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Science and Technology Solutions Through Public-Private Partnerships

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

In the 1940s, a farmer in the United States produced enough food to feed 39 people. Less than 75 years later, each farmer now feeds 155 people from less land than the previous generation. These advances in production might encourage some hubris if not for the daunting task that lies ahead.

By now, most people have seen future global population projections. This planet–one that already has more than 1 billion malnourished residents–will move from 7 billion to more than 9 billion by 2050. This means farmers and ranchers worldwide will have to produce 70% to 100% more food with less land and water resources, while also coping with ever-increasing geopolitical and environmental limitations.

The challenge is clear. The solution, while certainly complex, will depend on two aspects–people and technology. We need likeminded individuals to impact the entire value chain of agriculture: researchers, producers, policymakers, educators and pacesetters.

The role of technology cannot be overstated. The brightest minds tell us that the majority of production gains–up to 70%–will come from new technologies and improving efficiencies. Similar to the Green Revolution of the 1960s, scientific achievement, engineering innovations and technological advancements must coalesce to provide agricultural producers new tools and methods. However, this revolution will not have the luxury of increasing fertilizer and water. No, this time we must increase outputs with fewer such inputs.

We must take a whole-systems approach, infusing technology into the entire value chain of agriculture from soil management, seeds and inputs to new equipment that focuses on precision agriculture and food delivery mechanisms for both livestock and crops. While transportation of our food would intuitively seem advanced in 2012, it is estimated that more than 30% of our food spoils or is otherwise wasted without consumption.

Through AgChallenge2050, we can discuss some of the exciting technological advances that will benefit agriculture and its consumers. Like most people, I typically associate “high-tech” with computer systems and human medicine, but plants and agriculture are benefiting from these high-tech technologies in ways never before imagined.

In future postings, I will share with you some of the important research occurring at my organization–The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation–as we strive to advance agriculture. I’ll also talk about our history and founder, Lloyd Noble. Our nonprofit serves as a model for one form of private-public partnerships necessary to fuel these technological and production advancements.  

Agriculture requires more private involvement, including new partnerships that can have focused, purposeful research outcomes, leverage expertise and infrastructure, and provide direct routes to commercialization of research results. These partnerships can be the lifeblood of the much needed agricultural revolution.
But this is just the beginning of a necessary conversation. Through this blog, we will explore how agriculture impacts the whole of the human experience–not just our diet. Enough from me, what do you think?

Bill Buckner Bill Buckner (
President and CEO of The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation | Twitter | Facebook

View more posts by Bill Buckner

2 comments on “Science and Technology Solutions Through Public-Private Partnerships”

  1. Leonard Bull
    Posted Sunday, November 25, 2012 at 5:31:21 PM

    Good! The partnership that you build on here is critical, and it depends on a much more nimble research response model than we have today. By that I mean the Land Grant system to a large degree. More?

  2. Ruediger Scheitza
    Posted Wednesday, October 19, 2016 at 6:07:57 PM

    Hi Bill,
    Enjoying some days in NY I wanted to give you my best regards and hope that you are doing fine and enjoy life.
    Kind regards

The views and opinions expressed in AgChllenge2050 blog posts are solely the opinions of the authors, and not those of Farm Foundation, NFP.