An Australian, Brazilian and Chilean walked into a bar in Rio, and discussed how best to feed the world…

The obscurity of food security,

not needing the maturity of the pituitary

but the vision of young revolutionaries

to achieve nutrition of many.

What does a poem have in connection with agriculture, you might ask? It seems strange that something indefatigably literary and unscientific may have any relevance to food security and helping farmers.

The answer, “oh but it’s about agriculture” is also rather unsatisfying and instead reveals more about the author’s abundance of spare time than any connection between the two topics.

So why then, does such an artistic and abstract outlet as slam poetry deliver such hope and promise for a global industry? It comes down to creativity and “multispectral thinking” to put it in the words of Christine Gould, Founder and CEO of Thought for Food. 

While the vision of these youth

Often uncut, passionate and uncouth,

May disturb the sickly, sweet smooth

Suits of a generation gone by.

Agriculture is no singularity of simple plant semantics. Its strength and importance lies in the interdisciplinary nature of growing food. Produce more food and you can help a local economy, but move completely to cash crops and you may leave a generation of children with malnutrition and stunted development. Expanding the scale of production, means improved scales of efficiency yet at a potential cost to environmental and production sustainability. On the other hand, balancing these concerns may improve the lives of 100s of millions of people and leave the planet in better shape than before.

And this is where poetry, multispectral thinking and agriculture align. Feeding the world sustainably requires creativity, abstract thinking and global connections. After all, we share the same goal of growing food, but have different perspectives and backgrounds on how to achieve just that.

The recently concluded Thought for Food Academy and Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil spoke directly to these requirements, inspiring and connecting over 200 passionate, young voices from more than 20 different countries. The Australian(s), Brazilian(s) and Chilean might have walked into the bar first, but were quickly followed by Colombians, English, Americans, Nigerians, Ghanaians, Indonesians, Indians and Chinese, who were themselves trailed by a group of French, Dutch, Russian, Jordanian and Botswanan attendees.

Yet it was not these country and language labels that defined us, but the shared desire to improve the livelihoods, sustainability and productivity of farmers around the world. This shared human connection was so eloquently and passionately described by Anthony Hehir of DSM, the entire audience was moved to tears. Anthony told the story of his videographer from China and a young Ugandan boy sharing a paper plane. “They shared absolutely nothing, except humanity. They had different cultures, languages, socioeconomic status, backgrounds, ages, experiences. Yet this sharing of knowledge on how to construct a paper plane brought them together.” Anthony then produced a paper plane he made that night in Uganda and launched it off the stage, inexplicably finding its way to the single Ugandan in the room, and a return journey to the country where it all began.

The Thought for Food Academy with its many sessions on farmer engagement, design thinking, creativity, biological science, investment, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and technology was that paper plane, uniting people around a shared humanity and passion for agriculture.

Just like the paper plane found its way back to Uganda, the TFF energy, innovation and passion found a home in everyone and returned to every country present, inspiring and connecting globally.

And this poem? Well it represents the multispectral thinking required in agriculture. We need to be creative, innovative and evidence-based in our solutions. Creativity isn’t just in writing or drawing. Creativity is a way we can, and must, approach some of the most pressing challenges of our time. It presents in developing new technologies, applying existing ones in new ways, studying interdisciplinary opportunities with renewed passion and critically, engaging with farmers and communities about these ideas. It is only with a creative approach, that we will get new and innovative outcomes.

So be positively destructive creatively, move fast and break things and maintain and build those global connections to bring about “agriculture 4.0”.

The idea their careers may overturn a generation of ideas

Is a fresh sound to the ears of those fears of food insecurity.

 

The Thought for Food (TFF) Challenge is an annual startup and ideas competition run from February through to May. It encourages people from around the world to pitch their ideas on how to address food security, for a chance at industry connections and a prize pool of USD20,000. The TFF Academy was held for the first time in 2018, building on the three-day summit of previous years, to provide attendees with more time for networking and learning about key issues and strategies to solve these issues. More information can be found here. The Founder of AgriEducate, Guy Coleman, attended the event as an Australian TFF Ambassador, feel free to get in contact via email for further information or comments.

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