We need food to survive. This is a given. Few probably appreciate, however, the significance of the agriculture industry, upon which the foundations of what we eat is based. 2.5bn people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and the industry represents 35% of global jobs. Given its size, the sector also accounts for more than 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (all data per the World Economic Forum).

The challenge should, therefore, be clear: how to create more efficient agriculture. This is a topic we have written about since February 2019.  Solutions need to centre around not only better livelihoods for farmers and improved carbon sequestration, but also outcomes that can help promote food and nutrition security. This latter topic has become increasingly front of mind since last year’s Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Before identifying potential solutions, it helps to know where (some of) the problems lie. A nifty infographic we recently encountered shows that within agriculture the biggest carbon-emitting culprits are animal-based. Cows (whether for their meat or dairy) rank as the worst offenders, emitting 99kg and 33kg respectively of CO2 per kilogram of product. Lamb follows close behind. Be mindful too next time you drink a cup of coffee (29kg of carbon emitted per kilo), particularly if paired with a square of dark chocolate (47kg).

Onto the better news. We were pleased to learn that almost 250 proposals were submitted to the UpLink platform (a World Economic Forum initiative that aims to connect entrepreneurs to investors and corporates) in the recent ‘Smarter Climate Farmers Challenge.’ First prize went to a UK-based organisation called Alkama. Its mandate is to “bring soil to life” using a proprietary treatment. FITS (an acronym for Factory-In-The-Soil) is a complete liquid ecosystem of soil microbiology designed to produce high-yield crops without fertilisers. Other impressive ideas include turning food waste into liquid bio-fertiliser using black soldier fly lava (disgusting yet intriguing in your author’s opinion) and a more prosaic modular greenhouse technology. Watch this space and maybe think twice about what you eat too.

8 November 2023

The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.

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Alex Gunz, Fund Manager

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