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Singapore Global Centre

Sustainable and Digital Agriculture

According to the World Resources Institute, climate change is projected to have net adverse impacts on crop yields, with up to 50 percent less yields given a 3-degree Celsius warmer world. 

The Challenge

There will be 9.7 billion people in the world by 2050. Feeding them will require increasing current food production by up to 98 percent

This is not the only challenge. Climate change is an increasing threat to weather-dependent agriculture as we see more erratic rainfall patterns and more frequent floods and droughts. In addition, our current methods of food production contribute a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, further exacerbating climate change.

Agriculture also has a significant impact on the environment as it consumes large amounts of precious natural resources like fresh water which are depleting rapidly. Moreover, we cannot expand the land under cultivation to increase food production without causing further deforestation. 

About 84 percent of the world’s farmers are smallholders and produce 30–34 percent of the world’s food. Yet, they contend with challenges such as low productivity, poor efficiency, and the effects of climate change mentioned. Increasing their productivity is essential for eliminating global poverty. 

To ensure food security for our future generations, agriculture needs become more sustainable – environmentally, economically, and socially – through applying technology, digital and innovation. 

Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2.5 billion people depend on the sector for livelihoods and yet the vast majority make less than $5 a day.

Our Approach

Emerging digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, cloud computing, and Internet of things (IoT) are already making an impact in several sectors and hold the potential to revolutionise food and agricultural systems globally. Precision agriculture technologies using AI that can improve resource efficiency and productivity of farming, blockchain systems integrated with IoT that can improve supply chain traceability, alternative proteins that can reduce the environmental impact of conventional meat production; these are among the many technologies that are changing the way we grow and consume food. 

Blockchain is an emerging technology that can help solve the three major issues in food supply chains: trust, transparency, and cost. 

The Global Centre is engaged in exploring the existing and emerging technologies that can help food systems become more sustainable and resilient, sharing knowledge and building capacity to help UNDP’s field offices, policymakers and other stakeholders to understand these technologies and their applications – including the opportunities and challenges they present and building multi-stakeholder partnerships to support their large-scale adoption, especially in developing countries to benefit smallholder farmers.  

Based in Singapore, the Global Centre is ideally located to leverage the innovations in agriculture in the Asia-Pacific region as well as benefit from the vibrant agri- and food-tech ecosystem emerging in Singapore. 

 

Key Initiatives

Cultiv@te

In November 2019, we launched the Cultiv@te programme, a global innovation initiative that aims to find bright minds and creative entrepreneurs, startups and R&D teams from around the world to solve challenges in agriculture.

▶️ Watch a short clip of the programme:

After a call for applications over 15 weeks, we selected 31 teams to work with 11 countries to pilot these technologies and innovations on the ground.

Read more about these 31 solutions here.

We are now connecting the teams to the UNDP field offices and other local stakeholders that they work with, including governments, research agencies, and other international organisations. We're planning to pilot these solutions in 2021 and eventually scale them to impact the lives of farmers and help achieve the SDGs. 

 

Blockchain for Food Traceability

Blockchain for food traceability is gaining momentum in the agri-food sector globally. Yet, there is little understanding among ecosystem stakeholders and governments about what blockchain is, how it works and how it can be applied to the supply chain. Our aim is to make this information accessible and easy to understand for all. 

To achieve this, we are designing a case study and concept note that will explain how blockchain technologies work and its benefits to food traceability for different actors in the supply chain. This will include a guide explaining how blockchain can be applied to the food value chain, including examples and case studies where its application has been successful. 

We believe that blockchain technology will be transformational for a more efficient and transparent food system and can significantly contribute to international trade, improve food safety, and protect the rights of producers and consumers around the world. 

 

Digital Farming

he farms of today are increasingly becoming digitalised. Digital farms are often said to have improved profitability and sustainability, but how much these technologies can help assist smallholder farmers and whether they are economically viable are unanswered. 

Digital farming broadly encompasses technologies to assist producers in farming, most commonly known as precision agriculture technologies. We intend to design a report that will demonstrate the utility and viability of adopting digital farming technologies (focused on precision agriculture). This report will include detailed analyses of these technologies, their applications, outcomes and impact and feasibility of use. 

Through this document, we hope to provide governments and policymakers with a detailed breakdown of quantifiable benefits of various digital farming technologies and inform them of the best methods through which these technologies should be transferred and applied. 

 

The Digital Feed

The Digital Feed, in partnership with SGInnovate, is a multi-episode series which will feature developments and trends across various stages of food value chains – from food production and supply to consumption and food science. 

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to be updated on the latest episodes. For more information about the series and each episode, visit our page here.

The podcast version of these episodes is also available on Spotify. Listen to the latest episode here ⬇️

 

Partner With Us

UNDP depends on multi-stakeholder collaborations to perform its role of an “integrator” for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To carry out the Global Centre’s mandate of promoting technology and innovation for sustainable agriculture, we look forward to partnering with diverse actors:  

  • Governments seeking technology-based solutions to their agricultural challenges.  

  • Investors, philanthropies, and financial institutions seeking to invest in high-impact solutions for building sustainable and resilient food and agricultural systems.  

  • Technology providers including startups and industry leaders with impactful solutions for revolutionising food and agricultural systems.  

Reach out to us if you are interested in partnering.