overcome in order to achieve a preferred future of food by 2050.

We define a Grand Challenge as a set of complex and overlapping challenges that are commonly multi-dimensional; in that they contain social, technological, economic, environmental, and political dimensions. Grand challenges present both opportunities and obstacles for change.

Grand Challenge 1: Consuming Healthier Diets
By 2050, the world population will grow to 10 billion and overall demand for food will increase by more than 50% and 70% in the case of animal-based food. Today, hundreds of millions of people suffer from hunger and malnutrition. At the other extreme, over 2 billion people are overweight or obese. To address this grand challenge, large-scale commercial agriculture needs to be incentivized to produce healthier crops and consumers need to have improved food literacy and adjust their behaviors.

Grand Challenge 2: Creating an Inclusive Food Economy
About 90% of the world’s 570 million farms responsible for feeding up to 80% of populations in the developing world are operated by smallholder farmers who live in rural areas and poverty. They are often food insecure, have limited access to markets and services, and are vulnerable to external shocks, such as sudden changes in weather, increasing drought, pests and diseases, and market fluctuations. The lives and well-being of billions of people are at risk if food systems are not transformed to become more inclusive and resilient.

Grand Challenge 3: Transforming Food Systems to Mitigate Environmental Degradation
The Earth cannot accommodate the expansion of current food system practices necessary to feed growing populations. Food systems use almost half of the world’s vegetated land and 70% of its freshwater. They are the largest single contributor to soil degradation, water depletion, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, deforestation, and biodiversity loss.

Why suggest a solution to the first one but not the other two?

1. Consuming Healthier Diets: Check! Boost hyper-local production with High-Performance Gardening, particularly small and micro-farm level to increase quality, and get them in school systems to increase food literacy and behavior change (a.s.a.p.).

As for incentive, there is a multi-billion dollar opportunity in providing the systems (durables and consumables) alone. Big ag could get in front of this trend and call themselves leaders or leave it to others.

**2. Creating an Inclusive Food Economy: **A few billion hyper-local, super-efficient gardens around the planet will undoubtedly be more inclusive and resilient than what we currently have. And there’d be a good chance you would have one or more casual or professional growers in your circle of friends. Our connection to the food supply and the cycle of life would surely become more intimate.

**3. Transforming Food Systems to Mitigate Environmental Degradation: **“High-Performance Gardening” can reduce water consumption by 95%, uses a minor fraction of the fertilizer with zero runoff, and by going vertical (indoors or outdoors) they can produce many times the amounts usually harvested in a given area. No soil required.

While these systems could become most prevalent in urban environments, they can also be useful in other areas. For example; a particular area may have a micro-climate well suited to a specific crop but with a terrain that is not suited to large-scale farming.

Also, while urban farming is excellent for reducing the time between harvest and consumption, high-quality medicinals, dried herbs, spices, etc. that don’t necessarily benefit from this shorter time-span could be produced in diverse locations far from urban areas.

As per other discussions, hydroponics is taking an ever-larger role in urban farming and for good reason. What has not come to market yet is the breakthrough system design, a Universal Hydroponic System, that shares components across large, small, hobby and backyard gardens. Stay tuned, it is in the works.

Thanks, @SteveK8!

The breakthroughs we’re discussing under Evaluating Breakthroughs could all potentially be solutions to these grand challenges. We haven’t classified all breakthroughs per grand challenge yet, but we will in the final Impact Roadmap.

Not all the breakthroughs might make it! Depending on the feedback we get, we might decide to expand on some and discard others.