“If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.” – Abraham Maslow
If you have been following our blog series on Food Systems Innovation Hubs, you will have learned all about the pressing nutrition problems facing low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) (read the blog here), read up on how bolstering a country’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) (read the blog here) can foster good livelihoods, realized how important media campaigns are to enabling healthy food choices (read the blog here), and considered how policy can help or hinder positive change in our food systems (read the blog here). You may also have discovered how food fortification can make our bodies and our planet healthier (read the blog here) and joined us in celebrating entrepreneurs who are true nutrition heroes (read the blog here). After all of that, you may now be asking yourself how we can address these challenges in a holistic way, bringing the multiple approaches and solutions highlighted in these texts together into one cohesive strategy. Not only are food systems complex, but each is also unique to the geography and culture it is supposed to nourish. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all solution clearly does not exist, and the approaches used by high-income countries (HICs) cannot be expected to work in the same way for LMICs.
Our aspiration is that the transformation of failing food systems lies in Innovation Hubs. Operating in a variety of different locations, they will be able to mold themselves to the needs of their specific nations and communities by engaging directly with its people, its culture, its entrepreneurial talent, and its unique climate. This will be achieved by focusing on three key actions: Inspire! Invest! and Innovate!
We will encourage existing exceptional food and technology companies with market prowess to expand into the Global South, with the goal of growing market interest, aligning with a range of investors, and developing and testing new products. For example, when nutritious crops such as teff in Ethiopia are aggregated in one place from hundreds or thousands of smallholder farmers, then milled on a large scale, it opens the possibility of making it affordable to the poor. It also allows for the addition of vitamins and minerals during the processing and for producing a safer product by eliminating the carcinogenic aflatoxin.
We will facilitate investment in local companies that have the potential to scale, as well as in technology transfer, in nutrition, food safety, and consumer studies to prove market viability and show latent existing demand for nutritious foods. As an illustration, farmers in Kenya currently indicate a willingness to use climate-smart approaches such as insects for animal feed. Impact evaluations may convince other entrepreneurs to enter the market or help broker a partnership between a global insect feed company and a local feed company.
We will stimulate innovation throughout the value chain tailored to Global South markets and draw additional investment into scaling up and innovating new technologies, which will be especially impactful to the SMEs and start-ups that dominate food production there today. These SMEs also face unique binding constraints compared to their developed-nation peers. A fully automated temperature sensing insect-control greenhouse, for example, may save on costs in the Netherlands, where energy and skilled labor are relatively cheap but are unprofitable in West Africa, where backup electric generators and replacement parts are far more costly.
Food Systems Innovation Hubs are a bold, new initiative that will accelerate innovation, streamline processes, and support nature-positive, biodiverse agriculture to better nourish the nations and communities they serve. Join us in this coordinated effort to improve the world’s food systems. We welcome you to bring your unique skills and resources to bear in helping solve these unique challenges.
Watch this engaging webinar discussing the importance of a Food Systems Innovation Hub HERE.