Future Technologies for Food and Biomass Production: New Solutions to Old Challenges
Today’s global agriculture has a bad reputation, it is often considered a problem rather than a solution. Desertification and loss of fertile soils, over-fertilization and eutrophication of soil and water pose high risks to biodiversity conservation and the food security. Extensive pesticide use with strong environmental impacts damage insect population and cause the death of bees. Agriculture is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
The good news is that research and industry are working on solutions – we are on the brink of a high-tech revolution in the production of food, feed and biomass in the future. The goals are to achieve significantly less resource consumption at more output, which would mean to strongly increase resource efficiency. In parallel, the negative impacts on ecosystems need to be minimized – human cultivation needs to find a new harmonious way to co-exist with nature.
For the first time in history, we understand in detail how a healthy soil works, what role bacteria and fungi play in the nutrient uptake of plants and trees. We know how to achieve healthy and productive soils with biostimulants while nitrogen-fixing bacteria will reduce the use of additional nitrogen. Precision farming with Artificial Intelligence (AI), robots and drones can help to fertilize and protect plants more efficiently and with lower environmental impacts. Improvements in plant varieties can enhance plant ingredients and make better use of solar radiation with an updated photosynthesis system.
Marine farming means the cultivation of marine organisms for feed, food and other products in the open ocean and enclosed sections of the ocean, in tanks, ponds or raceways filled with seawater. Biorefineries will supply a wide range of chemicals and bio-based products in biorefineries, including environmentally friendly textile fibers.
With indoor farming in our kitchens and vertical farming on an industrial scale, healthy food can be produced efficiently and locally. Insects, algae and bacteria can be used to develop new sources of protein. Bacteria can even digest CO2 to produce feed proteins for aquaculture. Organic farming, as well as smallholders, will also strongly benefit from many of these new developments and increase their efficiency while respecting their original ideas and principles.
AVF members will receive 30% reduction by entering AVF2018 in the field “Allowance Code” during online registration.
High-tech strategies for small farmers and organic farming
Mycorrhiza fungi increase yields in a targeted and environmentally friendly way; robots help farmers to control weeds ecologically. Smallholders optimise outputs with sensors in the soil and with modern biorefineries. Both smallholder and organic farming can benefit greatly from technological developments and innovative solutions while holding on to their ideals. Meet leading companies and researchers at the “Revolution in Food and Biomass Production (REFAB)” conference in Cologne on October 1stand 2nd. www.refab.info
It is easy to get the impression that organic farming and new technologies are mutually exclusive. But, quite the opposite, REFAB will present exciting technologies and concepts that optimise organic farming while at the same time staying true to its principles. This already starts at cultivation: Dr. Alok Adholeya from TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Centre will present an innovative and sustainable approach based on the integration of mycorrhiza fungi and nano-bio-stimulants. It can increase the agricultural productivity of many farmers in the world in an environmentally friendly way.
Worldwide, around 80% of all farms are so-called smallholder farms in areas of up to two hectares. Such farms often form the agricultural backbone in developing countries but cannot always take the environment and sustainability into account. Here, innovation and modern technology make new solutions possible, for example by using cultivation areas more consciously through sensor technology and spatial geodata. Anil Rajvanshi, director of Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) in India, will show how modern precision farming, the Internet of Things and even 3D printers can help turn the country’s smallholder agriculture an attractive and rewarding industry. Samir Sodaiya of Godavari Biorefineries Ltd., also from India, presents a different approach. He shows how a biorefinery can not only produce sugar from sugar cane but also create further valuable products from side streams and “waste”. Godavari also promotes and improves sustainable agriculture through improvements such as drip irrigation, precision agriculture and agro-ecological practices.
Support for smallholders can not only reduce poverty in rural areas but also preserve biodiversity: Gero Leson from Dr. Bronner’s Magical Soaps presents their dynamic agroforestry in Ghana, India and Samoa, from where the company receives its coconut, palm and mint oil supply. Trees are planted in mixed, stratified forests and the higher density results in higher yields, greater biodiversity and also improves the livelihoods of the local smallholder farmers. And Julius Ecuru from the BioInnovate Africa Program (BAP)shows how native plants and new technologies can be used profitably by local smallholders in East Africa, e.g. through novel enzymes, alternative products made from millet or public-private partnerships.
Globalisation is putting many smallholders under pressure from large farms, subsidies and locally weak infrastructure. Again, technology can offer solutions by enabling small farmers to network or create joint initiatives and cooperation through digitisation. Rajnish Gupta from Tansawill present experiences of and with smallholder farmers in emerging countries and show criteria for success in the transition to modern agriculture.
Finally, there is also great potential for organic farming innovation in industrialised countries; modern robotics, for example, can combat weeds precisely and without chemicals. Many new ideas are specifically tailored to specific problems: At REFAB, Björn Lagerman of FriBi holding AB presents the BeeScanning App. With a smartphone camera and the app, beekeepers can fight the Varroa destructor parasite mite while observing other properties of the hive. The tool not only allows to diagnose the health of the hive but also forms a basis for population modeling and breeding programmes.
Would you like to get an in-depth look into how innovations can both shape the future of organic farming and support smallholders worldwide? Don’t miss the conference “Revolution in Food and Biomass Production (REFAB)” on October 1stand 2ndin Cologne (www.refab.info). A total of 50 speakers will present the future of food and biomass production. The conference will be accompanied by the “Future Protein Award”, where up and coming companies will present their innovative food or protein concepts made from CO2, insects, algae, bacteria and cell-cultured meat in the accompanying exhibition. The conference topics can choose their favorites and at the end the most convincing concepts will be awarded.
Until the end of July, you can still register for the conference at an early bird discount, with additional discounts for participants from developing countries. Don’t miss the chance to experience the future of agriculture first hand!
Responsible for the content under German press law (V.i.S.d.P.):
Dipl.-Phys. Michael Carus (Managing Director)
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Phone: +49 (0) 22 33-48 14 40
Nova-Institute is a private and independent research institute, founded in 1994; Nova offers research and consultancy with a focus on bio-based and CO2-based economy in the fields of food and feedstock, techno-economic evaluation, markets, sustainability, dissemination, B2B communication and policy. Every year, Nova organises several large conferences on these topics; nova-Institute has 30 employees and an annual turnover of more than 2.5 million €.
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