Investment in agricultural technology over the past century or so has been intermittent. After the so-called “Green Revolution” at the turn of the 20th century, investment in agricultural innovation dried up. In the mid-1900s, breakthroughs in use of hybrid seeds and mineral fertilization fueled an amazing increase in crop yields, saving over 1 billion people from starvation. Public focus on food security then went quiet for decades, but in recent years there’s been a resurgence of concern in the international community, given accelerated population growth in a stressed planet facing resource scarcity and climate change. The social unrest caused by the increase of food prices in 2008 underscored the critical need to bring agriculture and food systems up to speed.
Agricultural innovation is needed to enable production of not only more, but also better-quality and more nutritious, food. Crops need to become stronger while planted in increasingly harsh conditions such as soil degradation, salinization, and drought. The big difference between the advances of the last century and today’s challenge is that the new solutions need to be resilient: able to thrive in this new environment.
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