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This week, we’re exploring solutions in sustainable agriculture.

Problem Statement:  The world requires an increasingly sustainable agricultural system to ensure that we will be able to continue to feed the growing population and future generations.

Misconception About The Industry: Adding sustainability practices are too costly for an industry based so heavily on tight margins. On the contrary, this is precisely where there is scope for innovation. Innovations that will drive down costs in the long run. Finding innovative agricultural inputs that increase the productivity of land can be challenging, but hugely rewarding.

Innovation In Potato Farming: Take, for example, the common potato. The current standard for potato farmers is to reuse potato tubers, or part of the root system, for multiple harvests. Despite the term ”reuse” sounding like it could refer to a sustainable process, this is actually sub-optimal and potentially hazardous to crops. Here’s why – these potato tubers can take up a lot of space for the yield they provide, resulting in relatively low productivity of land per m2. Additionally, tubers can carry diseases across multiple harvests, as the literal “root” of the problem remains untreated. 

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Solution Scope: Solutions to this can be found in a variety of  areas – like biological fertilisers that allow crops to naturally retain more nitrogen and improve growth time, or clay mixtures that are able to turn dry land into fertile soil. Additionally, bio-pesticides offer opportunities to improve yield and reduce the usage of harsh chemicals on our crops. Innovative technologies that aim to improve the soil, the fertilisers and the pesticides we use are definitely valid solutions, but not where we find our Solution of the Week. An area that is missing from this picture, is the seeds we use for growing the food we eat every day. It is here, in the seeds, that we find our Solution of the Week. 

Solution of the Week – Solynta: What if we could re-imagine the way we grow potatoes and ensure the same yields by using only 1% of the weight of current inputs?

The Dutch agricultural startup Solynta, founded in 2007, may have found a solution to this. Solynta is a potato breeding and biotechnology company intended to support global food security through inventing and developing hybrid potato breeding processes. After years of R&D and product development, their hybrid potato seed could present an interesting solution to ensure sustainable potato farming for years to come. In their own words: “This revolution in breeding not only greatly enhances the speed of product development but also provides huge logistical and phytosanitary advantages.”

Now what remains to be seen is if such a tiny little seed is able to make a big impact.