Lalit Verma 2015-02-23 23:29:42
We Will Feed the World in 2050 Agricultural and biological engineers (ABEs) will be critically important in feeding an additional three billion people by 2050. Our profession’s past contributions to safe, affordable, and abundant food are proof of that. Ensuring food security for the projected global population is a daunting challenge. However, a bright spot is that major contributions toward food security can be achieved without increasing production— for example, by reducing post-harvest losses. My confidence stems from my international experience as a post-harvest agricultural engineer. In fact, because we need to produce more food with fewer inputs per unit of land, and then deliver this food to the people who need it most, production increases— by themselves—won’t be enough. In addition to reducing postharvest losses, we must also increase the efficiency of our production systems. We have started to do this by combining our engineering expertise—including precision farming, micro-irrigation, sensor networks, robotics, and other technologies—with expertise from other professionals, including agronomists, soil scientists, geneticists, entomologists, agricultural economists, and many others. To do the most good, these collaborations need to be global, to match our combined expertise with local needs around the world. This is especially important for the developing world, as the large-scale strategies that work in developed countries must be adapted, using technologies that are appropriate for different cultures and different climates with even greater resource constraints. Fortunately, our recent successful collaborations with scientists in other fields have so far demonstrated that we can solve the complex problems of food production with constrained resources of land, water, and energy. At the 2014 ASABE/CSBE Annual International Meeting in Montreal, we mapped out the global challenges and opportunities for ABEs as part of the Global Engagement Day activities. To further our ABE Global Initiative, we are developing a strategic position paper that identifies ABEs’ importance and responsibility in sustainably feeding the world in 2050. This paper outlines the challenges before us, highlights the specific needs of three “security” themes (food security, energy security, and water security) in the context of sustainability and climate change, and specifies how ASABE, its members, and its partners will address the grand challenges. Our strategy is expressed in the following goals: 1. Improve food productivity. 2. Reduce food losses and waste. 3. Enhance energy conservation and efficiency. 4. Develop adaptable renewable energy systems. 5. Improve water availability, conservation, and efficient use. 6. Provide clean water for multiple uses (human consumption, agriculture, recreation, ecosystem services, biodiversity, etc.). These goals may sound familiar to you—in a way, they summarize the long-standing efforts of the ABE profession. We can be proud of what we’ve accomplished, so our strategy also involves showing the world who we are, what we do, and how our work has improved the quality of life for everyone. In particular, we must ensure that policy-makers are aware of the proven strengths and expertise of our profession. Despite the challenges facing us, I believe that our future is bright, that all problems have solutions, and that our profession will be profoundly important in the global effort to feed the world in 2050. ASABE Fellow and Past President Lalit Verma, Professor and Head, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, USA; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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