Because the country imports 90% of its food supply, it is susceptible to trade and supply-chain disruptions and is highly vulnerable to risks from climate change and scarce natural resources. In fact, Singapore ranks just 103rd in Natural Resources and Resilience; when this category was factored into the country’s overall score, its ranking drops to 16.
“Given that Singapore is an island-state and located near the equator, it is subject to rising sea levels and temperatures,” says Robert Smith, a public policy consultant with the EIU and an author of the survey. “And given that it is largely dependent on food imports, trade disruptions (related to either climate change or geopolitical risks, or both) could pose a serious threat to the country.”
By gaining an understanding of the risk and resilience of their food systems, countries can better anticipate, absorb and recover from the shocks and challenges to their production, distribution, and consumption of food.
Global climate change will create unprecedented challenges and is already introducing considerable uncertainty into the conditions needed for adequate food production and distribution, the index notes.
Neal Gutterson just finished a six-year term on the board of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). He says building resilient supply chains requires new ideas to allow the world’s current food systems to become stronger. In fact, Corteva is opening a new regional office in Singapore.
“The reality is we have people who are malnourished and people who have an abundance of food. We produce more than enough calories globally, but not necessarily in the right place or right form, so the issue is two-pronged. The biggest change comes from a combination of technologies and new business models that allow us to deliver them.”
Corteva is accomplishing this with a food chain effort is called CoNNEXT. CoNNEXT is a global business service; Corteva applies its global knowledge and information to local markets to enable sales and support grower confidence in their freedom to trade their harvests.
“With our pipeline of products, and our commitment to open innovation, we are applying the downstream requests and emerging demands to shape our product development process. Through our CoNNEXT service, we can translate the consumer interests into the design properties of our products,” says Wendelyn Jones, Corteva’s global leader for food chain and brand protection.
“A key example within Corteva is our healthy oil offering. Through traditional plant breeding, we developed an improved fatty acid profile in canola, with zero trans fats and low saturated fats.”
The new technology was named Omega-9 canola oil, due to high levels of its namesake omega-9 monounsaturated fats. In 1996, the technology became commercially available as Nexera canola seed. This has allowed farmers and customers to choose between genetically modified (GM) and non-GM platforms, Jones notes.
“Strong value chains embrace new technologies and proven products. Strong value chains respect diversity in production practices. Why? Because strong value chains are resilient. They understand the importance of balance and focus on the standards and quality of the end product.”
“We developed an algorithm that does it automatically. This algorithm works with a certain success rate, at the time around 85%. That wasn’t sufficient.”
So, Corteva turned to InnoCentive, an open innovation and crowd sourcing platform, to solicit new algorithms that would allow it to surpass the 85% standard they had set but which wasn’t getting the job done.
The idea for InnoCentive came to founders Alph Bingham and Aaron Schacht in 1998 while working at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company, during a brainstorming session exploring the application of the Internet to business. InnoCentive was launched in 2001 and allows businesses to post challenges that InnoCentive’s network of problem solvers are then invited to help tackle.
“People who signed up to the challenge tried to find an algorithm better than ours. After a couple of months we had 29 submissions. We selected six that we eventually narrowed down to one. We awarded the creator and we have it in hand now and use it in our processing every day,” Müller says.
“Under a closed innovation model, we would have kept this secret and had our own internal team work on it for who knows how long. By bringing in outside expertise — people who have different ways of looking at things — we were able to speed that up and create something new in possibly a fraction of the time. Now, instead of going to our scientists and saying, ‘We have a problem, fix it,’ we say, ‘Do you have a problem? Is there something that has been nagging you for awhile and do you want to post it online and have the crowd help solve it?”
The health factor is a big one. Dana Bolden, vice-president of external affairs and sustainability for Corteva, was recently at a meeting of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, whose mission is to achieve increased daily consumption of fruits and vegetables for better health by leveraging private industry and public sector resources, motivating key consumer influencers, and promoting fruits and vegetables directly to consumers. It has a large membership of dieticians.
“Why would Corteva be at a dieticians’ conference? That’s how you understand how consumer trends come about and why people purchase the food they do. It allows us to go back to our team that manages our pipelines and say, ‘If we don’t focus on meeting this consumer preference profile, our farmer customers who put this seed in the ground and care for it until it becomes produce, won’t be able to do their job of feeding the world,” Bolden says.
A seed or plant produced with CRISPR gene editing does not insert DNA from another species but rather only edits a very precise location of existing DNA in a crop.
“We also recognize that concerns around innovation and technology must be considered and addressed. Corteva believes that frank and transparent discussions about new technologies will help consumers understand their many applications and benefits, for farmers, retailers and consumers,” Teslenko says.
“We are proud to support farmers with their offering of tools that combine targeted breeding, right-sized crop protection, and precision agriculture. We are committed to innovation that maximizes yield and crop quality, while ensuring sustainability throughout the value chain.”
For Bolden, the challenge now is to try and get a series of uniform decisions across EU member states. He’s encouraged that the tide could still turn when it comes to innovation and the use of technology in Europe.
“What’s happened is something rarely seen in Europe — farmers are banding together and telling EU member state leaders that that the decision was flat out wrong, and they need to be more open to plant breeding and biotech in order for them to feed their country,” he says.
“It’s mobilized European farmers in a way we haven’t seen for quite some time. It’s created alliances I don’t think we could have created had we not been handed this decision.
It sounds simple, but it’s a humanitarian disaster in the making for farmers whose livelihoods depend on current growing patterns and people whose food supply “shifts” hundreds or thousands of miles away from their dinner tables.
Sorghum, which feeds a half billion people in Africa and South Asia, is a particularly instructive case, as it has often been suggested as a heat-tolerant alternative to vulnerable wheat and maize crops. But even this drought-resistant crop can be affected: A recent report published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences projects a 10% drop in the sorghum harvest with each rise of 1C in average temperatures around the world.
Shrinking harvest projections are common across the most important staple foods grown around the world. According to the FAO, three of them — rice, corn, and wheat — supply 60% of the world’s consumable calories. When you apply the commonly agreed-on multipliers of crop loss — between 5% and 15% for every 1C the average global temperature rises — you quickly reach a situation where desperate populations must migrate in search of food, and farmers seek out arable land or new, more resilient crop varieties, or perish in place.
“Without nutritious and safe food, no one can grow or achieve their full potential. Hungry and malnourished people are focused on their next meal, they are not focused on bringing forward innovation and disruption,” says Wendelyn Jones. “With the local and global challenges we face, including hunger, we need all of humankind focused on providing solutions.”
The scope and complexity of the global food system requires the commitment of large-scale global enterprises, devoting significant resources and R&D, to create real sustained change, Teslenko says.
“Our global footprint now enables us to bring solutions to places that we haven’t been able to be before, like Malawi, where droughts and floods have devastated corn production and caused ongoing, severe famine for millions of inhabitants.”
But for Bolden and Corteva Agriscience, the ultimate solution lies not in what can be done today to feed the world, but what can be done tomorrow and for generations to come. Youth are everything, and that’s why Corteva is sponsoring the Farmfluencer contest in partnership with 4-H.
Farmfluencer is a global video competition, empowering youth and connecting them with farming. By making a two-minute video about the future of farming, young people 16-21 get to share their point of view with the world and enter for a chance to win up to $5,000.
Winners will be announced June 17, 2019.
“The kids spend a day with a farmer, find out their biggest challenge, shoot a two-minute smartphone video, and tell us how the farmer is overcoming those challeneges in their market. I hate to the use the cliché it’s not your grandfather’s ag, but the kids are pretty much saying that,” Bolden says.
“They’re finding ag has unlimited potential in terms of job growth and the ability to shape your own world. In ag, the world is your oyster and there are so many new areas of agriculture that appeal to these kids — vertical farming, traditional farming. It’s mind-blowing. Some of the European submissions we’ve seen show kids talking about the advantages of biotech, in fact. These kids are so far ahead of where I thought they would be in terms of their positions on biotech in Europe. The future is definitely exciting.”
What is Open Innovation?
Open innovation, for Corteva Agriscience, is the exact opposite of a traditional “closed” innovation system by which most companies operate, says Neal Gutterson. Rather than a closed system of innovation that favours internal collaborations that take place in their own silos, Corteva uses a model of open innovation that sees them:
• Collaborate with thought leaders and innovators around the world to access and develop the most innovative technologies; and
• Rapidly deploying those innovative technologies through organizations that are good stewards of those technologies