10 Amazing TED Talks That Explain the Opportunities of AgTech
During this time of heated debate about food security, genetic plant engineering, and environmental sustainability, everyone has a responsibility to stay informed about the many intersections between ecology, farming, and public policy. These 10 AgTech TED Talks are a great way to do that!
Agriculture is one of the most economically, socially, and ecologically fundamental of all the modern industries. Yet most citizens of developed nations have little to no knowledge of the processes, difficulties, and technologies involved in producing the food that they eat each day. Understandably, interest in these debates and questions have surged among the general public over the last few years. But how can such complex, challenging scientific topics be made accessible to people who have never harvested a potato crop or sequenced an apple tree’s DNA?
Top 10 AgTech TED Talks
These ten agriculture-focused TED Talks provide an insightful, fascinating commentary on the most pressing issues facing the modern agriculture community, including cutting-edge technological application, food-related ethical challenges in developing nations, and the serious impact that farming can have on the climate. Dig deep into these valuable resources to discover more about the ecological responsibilities, technological capabilities, and social complexities of the modern agricultural age.
1. “The Other Inconvenient Truth” — Jonathan Foley
In this fascinating AgTech TED Talk, Jonathan Foley builds on Al Gore’s seminal documentary to examine agriculture’s role as the leading contributor to climate change and habitat destruction. Now that nearly 40 percent of Earth’s land and 70 percent of its water is dedicated to food production, using decades of farming data and stunning satellite images, he traces the decimation of natural landscapes and habitats to form new arable land and keep pace with food demand. Foley advocates for a diversified approach—incorporating trade policy, new technology, and cultural attitudes—that leads the way to sustainable, ethical agriculture.
2. “The Global Food Waste Scandal” —Tristam Stuart
Can we feed nine billion people using the food that is produced today? In this TED Talk, Tristam Stuart tackles the relationship between agricultural surplus and the global food waste crisis. He delves into the flaws in agricultural infrastructure, food transportation, and business practices. Through more responsible livestock feeding, public policy changes, and more openminded attitudes toward vegetable and meat consumption, Stuart lays out a plan to bring each element of the crop to good use.
3. “This Computer Will Grow Your Food in The Future” — Caleb Harper
Caleb Harper, MIT ag-tech researcher, uses this ingenious AgTech TED Talk to describe how modern agribusiness practices affect nutrient density, food prices, and environmental impact. Through a range of fascinating case studies, he presents his research team’s plan for an experimental, digitally based agriculture that tastes a lot better, costs a lot less, and takes a much smaller toll on natural resources. Discover the possibilities when a farmer’s passion is combined with a computer’s knowledge.
4. “A Forgotten Space Age Technology Could Change How We Grow Food” — Lisa Dyson
This fascinating lecture from sustainability researcher Lisa Dyson describes one way that abandoned NASA programs from the 1960s could revolutionize modern agriculture. Using hydrogenotrophic microbes—also referred to as “carbon recyclers”—pioneering researchers were able to manufacture a variety of protein-rich products. In the future, these same microbes could be used to meet modern food demands while limiting land use and conserving valuable natural resources.
5. “How We Can Make Crops Survive Without Water” — Jill Farrant
Across the world, millions of crops go to waste each season due to water shortage. Jill Farrant believes that drought-resistant seeds like the baobab tree, often called “resurrection plants,” might be the answer. Genes from these “resurrection plants,” implanted into others, could set new standards of efficiency and resilience. In this illuminating talk, Farrant describes the potential benefits of switching from an agriculture based on annual crops to an agriculture based on hardier plants that can resist catastrophic drought.
6. “Crop Insurance, An Idea Worth Spreading” — Rose Goslinga
For the many small farmers in developing nations, the financial risk entailed by major weather events like droughts and monsoon seasons are too much to sustain on their own while still making a profit. Rose Goslinga, a pioneering microinsurance innovator, has some ideas to solve this problem. In this talk, she shares how she was able to secure funding and prevent financial instability for thousands of farmers in sub-saharan Africa. By sharing her experience on a local level, Goslinga makes a compelling case for implementing the same sort of system at a continental—or even global—scale.
7. “A Simple Solution to the Coming Phosphorous Crisis” — Mohammed Hijri
The world is running out of phosphorous, a key requirement for crop survival and component of many biological “building block” molecules. Mohammed Hijri believes that intensive modern farming practices, along with their reliance on chemical fertilizers, could be the main culprit. What will happen when the Earth’s vast phosphorous reserves run out, as experts suspect that they will by the end of the century? Hijri argues that by integrating mushrooms and other complex mycorrhizae with standard crops, farmers may be able to extract trace amounts of phosphorous from the soil and create a truly symbiotic method of phosphorous conservation.
8. “One Seed at A Time: Protecting the Future of Food” — Cary Fowler
As agricultural production centralizes and homogenizes, many distinct species are being bred out of existence. Crop diversity is an important factor in preserving desirable traits and cultivating flexibility within the food system, which experts predict will become crucial as climate change continues to impact growing cycles and weather patterns. What sorts of characteristics and adaptations will the crops of the future need in order to remain efficient and fruitful? Cary Fowler and the team at the Global Crop Diversity Trust are working to find the answer. In this talk, he offers a glimpse into the cutting-edge research behind frozen seed bank storage and its promise for the future.
9. “We Need to Feed the Whole World” — Louise Fresco
Is it possible to meet the world’s growing food demands without increasing the burden on low-income farmers and regions? In this lecture, agriculture and sustainability expert Louise Fresco celebrates the era of plentiful, affordable food and rejects the nostalgic desire for a return to small-scale farming. Through an in-depth examination of the history of bread, she explains how an intelligent combination of advanced biotechnologies and integrated food policies can lead the fight against rural poverty while keeping local agricultural markets strong.
10. “The Case for Engineering Our Food” — Pamela Ronald
Pamela Ronald, internationally recognized plant geneticist, explores how genetic engineering of crops can increase yields and security while keeping people safe and helping the environment flourish. Through the story of developing a flood-resistant rice species, she explains how cutting-edge research allows geneticists to fight pests, eliminate disease, and reduce malnutrition in developing nations.
AgTech TED Talks have a great potential to contribute to unravelling and explaining the challenges and opportunities of Agtech. As the technological developments advance, they are a great source to keep up to date on what is happening in the Agtech industry.