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Investment Days 2018

Innovation the focus of FAO’s ninth annual Investment Days

The FAO Investment Centre welcomed over 120 participants to its ninth annual knowledge-sharing event – Investment Days – in July at FAO’s headquarters in Rome.

Over two days, FAO staff and partners from international financing institutions, the public and private sectors and academia explored the latest trends and thinking around Innovation for Better Investments, this year’s theme.

Staying on top of how innovative financing and digital technology are transforming food and agriculture can help keep FAO “at the cutting edge of investment-related topics, which is what our member countries expect from us and amongst the reasons why they look to FAO for support,” FAO Deputy Director-General (Operations) Laurent Thomas said in his opening remarks.

Group activity ©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto

Innovative financing

The amount of public funding available through official development assistance falls short of what is realistically needed to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Achieving the goals requires a massive influx of funding, especially from the private sector.

The first day’s session looked at the potential of private investors to revolutionize the development finance landscape, from impact investment funds to crowdsourcing schemes targeting food and agriculture.

Impact investing is a rapidly growing industry – the world’s leading impact investors manage a total of USD 228 billion in impact assets, according to a survey by the Global Impact Investing Network. Panellists addressed the ‘balancing act’ of generating returns while also delivering positive and measurable social and environmental impacts.

Agribusiness corporations are increasingly committed to social and environmental responsibility, driven in large part by consumer demand. Panellists discussed how private investors – from companies to farmer cooperatives – are investing responsibly in the agrifood sector.

Another session looked at leveraging private sector financing to bridge the financial gap, including through dedicated de-risking and blended financing instruments.

The room in full attendance ©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto

Digital agriculture

Digital technologies are transforming the world at breakneck speed, and agriculture is no exception. Investment Days 2018 devoted an entire day to discussing the different ways these technologies are taking root in agriculture.

Panelists introduced earth observation tools – ‘eye in the sky’ tools that circumnavigate the globe capturing data – that can assist decision-making on farm management, climate change adaptation, irrigation and natural resource management.

Investment Days also explored how digital technologies are contributing to more efficient and inclusive value chains. Block chain and internet of things technologies can help optimize farm management, improve food safety and traceability and enhance the equity and efficiency of contract farming through “smart” contracts. This also serves to improve access to micro-insurance and pay-per-use schemes for agricultural services.

How small-scale farmers are using these technologies to improve crop productivity and de-risk their operations was the focus of another session.

Farm from a Box, for example, uses modified shipping containers to provide small-scale farmers with a complete ecosystem of smart farm technologies – from satellite Internet access to micro-drip irrigation and cold storage – to grow food and earn an income. While the use of weather data crop modelling for index-based insurance schemes is helping farmers reduce risk and strengthen their resilience to climate challenges.

Keeping pace with a fast-moving train

During an interactive session, panelists weighed in on the relevance of digital technologies for small-scale producers – whether they are constructive, destructive or disruptive – and also how international organizations like FAO can promote these technologies. The challenge is to understand the implications in terms of policy and regulations, incentive frameworks and capacity development. 

FAO Investment Centre Director Mohamed Manssouri noted that the Investment Centre “needs to go the extra mile to ensure that these technologies are beneficial for small-scale producers, especially women and young people.”

Manssouri closed what was an “interesting and stimulating two days,” saying that the Sustainable Development Goals “open up many new and exciting opportunities for all of us – the public sector, the private sector, NGOs, research centres, academia – to work together towards a common purpose.”

Keeping pace with the fast-moving train of innovations is crucial, Manssouri said, adding that the Investment Centre should use this learning “to develop more innovative ways of working with the private sector and to look seriously at how to enhance the innovation and knowledge content of the investment solutions we propose.”

Read the Investment Centre’s first Annual Review 2017.



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