How Can Technology Help Us Be Climate Smart?

A World Bank video on the Climate-Smart Agriculture concept


Our climate is shifting. Our population is growing. Our world is changing in ways we could never imagine. In this time of upheaval, one question keeps coming up: how will we feed the planet?

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says it’s time to embrace Climate-Smart Agriculture, which comes down to three things: food security, adaptation and mitigation.

Planet Forward’s salon on Smart Technology for Climate-Smart Agriculture will be addressing which innovations can make this broad strategy a reality. It boils down to a few key questions:

Which technologies show the most promise for developing climate-resilience in agriculture in the developing world? How can we scale these innovations?

Scaling innovations may prove to be the most important step in spreading CSA. Should we be reaching out to individual farms, or going for a countrywide approach? This could mean starting small and using different types of conservation agriculture, such as rotation crops and no-till methods, or going big and integrating food and energy systems, like the National Biogas Program in Vietnam.

How can domestic precision agriculture inform climate-smart agriculture in the developing world?

Precision agriculture combines Global Information Systems (GIS) with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to control farming equipment. This allows for individualized attention to crops, resulting in higher yields and happier plants. Testing in upstate New York showed promising results, but scientists are still cautious. The field requires a great deal of knowledge, technology and, unsurprisingly, precision. But once mastered, it makes fertilizer and pesticide use incredibly accurate, and thereby cost-effective.

Which of these technologies and practices are (or should be) integrated into developing countries?

Many of these innovations can be utilized through urban and peri-urban agriculture, which could be vital for developing nations. Over 50 percent of the global population lives in cities, and this is expected to reach 70 percent by 2050. Getting innovative on how to give cities food independence could make all the difference in the near future. In fact, this is already a booming market. Ghana’s capitol produces 90 percent of its vegetables within city limits! They aren’t alone, either. In Amman, Jordan, the government encourages home gardens through programs like offering discount fruit trees. It’s part of an effort to empower the urban poor.

Where is the most immediate opportunity for impact? Carbon reduction? Conservation?

Agriculture produced 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. Most of this came from inefficient land and livestock management. By conserving land, carbon emissions could be seriously reduced. Others argue that livestock are the main problem, but researchers at Washington State University say that this can be mitigated through anaerobic digestion technology, converting methane into energy.  

How do we best communicate needs and opportunities to farmers, governments, and the public?

The technology is available and getting more advanced by the day. Now, we need a voice for change in agriculture. It is easy to forget about where our food comes from, but the system we take for granted needs to be seen. It’s up to us to show the world the future of food.

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.