GFIA 2014: Innovations in Agriculture

GFIA 2014
Global populations are expected to eclipse the 8 billion mark by 2030. This will place an enormous strain on the global agriculture production and supply chain. The World Bank estimates that the rise in population will create a 50% increase in the demand for food. The world is in desperate need of innovative solutions in the agricultural sector in order to move into the future while raising approximately 870 million people out of hunger. The Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) is hoping to do just that. The forum, held in Abu Dhabi from Feb. 3 to Feb. 5 2014, highlighted over 30 agricultural solutions from leading entrepreneurs and start-up companies. The forum hosted 150 speakers from 28 countries, including Bill Gates.  Gates addressed the crowds via VideoLink to incite the urgency of unleashing innovation in agriculture. Here are some noteworthy presentations from this year’s GFIA: Accordion Photobioreactor: Developed by University of Arizona, this instrument is used to grow green microalgae, which can be engineered to produce biofuels as an alternative to petroleum based fuels. The photobioreactor resembles an accordion-like frame and is built with flexible plastics that help keep costs low. Automated Weather Protector: This innovation uses an automated roofing system to enclose hectares of fields in minutes. The system is controlled by a weather monitoring station that analyzes temperature, wind, rain, and barometric pressure to protect crops against the hazardous elements of nature. Crop yields in environments prone to extreme weather can increase by up to 50%. The roofing also protects crops during extreme heat, reducing water usage. 3-D Modeling of Crops: Development in spatial sensor technology is providing farmers with data on crop and environmental factors. The sensors allow the farmers to quantify the spatial variability of their crops in order to manage their farms efficiently. Farmers can see which plant yields best results under certain spatial, soil, and environmental conditions. Water Saving Foam: When the foam is mixed with soil as a substrate, or used on its own in a hydroponic environment, it slowly discharges the absorbed water content in amounts just enough to irrigate plants with hardly any wastage. The foam prevents excessive water run-off, reduces wastage and contributes to efficient water utilization. The foam can be used in landscaping as well as hydroponic gardens. Although many of the ideas presented at GFIA 2014 are in their early stages, they are rudimentary examples of what we can hope to achieve if we continue to focus globally on sustainable agriculture. – Sunny Bhatt Sources: GFIA, World Food Programme, Khaleej Times Photo: Wn.com