By Mike Frank, Vice President, Chief Commercial Officer
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival – an annual event where smart minds in a lot of different fields get together to work on the big challenges facing the planet.
One of these challenges – and the one I personally am focused on – is how to feed a growing world while using fewer resources. As you might imagine, there are a lot of different ideas about how to do that, and a lot of questions. How can we reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint? And in turn, how will climate change impact our ability to grow enough food? How can we reduce food waste? And how do we get food to the hundreds of millions of people who still don’t have enough to eat? I came to Aspen because I wanted to listen to people’s ideas on these tough questions, and share some of my own.
While there, I had the opportunity to be part of a panel discussion on “The Next Food Revolution” that looked at how innovation is occurring across the food value chain. David Rosenberg, CEO of Aerofarms, discussed the pioneering work they’re doing to grow plants in vertical indoor farms in controlled conditions. And Bryn Baneulos, marketing director for Albertsons Companies, talked about the demand for continuous innovation in the retail space to meet customer needs and stay ahead of emerging trends.
During my time in Aspen, I found myself in several conversations about the central issue in every food policy debate – the world population is rising fast, but we have a fixed amount of land and fresh water to grow food. How are we going to feed all these people in a sustainable way?
I listened to many perspectives. But on the topic of feeding a growing world, I also had ideas to share. I grew up on a family farm, so I know firsthand the challenges farmers face in trying to balance things like weather, the cost of inputs, consumer preference, and being good stewards of their land so it can continue to produce food for the next generation. I also had ideas to share because I work at Monsanto, a company focused on helping farmers tackle each of these issues using a range of tools, like seeds, crop protection products, data analytics and digital technologies.
Both my upbringing on a farm and my experiences working with farmers around the world have shaped my perspective on the future of food. And my perspective is this – we need every farmer everywhere, practicing all types of agriculture, to be producing as efficiently and sustainably as possible. And they need access to all the proven, safe tools to meet the challenges.
The people that attended the Aspen Ideas Festival, like others around the world, care deeply about their food and how growing it affects our global environment. But even in conversations with a highly engaged audience, there’s still a gap in understanding when it comes to modern agriculture. Farming is just like every other part of the economy. Technology has utterly transformed it, and today’s farmers are using an array of sophisticated tools and technologies to grow more food while using resources like soil, water, fuel and pesticides more efficiently.
And that means those of us who do work in agriculture need to do a better job of joining conversations like the ones happening at Aspen, to help address this gap. Because in feeding a growing population with scarce resources, the world is facing a big challenge. And while I’m optimistic, solving it is going to take people with different ideas and perspectives coming together to collaborate, all around the world, every day of the year.