How do we feed the world sustainably?

No global system carries a larger social, economic, and environmental impact around the world than our food. And despite agriculture’s strain on land, water, and climate, one in seven people already go hungry. To remedy an issue this large, it takes a mind-set that every business has a role to play nourishing humanity.

It’s estimated that by 2050 we will need 60% more food production to feed humanity. We also know that, today, the agricultural industry is responsible for 80% of total fresh water usage, 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, and roughly 5 million hectares of deforestation each year. All while we waste a third of what we produce.

The industry’s footprint is equally large economically, as 40% of the global population earns their income from food. If catastrophe strikes, people lose their livelihood, even more go hungry, and the worst human conditions on Earth can ensue.

Simply put, the stakes are too high. Our food systems require new, more regenerative ideas on every front: from the farmer’s soil to the aisle of your local grocery store.

The Challenge 

Our relationship with food is, intrinsically, a relationship with nature. Right now, that relationship is straining.

Climate change is the first, and largest, factor in this challenge. Habitats everywhere are rapidly fluctuating, complexifying the already delicate practice of farming. And right now, farms are using more water, deforesting more land, and degrading soil to a degree that we currently lose 30 soccer fields worth of arable land every minute—all of which feeds the problem of climate change.

Combined, the energy and resources required to grow, process, transport, and maintain a year-round global food system results in an unsustainable dynamic: for every $1 USD worth of food, society pays $2 USD in economic, social, and environmental costs.

And still, people go hungry. Undernourishment can reach rates of 25% in parts of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and poor nutrition causes 45% of deaths for children under five globally.

Compounding the problem is the significant issue of waste, which costs the economy $940 billion USD per year. Whether lost in processing or in consumers’ homes, it becomes an environmental cost with zero human benefit.

Overall, we need to figure out how to feed more people using less water, less land, and less energy. And it’s not a one-time goal. We need to do it regeneratively.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

60 %

more food will be needed to feed the world’s population in 2050 

Our Perspective

Regenerative improvement means improving farms and the journey food takes to reach our tables with a dedicated mindfulness for the natural systems behind it all.

Every farm in the world should have better tools and more access to technology, in order to increase farmers' ability to embrace more biodiversity. Just twelve plants and five animals make up 75% of what the world eats, but biodiversity is proven to improve soil health and prevent plant disease—in addition to providing more nutritious diets and enhancing the livelihood of farmers.

We also acknowledge there is no single food system—there are millions. The 500 million small farms worldwide provide 70% of the world’s food. These farms have unique needs, but could actually serve as a model for their bigger, industrial counterparts. Better servicing small farmers would create jobs, improve health, and spread equality in developing regions.

Netafim has a long history of improving yields on farms big and small, but we're also in a position to pair that work with improved methods of processing and transporting food. Planet-friendly packaging and safer ways to refrigerate food in shipping are ways we can combat climate change and reduce waste.

We try to encourage collaboration across every variety of business, because the potential is too big. Eight of the 20 most impactful actions to combat climate change reside in the food industry.

"Boosting yields on existing lands relieves pressure to clear forests for agricultural production … What’s more, improved irrigation can help sustain drylands’ productivity."

United Nations report

Our Approach

At Orbia, we currently have three major areas of impact within food systems: precision irrigation, agricultural technology, and material and chemical production applied to food processing, packaging, or shipment.

Precision Irrigation

Few technologies can rival precision drip irrigation systems in regard to maximizing yields while dramatically reducing water and fertilizer use. We have customers of all sizes spanning the globe, from connecting thousands of small farms in India to providing irrigation as a service to Mexico’s largest dairy company. 

Agricultural Technology

Few industries can put data efficiency to scale quite like farming. Between Netbeat One and other smart irrigation initiatives, we’re trying to put greater capability into the hands of farmers managing lands of all sizes.

Soil Nutrient Recapture

We encourage our businesses to leverage their multitude of relationships to find promising opportunities for new partnerships. One example is an effort underway to regenerate soil health by using dairy farm waste to return nutrients to the farms that sustain them.

Packaging & Transport

PVC packaging film preserves food on route to our tables, which reduces the environmental footprint of food production and commercialization. A vegetable without film can spoil up to 60% faster, which would mean more energy and water would be needed to produce even more food to replace what’s been spoiled.

Other Challenges

How do we connect and empower communities with data?

How can we better manage our water systems?

Can health and well-being be made more accessible?

How do we make cities more livable, lovable, and resilient?

How do we push beyond sustainability to regeneration?