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Future of Global Agriculture — Illustration by TEAMS

Productivity Paradox: demand up, resources down

The oldest challenge of mankind still is one of the toughest — and will get even tougher. Thoughts on what can be next

This is part I of the series about innovation for sustainable solutions in food production.

Today, every second farm in Germany is already using smart technology to face the challenges of a global food production industry. In the following years, agriculture as we knew it will transform fundamentally. Willing or not.

Machine growth is hitting a productivity ceiling, as well as the growth of effective monocultures. Therefore, smaller swarm machines will have to revolutionize agriculture towards a more productive as well as environmentally sustainable industry. Just to name one aspect.

Why change is inevitable? Because our global population is expected to rise to 9.8 Billion people by 2050, and consequently the need for a massive food production increase. Contrary to that, not just environmental conditions like climate change threaten the core of our food production as a whole, but the inevitable degradation of the soil itself.

Amidst declining numbers of individual farmers and added workforce shortages, the global agricultural sector is under pressure to meet the demand of feeding more and more people each year.

So: how can we deal with this paradox? What are the measures we have in hand? Which possibilities are there to sustainably feed more people under increasingly worse circumstances using less soil?

Footprint after Footprint towards Climate Positive Operation

Climate change compromises yields, and our soil degrades with every season.

The degradation caused by modern agriculture through chemicals, heavy machinery, gigantic monocultures and more is resulting in a rapid decline of our soil’s nutrient levels and overall fertility.

If the current degradation continues all of the world’s topsoil could be lost within the next 60 years. Fortunately, this threat is also leading to numerous of ground-breaking innovations.

Methods such as precision farming diminish the dependence on pesticides/herbicides and ensure more economical usage of fertilizer and water.

“We are transforming from a machinery company into a smart tech company” Martin Kremmer, director ETIC, John Deere European Technology Center

Breaking Excessive Habits

The produce we grow on our fields depend on and benefit from healthy and fruitful soil.

The outdated “bigger and faster” attitude of the industry has long made way for new thought.

It is clear that farming needs to become more ecological for its own prosperity. This can be achieved through new methods of cultivation and through technologic innovation. Not only politicians long for a positive change, but also consumers. More and more people realize that they must rethink their diet and their consumer habits to reduce their ecological footprint.

The price of the food we eat needs to be re-assessed to give environmentally conscious farmers recognition for their work and ultimately make it possible to drive investment into forward-thinking technology.

How to feed 10.000.000.000 people?

How do we produce and increase the yield?

Agriculture needs to have a positive effect on our environment so that the soil’s fertility in return raises productivity and paves the way for a higher and more ecological output.

How can we support farmers?

Farmers are under enormous pressure to perform while dealing with political regulations, workforce shortages and price wars. By re-establishing proper appreciation for their work and the ingrained value of food, everybody becomes a part of the process of sustainable agriculture.

Which equipment do we use?

Early autonomous machines are roaming our fields already. Drones analyze the harvest, sensors measure soil quality and through the Internet of Things the farm of tomorrow will be throughout connected, efficient and future-oriented.

Where do we get our food from?

Concepts like Vertical Farming are gaining momentum. They aim high to bring production right back into the city. The opportunities to streamline the whole process from planted seed to a freshly cooked meal are immense.

What do we eat?

While insect protein currently pushes into the European market, products like seaweed bring not only highly nutritious properties and ecological farming processes, but also have many other advantageous uses in addition to becoming food.

This is part one of a new article-series written by Oliver Keller, Creative Director at TEAMS Hamburg, and Reinold Durstberger, Designer at TEAMS Hamburg to analyse the current challenges of the global agricultural industry, and the open possibilities for innovation to create sustainable solutions.

Read now part II of the series: Expand the horizon

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TEAMS is one of the world’s leading design agencies. TEAMS is not just a name — it’s our attitude!

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