K. C. Ting, Kathryn C. Partlow 2015-02-23 23:26:20
Establishing a World Hunger Abatement Task (WHAT) to Build Intelligent Food Systems (IFS) Creating a world with no hunger and with abundant energy, a healthy environment, and resilient families and communities is the grand challenge we face. Hunger is a solvable problem, and it is the root cause of many multi-faceted, multi-scale problems. Great strides have been made in hunger abatement. We believe the next step is to create a comprehensive, worldwide approach, called the world hunger abatement task (WHAT), that will build on current knowledge and integrate that knowledge in order to maximize its benefit. This integration of knowledge can be achieved through the development of intelligent food systems (IFS) that use a science-based approach to coordinate food production, processing, and distribution with sustainability and resource management. The Problem The complexity of our food systems is a major obstacle to conquering hunger. Food systems are locally operated but globally connected; they encompass a broad range of physical, chemical, biological, and sociological activities; and they are influenced by time-varying, site-specific, and interdependent variables. The components of food systems include: • Production, which includes the activities associated with the growth, maintenance, and harvest of plants and animals. • Processing and manufacturing, including post-harvest activities of food preparation, value-added products, and energy production. • Distribution and utilization, which includes transportation, marketing, and consumption. • Finishing and maintenance, including the sustainable recovery and utilization of co-products, waste, and other materials. Given our limited resources, each component must be both environmentally and economically sustainable for successful adaptation. Impressive advances have resulted from research in specific areas (i.e., making one component work better). However, a major effort is needed to make all the components work together by understanding their interconnections, investigating the tradeoffs, and providing decision support for optimization at the system level. The Solution An information system consisting of effective content and efficient delivery will empower farmers, manufacturers, consumers, and policy makers in their decision making. Fortunately, a variety of information technologies are already available that can empower IFS planning, design, management, and operation. In order to build an IFS, we propose the development of a concurrent analysis platform (CAP). The purpose of a CAP is to integrate information and knowledge related to the system under study from various sources, perform systems analysis, evaluate systems-level performance, and deliver the results of the analysis based on the most current information. The four key elements of a CAP are: • System scope and objectives, with varying degrees of criticality. • Resources (including human, information, physical, and financial, among others), with varying levels of implementation readiness. • Mission scenarios describing site-specific, initial, and boundary conditions. • An action plan providing support for decision making. Implementing a CAP requires the involvement of stakeholders, like you, to build three key information, knowledge, and wisdom (IKW) empowered elements: domain informatics to gather information, modeling and analysis tools to process the information, and decision support systems to present the information. The outcome is a comprehensive systems analysis and integrated cyber environment that helps the CAP users (including researchers, managers, farmers, policy makers, etc.) identify technological, social, economic, and policy barriers, evaluate novel solutions, and provide regionspecific recommendations. The proposed solutions will be evaluated using multiple criteria, such as quality of life and income improvement, costs, resource requirements, environmental impact, economic competitiveness, and regional sustainability. Tradeoffs among these performance measures will also be quantified. This framework is applicable to any geographic region and any food system. Building an IFS will allow us to consider all the knowledge currently available, identify areas where knowledge is lacking, adapt the system as technology evolves, use real outcomes to create better solutions, and ultimately feed the world in 2050. ASABE Fellow K. C. Ting, P.E., Professor and Head, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA; firstname.lastname@example.org. Kathryn C. Partlow, Research Communication and Grant Development Specialist, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, USA; email@example.com. Top photo by Scott Bauer, courtesy of USDA-ARS. Mid-page illustration by the authors.
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