Sustainable Food Systems
How can we produce and consume low-carbon, resilient, and nutritious food?
Over $1.5 million in prize funding is available for Solve's 2020 Global Challenges, including Sustainable Food Systems. Learn more.
Agriculture occupies more than 40 percent of the Earth’s land and is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Farming, fishing, transporting, processing, and distributing food supports 28 percent of human livelihood, including 470 million smallholder farmers who often depend on less than 2 hectares for both income and sustenance. By 2050, that system will need to feed 3 billion more people while reducing net emissions to zero to align with Paris Agreement targets.
New trends make transforming the food system more difficult. As people move out of poverty, they buy more meat, increasing the amount of land used to raise and feed animals, and further burdening overexploited fish stocks. Disruptions from climate change-related disasters and recently, from COVID-19, can lead to lower production and more food insecurity, demonstrating a need for more resilient supply chains. Simultaneously, humanity gets 75 percent of our food from just 17 species, decreasing resilience to diseases and other climate-related stresses and shocks. Finally, with 30 percent of food lost or wasted, a third of the food system’s environmental impact happens without feeding anyone.
New data-rich technologies, combined with the revival of traditional practices such as intercropping or indigenous fisheries management, hold great promise. But new business models are required to bring these approaches to far more people, while further innovation is still needed to transform the food system at scale.
The MIT Solve community is looking for technology-based solutions for a low-carbon global food system that provides nutrition with minimal environmental impact. To that end, Solve seeks solutions that:
Support small-scale producers with access to inputs, capital, and knowledge to improve yields while sustaining productivity of land and seas;
Scale practices and incentives for larger farmers and ranchers to decrease carbon emissions, land-use change, nutrient runoff, or water pollution;
Improve supply chain practices to reduce food loss, scale new business models for producer-market connections, and create low-carbon cold chains; and
Promote the shift towards low-impact, diverse, and nutritious diets, including low-carbon protein options.
For more details on Solver Funding, Prize, and Partnership Eligibility for the Sustainable Food Systems Challenge, visit the Prizes tab.