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10th Feb 2023

How can we decarbonise the food system?

Transforming our food system into a force for decarbonisation through innovation

We recently launched a new blog series about the 6 key impact areas of the AgFunder GROW Impact Accelerator (application deadline 26 Feb). 

In our view, accelerating innovation in each of these 6 key impact areas is an essential step toward transforming our food system into one that is sustainable, resilient, and just. 

In this post, we dive into decarbonisation.

The outcome of the 2015 Paris Agreement was to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To accomplish this, the world’s industries would have to reach net-zero emissions. Decarbonisation is the collective sum of bold climate change actions, which can help industries make the paradigm shift from being a carbon source to a carbon sink. 

It’s becoming clear that the transformation of our food systems will be essential to reaching decarbonisation and realising our sustainability targets. An IPCC report estimates that roughly a third of total GHG emissions are attributable to the food system, which can be divided into crop and livestock activities, land use changes including deforestation and degradation of soil and peatland, and supply chain activities. In another study, food waste and loss accounts for about 8-10% of GHG emissions, and methane in particular, which is at least 28 times as potent as carbon dioxide. 

At the current level of productivity of our food systems, the UN FAO foresees that food production will have to double by 2050 to keep pace with the world population. Left unchanged, GHG emissions are estimated to increase by 30-40% by 2050, partly contributed by the increasing demand from income growth and dietary change.

Check out our latest posts on two other impact areas, Food as Medicine, Circular Economy, and Automation and Robotics!

Why accelerate innovation in “Decarbonisation”? 

The impact of transforming our food system into a force for decarbonisation would be enormous: it could reduce emissions equivalent to taking 2.7 billion cars off the road.

However, given the sheer complexity of the food value chain, which consists of infinitely many segments and actors, decarbonisation poses a significant challenge. It’s important to take actions holistically across the whole food supply chain, coupling efficient production and transport with modification of food choices and the reduction of food loss and waste. 

That’s what makes innovative new technologies so exciting: at each juncture of our food system, there is an opportunity to replace, reform and augment existing production methods. There are ways to go above and beyond current solutions, such as retroactively closing the loop in waste cycles by redirecting food waste to keep it away from decomposing in landfills. Technological innovations can be scaled to further amplify this impact.

Image courtesy of Seadling

Exciting innovations as a force for decarbonisation

There are exciting innovations delivering new solutions, overcoming barriers and uncovering new market opportunities. 

For instance, GIA3 cohort alumni X-Centric Sciences has developed cutting-edge ‘point and shoot’ soil analysis technology to enable immediate soil carbon measurement. This can powerfully inform soil management practices and monitor the process of carbon sequestration. By making it quicker, easier, and less cost-intensive, X-Centric is helping to make effective carbon sequestration a reality. 

But we don’t have to limit our imagination to land-based solutions; there’s an ocean of possibilities out there. GIA2 cohort alumni Seadling has introduced a scientific and commercially viable process of seaweed cultivation that promotes carbon capture. Aiming to produce a billion tons of seaweed by 2030, Seadling enables natural ongoing decarbonisation alongside producing healthy food, creating jobs for coastal communities and cleaning the oceans.  

We believe that accelerating innovation across the food value chain is key to transforming our food system into a force for decarbonisation. That’s why we’re on the lookout for startups with decarbonisation solutions for this year’s cohort of the AgFunder GROW Impact Accelerator.

Here’s to building a food system that is sustainable, resilient, and nutritious for all!

For startups decarbonising agriculture:

Apply for the GROW Impact Accelerator Cohort 4 today!

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