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From Diets to Tech: The Opportunity in Sustainable Agriculture

May 2021 - 14 min read

A technological revolution is reshaping the agricultural landscape, creating opportunities in companies that are increasing the sustainability of arable farming and protein production.

Key Points

  • Carrying on with business as usual is not an option for global agriculture and food systems. In fact, an academic study suggests an 87% increase in GHG emissions and a 67% increase in demand for cropland to meet the anticipated increase in food demand between 2010 and 2050.
     
  • The use of innovative technologies such as Precision and Digital Ag, biological solutions and seed technology are key to boosting agricultural productivity with a reduced environmental impact.
     
  • Protein production needs to be made more sustainable with improving productivity in the form of animal feed and health. A shift in people’s diets—from animal-based to more plant-based—is also necessary.
     
  • A third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted along the supply chain with losses and waste at every stage in the food system.
     
  • Based on our analysis, the Barings Global Agriculture strategy has invested in companies that are part of the solution with 84% of its AUM allocated across sustainability related themes.
     
  • At Barings, we fully integrate ESG into our analysis and investment decision-making, as this allows us to better assess both the potential risks facing the company and the opportunities presented to it, particularly those that may not be apparent or included in traditional fundamental analysis.
     

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture are responsible for 11% of total global emissions.  If we include burning biomass and deforestation to the calculation, the share jumps to 24%. 

Sustainable agriculture is about doing ‘more with less’ to balance the requirement to feed an increasing global population, but with a reduced environmental impact and sustainable land management. If we are going to feed 10 billion people in 2050 in a sustainable manner, we need to change both food production and consumption—particularly if the amount of land available to agriculture is lower. This will require the technological revolution that is currently underway. In this paper, we describe some of the innovations that are increasing the productivity and sustainability of both arable farming and protein production. 

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