What are the key problems and opportunities related to AgTech innovation? What are the potential economic and social benefits, not only to farmers but also to a myriad of business sectors, including travel retail?
The answers to those questions are both complex and urgent, says Dimitra CEO Jon Trask. Every sector of retail, including travel-related, sells a vast array of end products that ultimately trace back to raw material drawn from the world's circa 600 million farms. Those farms play a vital role in the long-term sustainability of our sector and our world.
Over the past decade, we have witnessed a progressive shift by many of the world's largest brand houses and manufacturers to support farmers, with programs designed to protect the sustainability and safety of their partners, helping to secure billions of livelihoods.
But even with that support, farmers around the world are under acute pressure. By 2050 the earth and its resources will need to feed an estimated 9.7 billion people. Most of the world's farms (around 84%) are small and family-run, the owners operating subsistence level operations and struggling to produce enough food even to feed their own families.
Current farming methods further threaten food security, with over one-third of the food produced lost or wasted in the process. Food security issues exacerbate growing challenges with malnutrition, while the cost of healthy diets is unaffordable to over 3 billion people. Not only that, but many of today's farming practices are less than sustainable, with agriculture accounting for 70% of the world's fresh water usage and most farms generating high levels of pollution.
These are challenges with huge implications for the planet and for industries, including travel retail. Jon Trask, who in 2020 established Dimitra, an innovative company within the global Agricultural Technology (AgTech) sector, is determined to tackle those challenges head-on. His mission: to help small farmers enhance productivity, improve food safety, and enable food security by placing technology and information efficiently in the hands of farmers, including less well-off smallholders.
"Every smallholder farmer, regardless of economic status, should be able to benefit from simple, beautiful, and useful technology because when farmers thrive, economies thrive," says Trask.
According to World Bank, agricultural development is one of the most powerful tools to end extreme poverty, boost shared prosperity and feed a growing world. Growth in the agriculture sector is 2-4 times more effective in raising incomes among the world's poorest compared to other business sectors.
Trask's determination is driven by a desire to equip the farmers of developing nations with the world-class tools already enjoyed by the richest nations. "This underserved group of farmers represents the production of almost 70% of the food in the world," he says. "Increasing output and revenue by +20%, if we distribute it right and don't waste it, theoretically could solve the world hunger crisis."
He continues: "In the conversations with the different ministries of agriculture around the world, I started seeing a real need. Large tech companies are working to serve big farms. There are 608 million farms in the world, and 38 million of those are well-served by the big tech companies. The rest are completely ignored."
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