Agricultural products have a more profound impact on people’s lives than other commodities, as they form the basis for our food. At the moment, the food and agriculture sector is undergoing rapid changes with the global shift toward a more sustainable future.
“Our current food and agriculture systems exceed planetary boundaries. They deplete soils, contribute to climate change through relatively high greenhouse gas emissions, cause a decrease in biodiversity, contribute to malnutrition and support inequality due to power concentration,” explains the team at Triodos Investment Management. “Agriculture must work with nature rather than against it.”
“Our current food and agriculture systems exceed planetary boundaries.”
At the same time, a balanced and resilient food system should promote healthy diets and ensure fair compensation for farmers, argues the Triodos team. Achieving this requires a renewed connection between consumers and the food they eat, a comprehensive redesign, and a reevaluation of our food and ecosystems. “Our food system urgently needs a transformation, requiring a range of interventions that go even beyond the traditional food value chain,” says Pjotr Tjallema, a sustainability researcher within the Impact and Economics team at Triodos Bank.
“Our food system urgently needs a transformation, requiring a range of interventions that go even beyond the traditional food value chain.”
However, there is no simple solution. “We need an approach that includes all important players, also investors and governments,” argues Tjallema. It should also take the food environment into account, including all contextual factors influencing consumer choices. “Only this way can we discover and leverage synergies and trade-offs to remedy the food system’s malaise.”
The food system grapples with overconsumption and overproduction of unhealthy and unsustainable foods, an issue closely linked to increasing income inequality. Tjallema highlights that about 820 million people remain undernourished and about 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies while over 2 billion adults suffer from obesity or overweight. Meanwhile, the food system contributes to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 70 percent of freshwater use, with the conversion from nature to agricultural lands driving biodiversity loss. “For the benefit of people and the planet, we must revitalize the food system,” stresses Tjallema.
Triodos Investment Management has implemented a Sustainable Food and Agriculture strategy across several funds to provide private equity and venture capital to European sustainable food businesses, facilitating the transition towards ecologically and socially resilient food and agriculture systems. Triodos Food Transition Europe Fund, led by investment manager Adam Kybrid, provides private equity to leading European businesses that play a transformative role in the food system.
“From agriculture’s role in climate change to falling life expectancies through to the food security challenges of 2022, the weaknesses of our food system are clear and this fund directly addresses these,” explains Kybird. “Using patient and impact-motivated capital, it supports those businesses that are changing the system for the better from the inside.”
“The food system requires a comprehensive ‘farm-to-fork’ transformation.”
Triodos Investment Management’s investments focus on the essence of our food system: providing nutritious food to all, both now and in the future. The Triodos Food Transition Europe Fund, for instance, finances initiatives with a focus on promoting healthy soils, biodiversity, animal welfare, lowering carbon emissions and food waste, and conscious use of earth’s resources. It also encourages food security and safety, eliminating all forms of malnutrition, while promoting sustainable and diverse diets. Additional investments target fair and transparent business practices, and the development of resilient local food systems by providing access to assets, finance, markets and education.
There is no piecemeal solution to this complex challenge, according to Kybird. “Food scientists are telling us: focusing on one solution or one part of the system will be too slow and can cause rebound effects. The food system requires a comprehensive ‘farm-to-fork’ transformation,” asserts Kybird. Transitions in diets, pricing systems, food environments and agricultural practices are all elements of this transformation. “The food system can be cured with appropriate remedies, but just an aspirin will certainly not be enough.”