Feeding the world in the coming decades will require the gradual decoupling of agricultural intensification from its dependency on fossil fuels, in order to make inputs affordable – hence contribute to both climate and food security. This requires more energy-smart food systems, which means:
Energy efficiency measures behind-the farm gate and beyond-the farm gate have been promoted in high-GDP countries with varying degrees of success. Historically, energy costs have been a small component of the total operating costs for many food businesses and for this reason incentives to reduce energy demands have not been strongly promoted. However, today as energy costs have increased and more businesses set targets to reduce their carbon footprints, there is renewed interest in improving energy efficiency. In addition, as new energy demand from expanding food sectors in low-GDP and newly industrializing countries are increasing, efforts are being made to minimize their energy intensities. Opportunities to reduce the energy intensity can come from modifying at no or little cost existing farming and food processing practices. These modifications would also require changes in the behaviour of farmers, managers and operators. Introduction of new modern efficient equipment is another option. However, this may require significant capital investment. Producers in low-GDP countries may be faced with financial constraints to adopt improved energy efficient technologies, such as precision farming, irrigation monitoring, improved boat propeller designs, transport logistics using GPS. Options need to consider the balance between efficiency measures, projected energy costs and the need of improving energy access and affordability.
'Energy-smart' agriculture paper presented at UN Climate Change Conference
Q&A with Peter Holmgren, Director of FAO Climate, Energy and Tenure Division
New FAO issue paper on energy-smart food
Sustainable Energy for All Initiative