Food and Agriculture

When we think of global warming most of us think about fossil fuels. Less obvious is the environmental damage of our breakfast, lunch and dinner. Our passion for meat leads to over 60 billion land animals grazing the vast majority of our agricultural lands. Livestock emissions such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide account for 18-20% of greenhouse gases annually, second behind only fossil fuels. If you were to include other food related emissions such as food waste and deforestation then what we eat could be the number one cause of global warming.

The most high profile area in which changes in food production are taking place because of climate are alternative meat and veganism. Cell based companies that are making lab-grown foods to address climate change, food shortages and animal welfare are growing and of interest to us at WeClimate. Agtech is an exciting area as agriculture is one of the last of the large industries to adopt new technologies and business models. Precision farming startups using drones, satelites, robots and mass scale data collection to help farmers make sure that each plant gets the right amount of water and fertiliser when it’s needed is particularly exciting.

Just as meat is being grown in labs, farming is going indoors. This is known as vertical farming, crops are grown not in a flat field or greenhouse but on shelves one above the other in converted warehouses or shipping containers. Vertical farming reduces food miles and the need to import crops, something that is valuable in the post Covid world. There are still challenges with vertical farming, particularly the need to reduce energy due to the need of artificial lighting and climate-control systems.

Sample Sectors of Interest (not exclusive to the below)

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Food Waste

If 50% of food waste is reduced by 2050, avoided emissions would be in the region of 26.2 gigatons. Reducing waste also means an avoidance of deforestation preventing an additional 44.4 gigatons of emissions. Presently 1/3 of food in the developed world is thrown out by consumers.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

70.53 Gigatons of reduced CO2


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Plant Based Diet

If 50% of the world’s population restricts their diet to a healthy 2,500 calories per day and reduces meat consumption, at least 26.7 gigatons of emissions could be avoided from dietary change alone. If avoided deforestation from land use is included, an additional 39.3 gigatons of emissions could be avoided.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

66 Gigatons of reduced CO2


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Silvopasture is practiced on roughly 350m acres of land globally. If adoption increases to 550 million acres by 2050 out of the 3 billion acres suitable for silvopasture then CO2 emissions could be reduced by 31 gigatons. This reduction is as a result of the high annual carbon sequestration rate of 1.95 tons of carbon per acre in soil and biomass.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

31.19 Gigatons of reduced CO2


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Regenerative Agriculture

From an estimated 108 million acres of current adoption, its estimated regenerative agriculture will increase to 1 billion acres by 2050. This rapid adoption is based on the historic rate of organic agriculture. This increase could result in a total reduction of 23.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide from both sequestration and reduced emissions.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

23.15 Gigatons of reduced CO2


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Tropical Staple Trees

Tropical staple tree crops can take root in forest farms. They reduce runoff and create infiltration for rainwater. They require less fuel, pesticides and fertilizers. Tropical staple crops currently grow on 116 million acres, mostly in the tropics. Their rate of sequestration is high at 1.9 tons per acre per year. Expand this area by another 153 million acres by 2050 and they can sequester an additional 20.2 gigatons.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

20.19 Gigatons of reduced CO2


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In 2015, an estimated 38% of food waste was composted in the United States; 57% was composted in the EU. If all lower-income countries reached the US. rate and all higher-income countries reached tHE EU rate, composting could avoid methane emissions from landfills equivalent to 2.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

2.28 Gigatons of reduced CO2


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Nutrient Management

By reducing fertilizer overuse on a total of 2.1 billion acres of farmland by 2050- up from an estimated 177 million acres currently, avoided nitrous oxide emission could equal 1.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide. No investment is required and farmers could save $102 billion from reduced fertilizer costs.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

1.81 Gigatons of reduced CO2


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Farmland Irrigation

Drip irrigation achieves 90% efficiency versus sprinkler irrigation which achieves 70%. Assuming the area under improved irrigation increases from 133 million acres to 448 million in 2050, this growth could avoid 1.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide emission and save 90 billion gallons of water.

Ranking and Results by 2050 (Onshore)

1.33 Gigatons of reduced CO2


Source: Drawdown the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming


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