Tomorrow’s agriculture is facing major challenges. The global population is forecast to grow to nearly ten billion by 2050. Yet some 800 million people already suffer from hunger today.
At the same time, the area of arable land is shrinking – due to soil erosion or salinity, but also as a result of increasing urbanization. Climate change, too, will present significant challenges for agriculture. For example, wheat production will decline by 8 percent if the earth’s temperature rises by 2 degrees Celsius. In other words, it will be a gigantic task in the future to produce a sufficient quantity of healthy, safe and affordable food. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that it will be necessary to increase productivity by almost 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2012. We will have to produce more from less.
What’s more, our agricultural production system is not sustainable. Today we do not treat each hectare of land as responsibly as we should in view of the fact that natural resources are limited. The agricultural industry therefore has to become much more ecological.
We need innovation to achieve all of this. For example, we need plants that can better cope with extreme temperatures and drought. We need new digital technologies that will enable us, for example, to deploy crop protection products only where they are really needed.
And we will also need innovative, effective crop protection products in the future. After all, the crops we require to survive have to assert themselves against 30,000 types of weeds and 10,000 species of plant-eating insects, for example.
Yet innovation requires a lot of time and money. The development of a new crop protection product costs around EUR 250 million on average, and it generally takes 10 to 14 years from the first laboratory test to marketing authorization.
Pooling of know-how and resources in agriculture is important. Bayer and Monsanto together have more innovative power, and an annual research and development budget of EUR 2.4 billion. This is the highest R&D budget of any company in the agricultural industry. In this way, we will be able to launch more innovations for farmers more quickly.
We are not talking about a specific form of agriculture here; we want freedom of choice for farmers and consumers, and advocate diversity. Our objective is to helpf farmers make farming more productive and sustainable. And we want to solve our customers’ problems – from large-scale farms to small.
After all, the more than 500 million smallholder farmers are the key to solving the food problem, because they supply about half of the world’s food.