Farm & Food 4.0
International Congress Berlin
Farm & Food 4.0

11. February 2020

Modern, sustainable agriculture can only be achieved together

Keynote: Julia Harnal, Farm & Food 2020

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is a task that we can only fulfil together, and one that is crucial for modern agriculture says Julia Harnal. The head of BASF SE’s global unit Sustainability and Governmental Relations is certain that we can meet this challenge if farmers, science and consumers make proper use of existing knowledge and new technology.

 We invited her to speak at the congress in Berlin on January 20, 2020. Review her keynote.


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The next ten years will be decisive for modern agriculture

We have ten years left to reach the Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) targets. Will we reach them?

We will have to make a significant step forward in the next ten years, which we haven’t been able to do in the last five years. One of the things I wanted to bring to this stage today is how to do this. How can we work together across those planetary boundaries, across those seemingly opposed opinions, to come to a common ground and achieve more wealth and healthy food for everybody?

It has to be our moral obligation to have everybody on board and achieve this creation of wealth and affordable and healthy food for everybody on this planet.

Aside from climate change we also see the limitations of arable land. Be it by new urbanisation or be it by the limited resources we have on land. When we look at society we see more informed consumers, who will ask for a more transparent value chain, and who will put pressure on the way food is produced. They will hopefully also realize the value of food and how it is produced.


Farmers are masters of innovation

Last but not least we are talking about the farming community, about farmers around the world: they will be under this pressure for the next ten years, to make a livelihood out of their farms. To leave their farms in a stage for the following generations while at the same time having limited resources and be more respectful to the environment so to inverse the negative effects we saw on the planetary boundaries.

But we know that farmers are the masters of finding the right balance. They have always been on the front run of new technology; they have always embraced innovation to make their farms better and also to make their farms more sustainable.

We are convinced that there are some solutions out there already, and through collaborating and partnering up we can find a stronger path forward.

We also have to use the knowledge we as a people already have. The Rothamsted Research Institute in the UK is one of the oldest agricultural research institutes in the world: last year they celebrated 175 years of trial data available. That’s also a balance. Taking the experience from the past and mix it with new ideas of young people, with innovative approaches to science in order to get answers for the challenges of the future.

We (at BASF) continue to work with students from Rothamsted Research on soil science. We know that soil is very important for the future of this planet; for the capacity of capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and thus contributing to mitigate climate change.

But we also realized that there is still a gap between aspiration and solid facts. That’s why we have a several years running program with Rothamsted and other universities, where we really work on the basics of soil science to find out what kind of soil, what kind of crop rotation, what kind of farming practises do we need to get the best out of this soil – to get it healthier; to make it more sustainable and a contributor to climate mitigation.

Also to work on models for the farmers that they can use. Here we are again at the question of how to make it worth for farmers to adapt new practises and methods.

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