Ensuring Food Security with AI and Agri-Tech in a Changing Environment


TL;DR Breakdown

  • Professor Lowenberg-DeBoer emphasizes the need for diverse food systems to enhance resilience.
  • Agricultural robotics, AI, and agri-tech can integrate natural systems and improve food production.
  • Collaborative efforts are crucial in addressing future food supply challenges caused by climate change and biodiversity loss.

Advancements in agricultural automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and agri-tech hold immense potential for addressing food security concerns both in the United Kingdom and worldwide. Recently, the Environmental Audit Commons Select Committee summoned Professor James Lowenberg-DeBoer, the Elizabeth Creak Chair of Agri-Tech Economics at Harper Adams University, to provide expert testimony for their inquiry on environmental change and food security. This parliamentary committee scrutinizes the contribution of government policies and programs towards environmental protection and sustainable development, assessing their performance against sustainable development and environmental protection targets. The ongoing inquiry aims to evaluate the UK’s preparedness and resilience in dealing with future food supply challenges resulting from climate change and biodiversity loss.

Building resilient food systems through diversity

Professor Lowenberg-DeBoer emphasized the importance of diversity in building resilient food systems. Drawing from historical examples and his own experience, he highlighted the risks associated with overreliance on a limited number of food sources or corporate farms. By fostering a diverse food system comprising various producers, specialized farms of different sizes, and geographical locations, resilience can be enhanced.

The professor emphasized that farmer livelihood plays a pivotal role in ensuring food system stability. If farmers cannot sustain themselves economically through food production, the entire food system is undermined. Professor Lowenberg-DeBoer urged the committee to recognize that food security is a public good. While food consumption is a private affair, the assurance that society as a whole will have enough food is a collective responsibility.

To exemplify the impact of food insecurity within a community, Professor Lowenberg-DeBoer recounted his experiences in the Sahel region of Africa in the late 1980s. He emphasized that when one part of a community suffers from food scarcity, it affects the entire community. This perspective underscores the interconnectedness of food security and the need for collaborative efforts to ensure its sustainability.

Leveraging technology for resilience and integration

During the parliamentary inquiry, Professor Lowenberg-DeBoer and campaigner George Monbiot, the other witness, discussed various aspects related to food security, including the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the supply chain, the effects of climate change and conflict, and strategies to strengthen resilience within the UK and global food systems.

Highlighting the potential of technology to bolster resilience, Professor Lowenberg-DeBoer showcased his firsthand experiences in Shropshire and research conducted at Harper Adams University. He emphasized that agricultural robotics, AI, and agri-tech offer opportunities to integrate natural systems and food production systems more effectively.

Traditionally, mechanization favored large rectangular fields, resulting in the elimination of hedgerows and infield trees. Now, advancements in autonomous machinery, AI, and agri-tech provide the means to integrate different crop varieties and plants within the same system. By doing so, resilience can be increased while allowing space for biodiversity and its associated benefits.

The utilization of agricultural robotics and AI enables more precise and efficient cultivation practices, reducing resource waste and optimizing yields. Furthermore, Agri-Tech offers the potential for data-driven decision-making, predictive analytics, and precision farming techniques, ensuring optimal resource allocation and sustainable production practices.

Strengthening food security through innovation

As the Parliamentary inquiry delves into environmental change and food security, Professor James Lowenberg-DeBoer’s expert testimony highlights the significance of diversity in food systems and the integral role of technology in building resilience. By fostering a diverse range of producers, farms, and crops, the risks associated with overreliance on limited sources can be mitigated. Simultaneously, integrating agricultural robotics, AI, and agri-tech presents an opportunity to improve the efficiency and sustainability of food production systems while accommodating biodiversity.

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Aamir Sheikh

Amir is a media, marketing and content professional working in the digital industry. A veteran in content production Amir is now an enthusiastic cryptocurrency proponent, analyst and writer.

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