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Global Ag Innovation Forum launches with first virtual event

The Global Agriculture Innovation Forum began yesterday with its first virtual event, Farms and Farmers of the Future, welcoming participants and speakers from around the world. The Forum is produced through a partnership between USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service and Purdue University’s Office of International Programs in Agriculture. The event attracted more than 1,000 registrants from more than 90 countries.

The March 2 Forum highlighted a range of topics that will be discussed in more detail during events to be held throughout 2021. Gerald Shively, associate dean and director of Purdue University’s Office of International Programs in Agriculture, introduced the event, which was moderated by John Dixon, adjunct professor at University of Queensland, Australia and former Senior Advisor at the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with our USDA partners on what we know will be a series of interesting and informative events,” said Shively. “The world needs solutions. Our goal is to identify them and bring them to the global stage.”

In introductory remarks, Robert Bonnie, Deputy Chief of Staff for policy and Senior Advisor for Climate USDA, emphasized that “farmers and ranchers must have access to current and future innovations to adapt and be successful. They are critical to the innovation process and results can broadly provide producers access to a range of tools to support the next era of sustainable farming.”

Attendees listened to four presentations by influential global thought-leaders. Topics and presenters were:

  • Enabling Farms and Farmers with Transformational Technologies, Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO);
  • Ensuring Farms are Productive and Efficient in Producing Wholesome Products, Rajendra Paroda, former Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Government of India;
  • Ensuring Farms and Farmers of the Future Will Be Sustainable and Climate-smart. Dennis Garrity, Drylands Ambassador for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and Distinguished Senior Research Fellow at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi, Kenya; and
  • Making Certain Farms and Farmers of the Future Will Be Informed and Connected to Markets, Louise Fox, Non-resident Senior Fellow in the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI), Brookings Institution, and formerly chief economist at USAID, visiting professor of development practice at the University of California, Berkeley.


Beth Bechdol Beth Bechdol, Deputy Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Louise Fox Louise Fox, Non-resident Senior Fellow in the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI), Brookings Institution, and formerly chief economist at USAID, visiting professor of development practice at the University of California, Berkeley

Speaking from her office in Rome, Beth Bechdol kicked off the event.  “There is no single innovation that defines a farm of the future,” said Bechdol. “Innovation and technologies must fit their geography, user and purpose…Innovation does not always mean that we are inventing something new, often we can use existing technology in a more efficient and productive way. More than ever, it is important to leverage our shared innovation and technology with our partners.”

As a labor economist who has primarily worked within Sub-Saharan Africa during the last decade, Louise Fox’s comments focused on the importance of informing farmers of the future on topics ranging from post-harvest technology to pricing and sales to developing the potential impact of agritech.  “The important point is that balanced economic growth translates into significant poverty reduction and starts the growth of a middle class in these countries,” Fox explained.

A question and answer session concluded the event, as it will in all future events. Recordings from this first event are available by March 5.

Future virtual events will continue to offer opportunities for networking and collaboration, and facilitate connections between innovators and stakeholders, private and public sectors and those with local and global perspectives. Participation in all events is free, but those interested must register. The next Forum event, Enabling Farms and Farmers to be Productive and Efficient in Producing Wholesome Products, will be held on March 12 and moderated by Ismahane Elouafi, Chief Scientist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).  

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