Last week, some of the QFF team attended Rabobank’s Farm2Fork Summit in Sydney. Bringing about 1,300 agribusiness industry leaders, local and international farmers, food and agribusiness start-ups, and prominent researchers and innovators together, the event provided a useful forum to exchange knowledge, solutions and innovations that will help us all create a sustainable future in agriculture and effectively ‘grow a better world together’.
Outside of agriculture, few seem to appreciate the challenge we all face in sustainably feeding and clothing about 10 billion people by 2050. This means producing up to 70% more food than today with a shrinking resource base, while conserving biodiversity and meeting international targets on carbon emissions.
Global food production is responsible for about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change. On a simple calorie to carbon index, farmers will need to become about five times more efficient while producing almost 75% less carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) to achieve the 2050 emissions targets.
A calorie to carbon index suggests limiting the production and consumption of foods that have a high carbon footprint, particularly where they provide only a small amount of the calories we eat and drink. But the nutrient value of foods, which is more relevant to healthy eating, varies considerably.
Compare a glass of milk, soy milk and beer. Milk is responsible for 3-4% of the global CO2eq emissions while soy milk is significantly less. However, milk has a nutrient density index of 0.54 while soy milk is substantially lower at 0.28. Beer on the other hand has a similar caloric value as milk and soy milk and a nutrient density index of zero but is enjoyed by many people.
This example highlights the complexity of feeding 10 billion people by 2050 in a carbon conscious world and the limitations of applying a simple calorie to carbon index to measure how we do this. Definitely food for thought.