• Richard Avery

The problem?

When I go to an agriculture conference or field day, there’s normally a speaker talking about the importance of, and need for, farmers to feed the world. There is plenty of discussion around increasing production, how we can get marginal gains through a new practise or technique. This isn’t the farmers I’m talking about here. This is the advisors and scientists advising the farmers. Clearly, we have a production problem.

And if we don’t have a production problem, then we have the other problem that businesses encounter, a marketing problem (a problem worthy of an entire book by itself).

Many who have travelled to areas of poverty, realise we, in fact, have a distribution problem.

In addition to this, what we really have in our food system is a wastage problem. Nearly one-third of all food produced is wasted, yet we spend millions of dollars researching a new wheat variety that might yield 1% more grain.

Maybe it’s not a wastage problem at all. It’s just a stupidity problem.

A problem encountered by focusing on and studying a single variable in a vast complex system.

It isn’t even an issue of specialisation. We have food wastage experts, but they are outnumbered by plant breeders at a rate of over 100 to 1.

So we continue down this path of increasing supply, manufacturing and refining our food into derivatives of derivatives of food, satisfied with minuscule gains for our work. Where will it end up?

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