Elon Musk asked for a $6 billion plan to end world hunger. Top executives in the global food industry said the money would probably be best spent on helping farmers earn a good income through sustainable agriculture.
“The solution is the farmer,” said Werner Baumann, chief executive officer of Bayer AG. “When it comes to growth on one side and sustainability on the other side, I’d put the $6 billion to work to reconcile both of them and make whatever it is that we do really farmer-centric.”
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This includes giving farmers access to the right technology and data, and building a system that improves their livelihoods on sustainable practices. Carbon farming, which helps sequester carbon into the soil on farmland, is also an option, Baumann said in a panel at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum.
Cargill CEO David MacLennan added that investing in infrastructure is key as it will allow food supplies to get from producers to consumers more effectively. Facilities that can stand up better to natural disasters, which will become more common due to climate volatility, are increasingly important, he said.
When it comes to small-scale farming, the cost of infrastructure is artificially too high, said Sara Menker, CEO of Gro Intelligence. She would choose to spend the $6 billion on building a financial institution that comes up with new models to finance agriculture. This can then “realistically” create the infrastructure needed to bring about change, she said.
Alloysius Attah, CEO of Farmerline, which connects smallholders to information and financial services, echoed the need to invest in infrastructure, such as good roads and storage facilities that reduce losses and improve quality.