In this brief of Platforms for Sustainable Food Production, we show how blockchain technologies, combined with artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and other digital innovations, can secure our global food supply, one farm at a time. The solutions we discuss focus on topsoil—mitigating the effects of chemicals, aggressive tillage, monocultural crops, and climate change. The goal is to give farmers the tools and training they need for sustainable food production, transforming the long-term viability of their businesses in the process.
Smallholder farmers are the most vulnerable to climate threats and the least able to cope. With access to digital technologies, they can begin to implement sustainable practices. »Dimitra is a start-up company that aims to deliver agriculture technology to millions of these farmers worldwide. »Blockchain technology is an indispensable tool for agriculture. It can transact payments, aggregate seed quality data, monitor crop growth, and track yields from farmer to retailer. Farmers accrue Dimitra points within the app and exchange them for agricultural products and services. Such as agrochemicals, crop insurance, and expert advice.
Dimitra created an ERC-20 token (DMTR) to drive its farming platform as a circular economy. Liquidity providers stake DMTR tokens to power this economy. The future of farming and our food Family-run farms. Produce an estimated 70 to 80 percent of the world’s food in terms of value. On average, the poorest of these operate on less than two hectares of land. One hectare of land is roughly the size of a football pitch (i.e., soccer field). Such smallholders account for 84 percent of all farms globally, grow roughly 29 percent of the world’s crops yielding 32 percent of the world’s food supply, but manage only 24 percent of all agricultural land.
Farmers are under constant pressure to achieve a maximum yield to feed their families and make a living. Typically, smallholder farmers reserve much of their own yield for their own subsistence, especially at the start of each season.3 For example, Nicaraguan smallholders sell nearly half their produce, whereas Nepalese sell only 12 percent.4 If farmers could increase their yields and sell more throughout the season, they would improve their livelihood as well as their impact on the global food supply.
Constancy, predictability, and balance are keys to successful agriculture initiatives over time. Yet, according to National Geographic, “Global climate change is destabilizing many of the natural processes that make modern agriculture possible.”6Changes in climate that alter seasonal patterns, distress crops or animals, or incubate pests and diseases all increase farming costs. Erratic weather patterns, drier conditions, and an increase in global temperatures have a negative impact on farmers’ crop yields.The effects of climate change disrupt farms of all sizes at all stages of the production cycle, from seed selection to transportation.
These seasonal changes and increased variability are pushing the limits of what farmers can grow and control. They can no longer rely on historical farming data. Instead, they make decisions based on predictions of how climate change will affect their farm. For example, they may need to prepare for flooding or drought events and change their growing methods, crop choices, and agricultural practices. Smallholder farmers in developing countries are the most vulnerable to the climate threat and the least able to cope.8 Yet, only 1.7 percent of climate finance is set aside for these smallholders.9Moreover, of the $50–70 billion spent in low- and middle-income nations each year on agricultural innovation, less than seven percent goes to climate action initiatives.
The drive to feed a fast-growing global population at low cost has led to the use of industrial agriculture, referring to “techno scientific, economic, and political methods” and “food systems … largely dependent on fossil fuels for the production of food by way of machinery and mechanization, agrichemicals, transportation, food processing, food packaging, [and] assimilating waste.”11Industrial agriculture uses aggressive farming practices such as the exhaustive application of fertilizers (e.g., superphosphates), herbicides, and pesticides to maximize yields. The use of these chemicals disrupts natural ecosystems so that farmers become dependent on them to maintain maximum yield. Moreover, these chemicals can seep into water supplies and strip away naturally occurring elements in the ground.
Another common practice is tilling. Farmers use tillage to aerate the soil, prepare seedbeds, and suppress weeds, to name a few reasons. However, over time, tilling degrades soil quality, erodes soil further, and damages soil structure. Also, as people consume more processed food, they create a higher demand for a limited range of crops resulting in monocultural farming practices. The global food system relies on only 12 plants and five animal species to supply 75 percent of the world’s food; such reliance makes this supply highly vulnerable when shortages or disasters occur.12 Therefore, we must prioritize biodiversity to keep many climate-resilient, heritage varieties and breeds alive. According to the UN Environment Programme, the estimated toll of industrialized agriculture on the environment each year is $3 trillion.
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