India Announces New Plan To Help Farmers Stem Air Pollution

India’s capital Delhi has the dubious distinction of topping the list of the most polluted cities. A recent study also showed that the air pollution in the city is not an isolated case as other Indian cities also suffer from heavy pollution. The list includes Ludhiana, Gwalior, Kanpur, Allahad, Patna and Raipur. The problem is not limited to the cities, however, as studies have shown that 75% of air-pollution related deaths were from the rural areas.

Burning Rice After Harvest

Most of the cities that experience heavy pollution are located in northern India. According to Chandra Venkatraman, a chemical engineering professor of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, the second biggest source of air pollution in the northern states is agricultural residue burning. Every year from November onwards, rice farmers in the northern Indian states like Punjab and Haryana burn the stubble left over from harvesting rice. This helps the farmers clear the fields for the next harvest. Unfortunately, the haze adds to the pollution in the cities.

A 2016 study conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur estimated that air quality in Delhi could lower by 90% if the habit of rice burning will not be stopped. This bold move may be difficult for Indian farmers to understand and accept, but is crucial to the survival of millions of people living in the area.

One measure of air quality used by the World Health Organization (WHO) is PM2.5, which is based on the concentration of microscopic particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. These are considered harmful because they can be inhaled and lodged in the lungs and are not naturally expelled. From the lungs, these particles can also pass further on to other organs.

The WHO considers a PM2.5 index higher than 25 to be unsafe. In November 2017, Delhi had an air quality index of 1,000, measured at the US Embassy.

Regional Disputes Worsen the Problem

One of the major causes of the seasonal smog and pollution is agricultural in nature, and Delhi is not the only area which is affected. Other regions and cities also experience these deleterious effects. The problem could not be solved simply by prohibiting the farmers from burning rice fields. The territorial boundaries have made this a political dispute between the chief minister of Delhi against the chief minister of Punjab and Haryana.

Planting rice in Asia is a tedious process which involves flooding the rice paddies before plowing the soil. The paddies are harrowed afterwards, which means running a large comb-like mechanism to break the muddy soil further. It is in this process that the burned stubble is broken down further. The land is leveled to ensure that the seedlings are planted at an even depth. A level soil also ensures that the water is also even. After leveling, either the paddies are seeded, or seedlings are planted. The burned stubble mixes with the soil during the tilling process.

Burning rice paddy stubble (also known as agricultural biomass residue) is called Crop Residue Burning (CRB) and has long been considered as a major health hazard. According to different sources, it is a major source of pollution, and contributes between 12% to 60% of PM concentrations. It also does not help the soil to recover, causing the loss of topsoil nutrients like nitrogen, sulfur, potassium and phosphorus. With less topsoil layer nutrients, there is a greater need to use commercial fertilizers.

The Punjab region produces between 18-20 million tons of paddy straw while the Haryana region produces two million tons. About 85% to 90% of the paddy straw is burned in the field. Punjab also produces 20 million tons of wheat straw, and farmers have also begun burning these rice by-products.

Proposed Solutions and Alternatives

The Air Act of 1981 made CBR a punishable offense, with local village officials charged with implementing the law. A penalty is imposed on the farmer who commits this offense. However, as expected, legislation has not been able to prevent this practice.

One solution for the farmers is a government subsidized purchase of a farm machine which would help in planting rice without the need to burn the stubble left over from the previous harvest. The machine would allow planting while tilling the soil, which would also streamline the planting process. The concept would be a revolutionary process as current rice planting methods have not changed since it was first planted.

The use of paddy straw in biomass-based power plants has also been suggested. Current operational and planned projects in Punjab use up to 0.04 million tons of straw. The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) has set up tariffs in Punjab to serve as incentives to erect biomass powered electric plants. The tariff for paddy straw is higher than that of wind and solar energy production.

Paddy straw can also be made into charcoal pellets or briquettes, as well as used as fuel for industrial baking kilns in producing bricks, as well as in the production of ethanol. A process for the procurement of paddy straw from farmers have to be but in place for the process to happen.

The Punjab region already has various projects in different stages of development in the pipeline to use paddy straw in bio-refineries for ethanol. Paddy straw can be an excellent raw material for biomass pellet fuel for industrial uses, including the replacement of coal. Other uses of paddy straw is manufacturing paper, cardboard, and making packing materials. These methods and tools require equipment and processes to produce. As packing materials, these can potentially replace synthetic materials.

Paddy straw has a lot of opportunities to help the community, and at the same time reduce air pollution in India’s northern regions. The opportunity exists for the methods and processes to be established by the small communities for the alternative economic usage of this raw material.

China’s Takes the Tech Approach

India isn’t the only country facing this problem. China, with its bulging population, has also been battling problems with pollution for years now, but not just from burning rice. Reports from the University of Exeter have revealed that air pollution and chemical use in farms have negatively impacted the ability of crops to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere.

More than 295 million vehicles emit 44.725 million tons of pollutants each year. The situation has led local scientists to adopt bold and unconventional farming methods to secure the country’s food supply. ‘Plant factories’, indoor vertical farms that grow produce requiring minimal energy and land resources as seen as the most viable solution to the problem. These self-contained systems are not exposed to choking air pollution levels which are said to be five times over the safe levels declared by the WHO.

So far, the efforts have been successful. Nowadays, indoor patches of bok choy, tomatoes, celery, and lettuce produce more than 40 to 100 times more crops than an open field farm.

Vertical farms could be the answer to the problem of meeting food supply, but it does not address the problem of pollution.

Everyday Practices Contribute to Pollution

Besides the post-harvest burning of rice fields, another major source of pollution in India is residential biomass burning. These include firewood, dried cow dung, and other materials burned to cook food or for heating. Open fires with cow dung or firewood as fuel is the most common method of cooking in India. The use of coal as fuel for power generation is the second biggest source of air pollution. Anthropogenic dusts, transportation, diesel fuel and brick kilns are other major sources of pollution.

In 2015, there were more than a million deaths in India, equivalent to 25% of the total deaths worldwide due to air pollution. Further studies on pollution and air-pollution related deaths estimate that there would be up to 1.6 million deaths annually by 2030. If aggressive measures were put in place soon, up to 1.2 million deaths could be averted annually by 2050.

Crop reside burning is a big source of pollution, but it’s only one of many factors that add up to the problem. One way to prevent this type of agricultural burning is to educate farmers that rice straw can be used to create other industrial and commercial products. This opportunity can improve the air quality in the northern cities of India as well as provide rice farmers additional income.

In the meantime, they can take a cue from China and look at other agricultural solutions which involve technology.

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Impossible’s “Meatless Burger” Arriving In Asia This Year

Impossible Foods is a food tech company that created a plant-based Impossible Burger and they have had an incredible 2017. Their juicy burger can hardly be differentiated from real meat and is now found in over 300 restaurants all over the US. This has satisfied a lot of appetites from both vegans and the meat-eating community. The company has also announced a $75 million investment to make a new factory in Oakland, California. Aside from that, they also gave hints that they are working on a vegan seafood option.

Penetrating the Asian Market

Fortunately, things aren’t slowing down for the tech company anytime soon. Reports said the Impossible Burger is headed to Asia sometime in 2018, which makes this the first distribution point outside of the country.

David Lee is the chief operating officer of Impossible Foods and according to him they have always known that their mission extends to the global scale. They are aware that the demand for the Impossible Burger in the US is miniscule compared to the demand worldwide. The company is planning to test the waters by partnering with food companies in the region and doing trial runs. If reception is good, they will gradually increase distribution just like what they did with the roll out in the US.

A Better Alternative for the Planet

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has also stated that the consumption of beef in East Asia and in the Pacific will likely increase. This means that the move by Impossible Foods is a timely and needed response.

The Impossible Burger is a plant-based meat and is more environmentally safe compared to typical meat-based “real” burgers. The company states that their burgers require 99% less land, emits 89% less greenhouse gases, and consumes 85% less water than the typical beef product.

In fact, if you look at the animal agriculture industry, they are actually a major source of greenhouse emissions. When comparing the two, it is clear that the plant-based meat product of Impossible Foods isn’t just showing some impressive numbers but is actually a great way of saving the planet.

The environmental impact of global meat production is quite huge. Annually, 586 million tons of milk is produced around the world. Add to that, 124 million tons of poultry and 59 million tons of cow meat among others. Unfortunately, meat consumption distribution differs between countries, with the US eating 122kg of meat per person while the global average is only 36kg per person. However, while the results differ from country to country, the general conclusion is that meat production as well as meat consumption will have to change in the future.

Fortunately, by 2020, it is projected that the meat alternative sector is bound to increase to $5.2 billion and it doesn’t look like it is going to slow down anytime soon. It is no surprise that Impossible Foods is actually planning for an Asia launch as more and more people are actually cutting back on meat consumption. Lee states that they are looking forward to seeing what the year holds for the company as they are technically just starting their expansion to the global scene.

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Can Cooking Classes Keep Chronic Heart Failure Patients Out Of The Hospital?

In New Orleans, the Tulane Medical Center has a problem with patients released after recovering from congestive heart failure (CHF). The hospital has a readmission rate of 22% for CHF patients. Unfortunately, hospitals cannot be reimbursed for readmissions that happen within a month’s time. To address the problem, the hospital has embarked on a change in healthcare strategy for CHF patients by helping patients take long term measures to prevent readmissions and improve the overall quality of their health.

CHF is a heart condition where the organ does not efficiently pump blood, resulting in a lack of oxygen in the body. Some diseases like hypertension, diseases of the kidney and the heart, can lead to the condition. The treatment for CHF aims to prevent complications and to relieve the symptoms of the disease. Recommended long-term treatment for CHF include lifestyle and diet changes. Having too much sodium in the diet, as well as not drinking enough water may increase instances of CHF. The condition also results to overworking the heart and usually leads to other more serious heart diseases.

Reducing Sodium in the Diet

Salt is the main source of sodium in the diet and reducing its use is needed to help against CHF. Instead of salt, salt-free herbs can be used in food preparation. From a culinary standpoint, this can lead to more complex flavors, and the ability to taste some flavors which were then masked by salt.

At Tulane, the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine is undergoing an 18-month study which it hopes would lead to fewer readmissions. Colleen McCullough is a research coordinator with the Center and her job is to recruit patients for the pilot program of the study. The aim of the study is to cut one-month readmissions to half, or roughly 11%, by teaching the patients to cook their own meals.

Food is a big part of the New Orleans culture. Each regional cuisine has its own take on how to cook food. For residents, they have been eating food heavy with saturated fat and sodium. High amounts of these can worsen CHF. Hypertension and coronary artery disease are the natural result of such a diet.

When asking for volunteers for the study, McCullough finds that the patients are forthcoming about their diet. However, changing diet and lifestyle do not easily happen for the patients as many live below the poverty line.

Timothy Harlan, the Goldring Center’s executive director, said the program also takes into account mobility problems. CHF patients usually have a hard time moving around as well as commuting from their homes to the hospital. The taxi vouchers given to the study participants provided a great deal of help so they could get to the Goldring Center’s new kitchen facility.

With the patients able to get to the kitchen to learn, opportunities abounded. The food was free, which was a motivation in itself. Since there were many homebound patients who were alone for most of the day, this was also an opportunity to socialize and make new friends. With nothing else to do at home, this was something the patients can do having too much free time on their hands.

Cooking Classes

Apart from lowering patients’ sodium intake, the center also offers general guidelines to change their diet. The center teaches not only alternatives for food preparation, but also how to stretch the available food. These include relatively simple things like refrigerating leftovers, or even budgeting for food.

Also, since this is a long-term approach to a problem, part of the CHF cooking classes try to replace some ingredients and make them healthier. In New Orleans, a lot of the recipes are handed down from generation to generation, with very minimal changes. The problem is that the cuisine is noted for being down-to-earth, and lean heavily on the heavy use of salt and frying. All of these are red flags for CHF. When McCullough first started recruiting for the cooking classes, she was able to interview 120 people of which 60 enrolled, and 30 of them took classes after being released from the hospital.

To stay healthy, patients needed to understand that sodium must be used sparingly in their cooking, if at all. Other substitutions must also be made for the long term. Instead of red meat, mushrooms and lentils can be used to create yummy pasta sauces. In traditional New Orleans red beans and rice, pickled pork and sausage are replaced with spices which provide complexity of flavour and does not take away from the overall character of the dish.

The idea behind these cooking lessons is for patients to be able to make the healthier food choice when preparing meals for themselves and for their families. Rather than being simply restrictive, they are taught to make modifications to dishes so they can still enjoy the food they’re used to growing up.

The cooking classes do not just teach specific meals and menus. What is taught is the need to substitute food which provide the same rich, deep layers of flavor and aroma. These lead to interesting combinations, with food being tweaked to provide the same rich taste without the need for salt or salty condiments.

Additionally, since some patients do not know how to cook, or some have difficulty understanding a cookbook, they had to be guided through the basics with the use of visual aids. Essentially, the center is teaching patients to become confident cooks who are armed with the knowledge of making better food choices for themselves and their loved ones.

Long Way to Go

The Goldring Center project is currently only a study, with the cooking classes being the method to elicit the data needed for the research. The question is still: “Will changing the diet result in a lowered readmission rate?” To this end, the Goldring Center will make use of 20 CHR patients chosen at random. Half will take cooking classes, while the other half will not. With the data gathered from these samples, readmissions will be study for both groups. The readmissions will also be assessed for dropout reasons. The study results have not been announced but McCullough said that patients in cooking classes have been readmission-free.

Interestingly, cooking classes aren’t just being set up for heart patients. At the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, medical students can take elective courses in culinary medicine. The subject, which aims to lower the prevalence of heart disease, is taught by a faculty team including a physician, chef and a dietitian.

Here, medical students can gain hands-on cooking and meal preparation experience. This will allow them to prepare dishes and meals which meet the dietary restrictions of patients with chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart problems.

Medical experts also note that doctors should become familiar with culinary medicine in order to build quality, long-term relationships with patients.

Karl Guggenmos, a dean emeritus at Johnson & Wales University had said: “Culinary medicine is a practical discipline and is concerned about the patient’s immediate needs. It’s been documented that specific eating guidelines may be equal to or even more effective than prescription medications.”

He notes that training health care professionals about food and diet has become critical since patients now ask their doctors more questions about food and nutrition. Therefore, the only way to meet these needs is to teach aspiring doctors about healthy food preparation and proper diet.

Becoming more conscious of what you eat and knowing what’s inside it will make a bold impact on your health, and the positive results can be seen immediately.

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Food Trends To Look Out For In 2018

In any business, it is important to watch consumer and industry trends. This is one way to keep ahead of the competition; another is to create the trends and lead the industry. The struggles to lead are as important, or even more important than the problems of being a competitor trying to play catch up.

The following are some bold ideas and trends which started in 2016 or 2017 but will be more evident in 2018:

Mushrooms. The use of mushrooms has gone beyond food, but also as an infusion in beverages. This trend has already started in Asia, where mushroom-infused coffee and tea have been increasing in the region. Some even use red mushrooms as additional ingredients in various drinks. In addition, mushrooms as food continues to gain in popularity. Mushrooms are a rich source of umami flavor, and more mushrooms types have become more popular in recent years. Western countries have used mushrooms for years; however, they have been slow to innovate the use of mushroom other than in food. The popularity of mushroom will grow to include non-food products, like soap and shampoo.

Technology. Food safety is getting bigger. Food technologies in various countries have put an emphasis on keeping food fresh. These include diverse technologies to determine the freshness of food, as well as other technologies meant to keep track of food or ingredient history. The new food technology includes sniffers which can detect the level of spoilage of greens and other vegetables.

Blockchain technology is also under development to keep track of food history, including where it came from and how it got to the vendor and the end-user. These methods help keep the food secure, and safe. Other technologies help keep the food fresh by keeping track of date of purchase, and date they were harvested or manufactured. This helps the user to determine which package of fresh vegetables to use first. These new food technologies will soon be on the market without the consumer knowing it.

Focus on the Individual. Coke started a campaign where the bottles have names on them. Soon the bottles will not only have first names, but also last names. This is not a far-fetched idea. With the help of big data and enormous data collection efforts, it is now possible to have a soda pop bottle with your name on it. The technology exists to have total customization, which would also enable the product with your name on it visible where you would normally buy it. Customization does not only mean a name – it can also be a trigger. Some people will buy anything with a Hello Kitty logo, while others will buy only purple items. This kind of information is currently available to marketers online via social media. The information borders on privacy issues, but since it is a trivial matter, the consumer does not notice it.

More Plant-based Products. Plant-based meat has been gaining traction. This trend will continue in the years to come. Soy-based artificial meat will expand marketing channels to groceries everywhere. More people will have access to this innovation. Although currently an expensive product, the economics of scale will pull down the prices with more consumers buying these products.

The underlying concept here is technology and innovation. In fact, for mushrooms, consumers are following a trend which has been growing for more than a decade. It is time that the U.S. consumers caught up with the rest of the world. The rest is about innovation addressing issues and concerns, and have grown enough to be a marketing handle.

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Zomato Acquires Runnr; Positions Itself To Compete In The Food Delivery Busines

In the crowded business of on-demand food delivery, global restaurant guide Zomato has acquired India’s food ordering platform Runnr, a bold move that took place over several months.

Runnr will have to scale up as Zomato plans to increase its capacity to be able to deliver throughout the whole of India and in the United Arab Emirates as well.

Zomato started out as a restaurant guide where food shops, diners, and other restaurants were rated by the public; while Runnr is a delivery service start-up resulting from the merger of RoadRunnr, a delivery service start-up, and TinyOwl, a food delivery service start-up. Individually, RoadRunnr raised $28 million while TinyOwl raised $27 million from venture capitals.

The Runnr acquisition has been brewing for several months, with the lengthy decision affected mainly by the different investors that funded parent apps RoadRunnr and TinyOwl. However, it was only a matter of time before Zomato took control and delivered on the money involved. Zomato was already working with Runnr for several months prior to the announcement of the bold move.

Another would’ve-been buyer of Runnr was UberEATS. The food delivery service subsidiary of Uber had Runnr at a valuation of $50 million. In contrast, Zomato’s valuation was only $40 million, however, Zomato was willing to pay $20 million.

Some Things Can’t Compare to Food Delivery

Food delivery is a big thing in India. Traditional pack lunches are not brought by office workers when they leave their homes in the morning. Instead, there is a food delivery system in place, where the hot food in their tin containers are picked up from the home a couple of hours before lunch time. These are brought to their rightful owner by passing it along from one collection point to another. This system has been in place in the country for many years. Although the food delivery services start-ups are not going to compete with the home food delivery system, the efficiency of the old system remains the standard for Indian food deliveries.

Food Delivery app on tablet.

In terms of business, Runnr has around 300,000 deliveries per month, which is about one-tenth that of Zomato. What Zomato plans to do is to scale up Runnr and take over their food delivery service.

The Zomato service model uses restaurant-owned vehicles for food deliveries. Restaurant personnel are used for food delivery during off peak hours, and during peak hours, they use Runnr and the Mumbai-based Grab to deliver its food. There will be a change in the model as it will now make use of Runnr scaling it up to compete with other food delivery services like Swiggy and FoodPanda.

After the acquisition, Runnr will still continue as an independent company wholly owned by Zomato. It will still be run by the same CEO, Mohit Kumar, and functioning as a full-service logistics company servicing a wide range of industries like pharmaceuticals, grocery and online shopping. This would allow Runnr to have a wider base of operations and not be dependent on the food industry. Runnr was also able to raise an additional $7 million after the acquisition was announced.

Runnr will have to scale up as Zomato plans to increase its capacity to be able to deliver throughout the whole of India and in the United Arab Emirates as well. It had previously scaled back its food services operations to 40 locations. With the new initiative from Zomato, it will be back to more food deliveries than ever before.

Zomato ran into problems of its own in the past. It was valued above $1 billion in 2015, before its valuation was halved by HSBC, and the company has undertaken some service cutbacks and staff layoffs. With the Runnr acquisition, Zomato now has a valuation of around $800 million and this bold move is expected to make their financials all red and juicy again.

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Hacking Food Waste

Post-harvest losses worldwide are estimated at around one third of the actual food production. The estimates give 30% losses for cereals; 50% for root crops, fruits and vegetables; 20% for oil seeds, meat and dairy; and 35% losses for fish. Such statistics always have bold impacts to the food industry, as well as its consumers.

The analytics from the tech solutions below can provide the kitchen an important insight on what foosd are moving fast, and what produce needs to be disposed of soonest.

These percentages have not changed much for decades, although the percentages of losses vary from country to country according to their level of economic development. For developing countries, the losses mainly occur during post-harvest and processing. With developed countries, the losses occur at retail and consumer levels.

With the earth’s population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, these food losses are alarming and companies worldwide have been developing solutions to address food losses.

From Harvest to Market

Studies have always focused on how to harvest properly, in a quick and orderly manner, where the produce is kept as fresh as it was on the tree. This has resulted in methods where produce are boxed at the field whenever possible. Still, these boxes have to reach the market or the commercial kitchen. There is still a lot of available improvements in the processes and in monitoring them from the farm until they reach the consumer.

Food waste

Some foods have to travel long distances via shipping containers to get to their destination. BluWrap is a tech solution which extends the fresh meat and fish shelf life by reducing oxygen inside shipping containers. It uses fuel cells and built-in sensors in maintaining a consistent ambient atmosphere throughout the transportation process. This extends the freshness and can also help to reach new markets.

Another solution is BT9 Xsense® which is a real-time chain management system that monitors food products from the producer to the store. Users can use the information to help maximize the product quality.

Edipeel has a different approach for post-harvest protection. Developed by Apeel Sciences, Edipeel comes from all-natural plant extracts processed by recycling agricultural by-products. It acts as a protective barrier against transpiration, oxidation, and microbes, for freshness that keeps food from spoilage longer.

Leafy Green Machine™, the food tech solution by Freight Farms, is not new but has a different take on food and farming. The technology assures 365 days of harvest per year even in different and challenging climate conditions. The Machine resides inside a shipping container, and includes a climate-controlled closed-system hydroponic farming. It also has the Farmhand Connect app which lets growers track the climate conditions inside the Machine. Humidity, temperature, carbon dioxide, plant nutrients, and pH levels are monitored and optimized for best efficiency, maximized production, and minimized waste products.

An alternative solution for conventional refrigeration is Wakati, which uses hydration in preserving food during transport. One liter of water per week with the help of solar energy, and the Wakati system keeps fresh produce hydrated. This allows farmers and other producers in warm climates to safely store their products on the farm as well as during transit.

Shelf-Life Monitoring and Storage Solutions

In developed countries, the biggest losses are in the retail and consumer levels. While there are several smart solutions for the home, these usually monitor the food inside the refrigerator and advise the consumer on what food are nearing spoilage. This is usually achieved with the use of a smart refrigerator. Shelf-life monitoring, as well as storage solutions, are also being placed on a large scale in supermarkets. The solutions do not require a smart appliance, as the containers and plastics are usually the solutions themselves.

One piece of technology new to the market makes use of a natural oxidation process for refrigerated products. Called Bluapple, this is an ethylene absorber for refrigerators. Ethylene is naturally occurring gas emitted by various fruits and vegetables. Limiting this chemical helps to prolong the shelf life of produce by up to three times longer.

Another storage solution for grains and seeds is from the International Rice Research Center, located in the Philippines. Called the Super Bag, it is a hermetically sealed storage which reduces oxygen level to 5 percent, and significantly reduces the number of live insects without the use of insecticides. The Super Bag is also capable of maintaining consistent grain moisture, increasing germination life for stored seeds, from 6 to 12 months. As a grain storage, Super Bag improves head rice recovery during the milling process.

VTT Technical Research Center has developed smart packaging which has wireless sensors that detect ethanol accumulation in food packaging. It has a live data feed on a particular food’s freshness and overall quality, which it transmits to customers via RFID tags. The smart packaging products improve food product shelf-life, improve food quality from packaging to the shelf, and reduce the food wastage all throughout the transport as well as the retail.

In the Kitchen

The kitchen is not only a place where food is prepared – this is also where the products have to be keep at their best. As such, food management is essential to the success of a commercial kitchen. In addition, food spoilage has to be kept at a minimum. Lastly, proper planning and forecasting is also important.

The analytics from the tech solutions below can provide the kitchen an important insight on what foosd are moving fast, and what produce needs to be disposed of soonest. If items cannot be sold in the store, there has to be a way to sell these at a loss, or for others to benefit. Giving food to non-profit organizations can help these organizations in feeding those who have less.

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Russia Becomes Food Superpower

During the height of the Cold War, the balance of power was arrived at by diplomacy of all kinds, including wheat. There were years when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) experienced shortages in wheat production, and the United States sold them their much needed grain. This was not acknowledged internally in the USSR, but it was a stabilizing trade.

The growth in the agricultural sector may still be egged on further with some improvements in the system. The current farm systems follow the old large farm collectives of the Soviet Union.

After the USSR’s demise, the division of the various Soviet Republics resulted in some disparities in resources. The Ukraine remained the leading wheat producer among the former Soviet Republics, while the southern republics became the leading oil producers. Russia itself has vast tracts of land producing both oil and wheat, leading the world in exporting the former.

Becoming a Food Superpower

In recent news, Russian agriculture has benefited from the warming trend. During the period from July 2016 to June 2017, Russia’s exports totaled 27.8 million metric tons of wheat. This is more than the total harvest of the European Union, and makes the country the leading exporter of grain. It is expected to export 31.5 million during the current marketing cycle, something that will create a bold impact in the global food market.

Besides wheat, Russia is also among the top exporters of other grains like corn, barley, and oats. However, they are not alone among the former Soviet Republics, as Kazakhstan and Ukraine are also big exporters of grain.

Russia’s increasing grain exports is a growing trend, along with those of Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The trend does not seem to be reversing any time soon. One reason for the increasing harvests is due to the effects of global change. Grain producing regions are expected to experience an increase in temperature of 1.8 degrees Celsius (35.24 deg. Fahrenheit) before 2030, and up to 3.9 deg. C (39.02 deg. F) by 2050. The temperature change is expected to be more significant in winter. Months of snow are becoming shorter in some regions, resulting in longer crop growing seasons and improved yields.

Under the former USSR, large tracts of land were farmed even if these were low yielding. A lot of resources were used to keep these lands productive. After the fall of the Soviet Union, these low-yield lands which required high resources were left fallow, with farmers looking at better return for their labor. Now that these lands can be more easily farmed, the returns are also better for the farmers. The harvest has grown with more land under cultivation.

Building More Roads to Transport Produce

With more land under cultivation, and the resulting bumper harvest, the next question is how and where to distribute the crops. The how is an ongoing problem to this day. As the growth in volume of harvest has put a strain on the infrastructure, it may take a while before this can be addressed as road improvement is under government jurisdiction.

Where the grain is being exported is another matter altogether. Grain consumption has been growing 2.8% annually from 2011 to 2016. This is expected to continue at a lower growth rate of 1.4% annually up to 2021.

The growth in the agricultural sector may still be egged on further with some improvements in the system. The current farm systems follow the old large farm collectives of the Soviet Union. These are now composed of a few dozen conglomerates which use Western technology to improve farming techniques and methods.

Russia has also begun to change land regulations to allow smaller private farms to till the soil. This is expected to further accelerate the increase in farm production, a bold action for the agricultural sector.

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