UN Development Goal Zero Hunger – a goal for the world and for us too.

“In a world where we produce enough food to feed everyone, 821 million people – one in nine – still go to bed on an empty stomach each night. Even more – one in three – suffer from some form of malnutrition.” This is despite the efforts of the industry to improve agricultural output.

Australia produces nearly two-thirds more food than we can eat. We are an open, global food and agribusiness trader, with world-leading food safety standards and a ‘clean, green’ image. However, we are producing food in a dramatically shifting global sphere.

Sustainability pressures, demographic changes and growing populations are terms and trends not uncommon in the Australian food and agribusiness vernacular.

But, how do these key trends look when we step back and think bigger picture? When we think beyond our trading partners.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) provide a framework for all member countries to universally coordinate actions towards a more prosperous planet by 2030.

Today I talk to Goal Two: Zero Hunger.

The SDGs are a triple bottom-line business opportunity. They can drive cross-sector collaboration between various industry participants and supply chain players – including those not typically considered agribusiness industries – and leverage the abundance of resources, research and innovation already in use in a more holistic way for the benefit of more people.

So, what are we all doing to meet goal two? It is for us too.

It’s time to talk.

Land – we’ve got lots of it.

In fact, we have more than 370 million hectares used for agriculture alone – that’s nearly 50 percent of Australia’s landmass.

But, can we talk about how we harness our natural capital for the greater good of more than just ourselves and our more traditional export customers? For example, the SDGs call specifically for an increase in productivity from small-scale and Indigenous farmers. In Australia, native Indigenous food production isn’t necessarily producing large volumes of food but these parcels of land are unique in that they are productive without being resource intensive. Their ongoing use protects the knowledge and traditions of those who farm them.

Technology and Research – applied differently, targeted at those who need it more.

While we have only a small AgriFood Tech investment and financing ecosystem relative to other international agricultural countries such as the US, Israel and the Netherlands. Australia is rapidly pioneering the development and prototyping of new technology that can increase farm output, reduce input costs and change the way that products get to market and are consumed.

On the research side, how can we ensure that the R&D we are undertaking is multi-faceted too. We are world-leading in terms of plant breeding, soil science and food technology and nutrition; yet these developments are often largely targeted at the Australian market – relatively small in comparison to the rest of the world.

But, can we also talk about how we shift and share our AgriFood Tech and R&D so that we both increase Australia’s productivity sustainably and share or re-focus our innovations not only on the Australian industry but on solving the challenges of other agricultural systems overseas? How could we streamline and incentivise our Australian AgriFood Tech businesses and R&D institutions to focus on outcomes that drive productivity and business efficiencies sustainably through a global, shared mindset and innovation infrastructure.

Our customers are key – could we better share information with them?

Australian food and agribusinesses already use our open trading environment and existing Free Trade Agreements to export food overseas. However, these trade relationships are inherently limited when our trading partners enforce non-tariff regulations or when other producing countries undercut market prices with large volumes of poor quality or non-sustainably produced food.

Let’s talk about leveraging digital solutions to overcome these barriers and ensure we continue to export surplus food. For example blockchain, smart packaging and the Internet of Things (IoT) (ie sensing devices) can be used as tools and platforms to inform importing markets of the provenance and quality of products that can surpass technical market entry barriers such as export certification, quarantine and customs. These tools can help the Australian food and agribusiness sector maintain consistent access to overseas customers and to better manage and meet their supply and demand.

As a final thought, what would happen if other industries leaned in?

While looking at ways in which Australia could contribute to Goal Two: Zero Hunger, there is no denying that the responsibility doesn’t lie solely on the food and agribusiness sector. A collaborative cross-industry, whole-of-business community and government approach is required. Energy production and use can be supplemented with agricultural by-products to make biofuels. Financial instruments and markets can be leveraged as tools to increase investment and trading. Computer science, automation and artificial intelligence utilising data from as far away as space via satellites will be the decision decision-making platforms of the future.

It’s a goal for us too, so let’s align industry’s purpose and achieve zero hunger by 2030.

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