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Which Transformational Innovations Will Reduce Post-Harvest Loss and Transform Agricultural Systems by 2035?

Renee Vuillaume — Program Officer, Global Knowledge Initiative
Source: CIAT

In early 2017, The Rockefeller Foundation posed a challenge to the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), its Innovation Partner for YieldWise: How might we dramatically extend the shelf life of perishable crops and reduce post-harvest loss? GKI launched a global scan for transformational innovation solutions to this challenge.

As a first step, GKI convened twenty-one thought leaders in April 2017 at The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center on the shores of Italy’s beautiful Lake Como. The experts came from all corners of the globe—Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America—to examine this challenge. GKI’s goals for the convening were to explore shelf life innovations for the next 10 – 15 years and issue a “call to action” to rally key stakeholders toward a shared vision for transformational innovation. For three days, participants shared diverse perspectives; thoughtfully examined prevailing opinions; envisioned a world of possibilities; and, ultimately, collaboratively constructed pathways of innovations with the potential to extend the shelf life of perishable crops, reduce post-harvest loss, and achieve The Rockefeller Foundation’s goals of nutritional security, sustainable ecosystems, and secure rural livelihoods.

GKI’s report from the Bellagio convening presents an overview of the proceedings and culminates in a list of the exciting, transformational innovations generated by participants.

Based on the rich fodder that emerged from the Bellagio convening, the GKI and Rockefeller YieldWise teams decided to expand this Innovation Scanning effort to capture a broader set of innovations poised to reduce post-harvest loss over an extended time horizon: through September 2017, GKI will conduct an exciting consultative process with experts from diverse circles – agribusiness, academia, investment, innovation, international development, and futures foresight – to identify those truly transformational innovations that will reshape agriculture in Africa and Asia between now and 2035.

Some of these might include emerging innovations that we can point to right now, such as advanced mobile cooling technology and modular processing factories. Other innovation areas are so early-stage that we can merely identify indications of needed change (e.g., urban migration and competition for land use) and research areas ripe for application (e.g., quantum computing and synthetic biology). But we don’t yet know which innovations have the most potential to reduce post-harvest loss. Nor do we know which will have the most significant impact on food and nutrition security, environmental sustainability, and the lives of smallholder farmers living in Africa and Asia. Nor do we know how the current system will need to change to enable these and more futuristic innovations to be transformational. These are the central areas of inquiry for our investigation.

Stay tuned for the results, which will be shared in a public report in September 2017!

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