Food that doesn’t cost the Earth

Food that doesn’t cost the Earth

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The agri-food sector is one of the biggest contributors to global emissions  – but investments in green technologies are already helping farmers around the world reduce emissions.

Food is a fundamental necessity for survival. The global population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 and current production methods cannot meet future demand. What’s more, food production is one of the most carbon intensive activities on the planet, emitting almost a third of global emissions.

A profound question confronts us: How can we sustainably feed the world’s growing population without irreparably harming the planet that sustains us? This is an existential dilemma: with current technology we cannot feed future populations and maintain a liveable planet. The response must be urgent, and it is no surprise that food security is a top concern at COP28.

Reducing emissions from our food systems is critical for achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. Sources of emissions can be identified in every part of the value chain: mass deforestation to make agricultural land; day-to-day farming operations (particularly livestock farming); food processing, packaging, and transportation; and, at the end of the chain, food waste.

Getting the global food sector on track for decarbonisation calls for comprehensive changes that not only engage everyone but also consider communities’ needs and livelihoods. This encompasses everything from ensuring that growers have access to the funds, information, and tools they need to make the best use of their resources, to encouraging consumers to use their spending power to support greener food products.

Already, there are many positive signs of change. Consumers are showing a willingness to pay a premium on products they understand to be beneficial for the environment, sustainably packaged goods and upcycled food.

Decarbonising the global agri-food system is a key focus for Temasek. With collaboration and commitment across stakeholders, careful allocation of capital, and the development and deployment of new green technologies, we believe this transformation is not only possible, but something we are already working towards. 

Helping farmers and food innovators globally go green

The agri-food sector presents unique opportunities. There are multiple solutions that are readily available to help farmers in both the developed as well as developing markets transition to greener operations.

In France, we have invested in Agriconomie, an agri-tech e-commerce platform selling agricultural products. Its offerings include organic products sold directly to farmers, overcoming supply chain disruptions and soaring costs that often arise in the trade due to geopolitical events. Agriconomie also offers advisory services enabling farmers to transition to regenerative and sustainable agricultural practices. DeHaat, an online marketplace with a farmer-first ethos, is offering similar solutions in India.

We recognise that digital technology is key to enabling sustainability in the sector.

In Indonesia, an aquaculture technology company, eFishery, has digitalised a community of farmers. Their innovations include mobile phone-controlled smart feeders that use data from sensors measuring water movement, positively impacting both fish health and water quality, as well as reducing feed waste which accounts for 46% of emissions in aquaculture.

Alongside reducing emissions, technologies can also help farmers find savings. An initiative carried out in the north of India aimed to boost sustainable production of Basmati rice with the aid of an emissions monitoring platform by Terrascope. It saw methane emissions drop by 48 per cent, while farmers’ net income increased by 30 per cent. Similarly, Rize is another start-up we have co-invested in to decarbonise rice agriculture in Asia in a scalable way.

In the US, we have worked with Brightseed, an AI-powered company which recently received Upcycled Certified status for the development of a gut health ingredient made from hemp hulls. Brightseed uses its technology to discover plant-based compounds for applications in diet and healthcare products.

Working hand in hand

For these tools to have a positive real-world impact, it is not enough for the technology to be sound – they also need to be deployed in a way that works for everyone. Achieving emissions reduction targets on time will be impossible for any sector without collaboration between industry, policymakers, investors, and all other stakeholders.

Photo by AR on Unsplash

Many farmers also have limited access to capital and other resources, such as data on the potential returns from investing in various technologies. Other stakeholders must make efforts to understand farmers’ needs and provide products and services that fit those needs such as flexible financing solutions for capital investments.

For example, Jiva is an app for smallholder farmers with nine million users in India alone. Among its many features, it lets farmers buy products through a buy-now-pay-later-at-harvest plan, which minimises risk when exploring new green technologies. The app also reduces the administrative burdens on farmers, such as by enabling them to undergo a single credit check rather than having one for every financier and insurer.

Time for alignment

Decarbonising the global food sector is a truly vast challenge, but an equally enormous opportunity. Rising to that challenge calls for co-ordinated action and investment, so that transformational technologies can reach farmers and fulfil their potential.
As the catalysts of innovation, investors are an integral part of this effort. We will continue to play our part by investing in the technologies and companies that put the environment and social impact at the top of their agenda. We are committed to building a sustainable future for the generations to come.

At COP28, we will be engaging with stakeholders and participating in conversations that matter to progress the agenda for tackling climate change forward.

Join us to hear from global business leaders and Temasek executives on how we are deploying catalytic capital to finance sustainable solutions and close the financing gap. Find out more here.



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