Food Innovation Hubs Put Farmers at Head of Table for Systems Change

– Innovation is critical to bring about a fundamental shift in the way our food is produced and consumed

– The World Economic Forum, the government of Netherlands and several public and private sector partners are launching Food Innovations Hub to help transform the food ecosystem

– More than 20 organizations are leading the initiative with work already underway in parts of Africa, ASEAN, Colombia, Europe and India

– With country-led approaches, the Hubs will drive both high-end and low-cost grassroots and other innovations that could have scalable impact

Geneva, Switzerland, 27 January 2021 – Globally, almost 2 billion people do not have access to enough safe, nutritious food, and 690 million suffer from hunger. With 10 years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to fundamentally change the way food is produced and consumed. This includes changing the practices of more than 500 million smallholder farmers and the consumption patterns of 7.7 billion individuals.

To support this, the World Economic Forum, the Government of Netherlands and several public and private sector partners are launching Food Innovations Hub as a key multistakeholder platform that will leverage technology and broader innovations to strengthen local innovation ecosystems for food systems transformation. This has been launched with multi-year funding from the Government of Netherlands with a Global Coordinating Secretariat based in The Netherlands.

Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said: “Global food insecurity has been rising again. This stresses the need to redesign how we produce and consume food. The Netherlands is committed to forming partnerships that will catalyze the innovations that are needed to address the food system challenges. I am therefore proud to announce that the Netherlands will host the Global Coordinating Secretariat of the Food Innovation Hubs.”

The Food Innovation Hubs will be a flagship initiative of the Food Action Alliance leading to the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, and beyond. The role of the Global Coordinating Secretariat will be to coordinate the efforts of the regional Hubs as well as align with global processes and initiatives such as the UN Food Systems Summit.

Dominic Waughray, Managing Director, World Economic Forum, said: “Food sustains life and is at the heart of our planet. But if we are to feed 10 billion people by 2050 within planetary boundaries, the way the world produces and consumes food needs to change. Innovation is critical in enabling this systemic transformation. As progress is accelerated towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, the World Economic Forum is committed to supporting collective action and promoting country led agendas through the Food Innovation Hubs in this pivotal year for food systems.”

More than 20 organizations are leading on the Food Innovation Hubs with work already underway in Colombia, India, Europe, ASEAN and several countries in Africa. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided multi-year support for the development of a Food Innovation Hub in India and several public and private sector partners have committed in-kind resources to support the development of Hubs in various regions.

With country-led approaches, the Hubs will drive both high-end and low-cost grassroots and other innovations that could have scalable impact, as well as innovations encompassing supply chains, partnerships and business models that can enable systemic change.

Theo De Jager, President, World Farmers’ Organization, said: “Innovation ranging from technological, social, and organizational can play a key role in unlocking the potential of agriculture as the heart of food systems transformation. Farmers are innovators by nature and necessity and have innovative solutions that have survived for centuries. The Food Innovation Hubs puts farmers at the center to both develop and inform innovation ecosystems for their benefit and the benefit of the natural ecosystems they work in.”

For example, the Food Innovation Hub in Colombia will support stakeholders across the value chain on food optimization, smart logistics and information systems that connect consumers to nutritious foods from sustainable farms. In Zambia, initial work is focused on providing financial, advisory and capacity-building support to smallholder farmers to move towards more sustainable agriculture practices. An interoperable data and analytics platform in development will generate insights for Zambian farmers.

Ramon Laguarta, Chief Executive Office of PepsiCo, said: “Food is one of the main levers we can pull to improve environmental and societal health. With the right investment, innovation, and robust collaboration, agriculture could become the world’s first sector to become carbon negative, whilst meeting the needs of a rapidly growing global population and providing meaningful economic opportunities. Unlocking this potential will take ambitious multi-stakeholder, precompetitive collaborations to transform the food system – exactly what these Hubs are designed to cultivate.”

With the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021 as a key milestone to deliver action and broader engagement, these Hubs are working with local stakeholders to forge partnerships that develop impactful innovations.

David Beasley, Executive Director, UN World Food Programme, said: “Achieving zero hunger requires investment from the private sector – we will never reach our goal without them. The Food Innovation Hubs provide a vital opportunity to bring together some of the world’s leading organizations, from many different sectors, to support the global movement to end hunger.”

Over the next year, the Hubs will also develop a community of innovators and entrepreneurs across geographies to share learnings and build capacity, including through more South-South collaborations.

Alan Jope, Chief Executive Officer of Unilever, said: “The Food Innovation Hubs will help to revolutionize the global food system by bringing innovation and new technology at scale to meet local needs. Unilever is proud to be a part of these Food Innovation Hubs, as we believe that through our collective efforts we can make food a force for good.”

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