The 5th HFFA annual meeting took place in Berlin from 16-17 January 2013 - again on the eve of the International Green Week. The title of the conference was "Who will grow tomorrow's food?".
Almost 30 scientists and experts from Europe, the USA and Japan representing agro-industry, society and research institutes met to discuss questions of world agriculture and the future of farming from different perspectives. It was another step towards HFFA's key objective: to develop strategies for a sustainable global agricultural system.
The first keynote speech of the meeting on January 16 was presented by Dr. Gernot Klepper from the Kiel Earth Institute. Under the title "The Future of Bioenergy" Dr. Klepper discussed economic, social and scientific aspects of bioenergy covering production, use and politics of biofuels, climate protection and the perspective of food vs. fuel. The following debate with the conference participants focused on breeding potentials, especially for corn, and possible recommendations.
A very special presentation on "The New Socio-economic Landscape - Capitalism 4.0" was delivered by Dr. Kjell Anders Nordström, Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics. In his dynamic, unconventional keynote speech he captivated the attention of the audience by his ideas on the simple question: How to make money. He shared his message of 'temporary monopoly' (that is one criterion to tell good from bad ideas). Furthermore, he outlined aspects of demographics that will change the temporary monopoly, side effects of globalization and hypotheses on the role of women (who unlike men don't systematically take risks), the future of countries and cities (by 2040 75-80 % of world population will live in cities), machines (that will communicate more and more and do better jobs than humans), on ecology (and value chains to be transferred into something sustainable), and the possible future development of super powers like China and the USA.
The second day of the meeting was opened by a presentation of Dr. Robert L. Paarlberg. He is Professor at Wellesley college and Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. Dr. Paarlberg gave a lecture on "Politics in World Agriculture". Despite the world food crisis he still is an optimist and sees positive basic trends. However, he considers agriculture around the world not yet globalized, but more local. Big changes in agrciculture will depend on (big) steps to be solely made by the countries. Thus, his prediction is that African governments will not provide better conditions in agriculture, but instead follow business as usual. During the past years food consumers have become interested on how food is produced (in terms of sustainability, animal welfare, etc.), but farmers and consumers are not ready for new domains against conventional agriculture. Dr. Paarlberg summarized that agricultural politics in the future will likely resemble the one in the past. Questions in the following discussion focused on the WTO and Doha round, the harmonization of global trade, GMOs, options to close existing gaps (in health, environment, antibiotics, animal welfare, etc.), investments in agriculture, and how to bring more objectivity in the debate on hunger and prices.
Bill Stagg, Director of Strategic Communications at the National Future Farmers of America Organization (www.FFA.org), presented how FFA prepares leaders for tomorrow's agriculture. Starting from simple questions on who will farm the land, how to grow food in a sustainalbe manner, and how to achieve food security, he explained the integrated agricultural education mode, the FFA focus, and FFA's global engagement and strategy.
Thierry de l'Escaille is Director General of the European Landowners Organization (ELO) and presented future farmers' necessary skills for economic success from a European perspective. Issues for future farmers are the 7 criteria (see his ppt), the urgent need for new technologies, sustainable intensification, the transfer of knowledge and the Pollinator Network initiative (PNi). The following discussion focused on start-ups in agriculture, direct payments and their reform, and the gap between social and private cost/benefit.
Klaus von Grebmer from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) gave a presentation on the future of farming in developing countries. Stating that global food security is under stress, he explained aspects of food price volatility, climate change, farmland constraints, water constraints, the relationship of the biofuel boom and food security, small scale farming, and policy aspects. He summarized his presentation in 5 key conditions, under which agriculture-led growth is most likely to succeed, and a 3-part strategy.
Hidero Ohtomo from BASF Japan presented "The Future of the Japanese Farmer - a Paradigm Change through Technology?" starting from a general overview on Japan, proceeding with peculiarities of Japan's agriculture and reaching new technologies in agriculture, especially the use of radio-controlled helicopters (RCH). However, he concluded that there is no paradigm shift and predicted driverless transplanting machines and full automatic RCH as technology to come.
The title of the presentation of Dr. Thomas Herlitzius, Chair of Agricultural Systems and Technology at Dresden Technical University, was "Robotics in Agriculture". Starting from the idea that mechanization drives productivity he compared agricultural productivity of today with alternatives of the future considering capacity growth and machine concept evolution, the state of the art, further studies and live examples, robotic systems, trends, technolgoy and challenges.