Many people around the world suffer from food insecurity and hunger. Ending global hunger is a vast undertaking that requires international, collaborative partnerships. The World Food Prize Foundation’s Laureates recently sent an open letter to President Joe Biden stating the need for “audacious ambition” to ensure a world in which “everyone is well-nourished and no one goes to bed hungry.” We were excited about the Laureates use of the term “audacious” as it is also part of the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research’s (FFAR) mission to build partnerships to support audacious science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges including providing consistent access to affordable, nutritious food. The research we fund is hastening the end to worldwide hunger with pioneering research that improves the agricultural system and accelerates progress through innovation.
Much of our research is focused on increasing productivity while reducing natural resource inputs—producing more with less. One FFAR-funded research initiative that exemplifies this goal is the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) project, an international effort led by the University of Illinois to develop more productive crops by improving photosynthesis. With their most recent breakthrough, the team increased crop growth by 27 percent by making photosynthesis more efficient.
Another revolution in crop production is already happening. We are using genetics and breeding to target not only increased crop efficiency but increased nutritional quality. The nutritional components of plants and things such as taste and texture are controlled by complex genetic and physiological systems, something that we are trying to unravel and understand through our Crops of the Future and Precision Indoor Plants consortia. However, we must develop a baseline of the nutritional components of not just our major crops, but all edible plants, and seek out nutritionally rich crops around the world that can be incorporated into our diet and provide economic opportunity to farmers everywhere. FFAR’s Harvest for Health project, for which we are partnering with our good friends at Rockefeller, seeks to do just that.
Another way that our research is addressing the challenge of global hunger is climate-proofing farms and ranches against extreme weather and climate change. In 2020, FFAR partnered with U.S. Farmers & Ranchers in Action and World Farmers Organization to create the Agriculture Climate Partnership, an unprecedented initiative mobilizing farmers, ranchers, scientists, data providers, stakeholders and funders to develop and implement climate-smart solutions at scales and rates previously unimagined. This Partnership connects scientists with farmers and ranchers to bring the good work that is happening across the country and world into a coordinated effort to build a platform that will be used to develop tailored, economically sustainable solutions for farmers and ranchers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase profitability.
Finally, the role of food distribution systems cannot be forgotten in the fight against global hunger. Urban food distribution systems are the essential final step in delivering nutritious food to hungry people. As the coronavirus pandemic laid bare, our food distribution system is highly vulnerable to external stresses. To fortify our food systems against future disruptions, FFAR is funding a series of open-access online dashboards that quantify and illustrate potential food supply chain disruptions.
These projects are only a few examples of the research we and our partners are funding to ensure food security by strengthening food and agriculture science. Global hunger requires bold actions and audacious research to get sustainable solutions to the people in need, and FFAR is committed to providing the support to achieve these solutions.