A Food Tank for improving agricultural practices

19 July 2013

Countries whose economies are based on resource extraction could do well to create knowledge on said resources. More data and research on, for example, mining or agriculture of specific crops can be a source of constant improvement of processes used for extraction and a move towards an unlimited knowledge economy. Private companies are known to outsource research on their sector in order to improve their performance and increase revenue, but the knowledge produced usually stays with them and is not made public. A good initiative would be for both the government and the private sector to invest in think tanks and universities in order to promote research in key economic sectors.

This would not only aid in economic performance but generate more information on how to reduce poverty and create more jobs –problems that think tank funders quite often what to tackle in developing countries. Food Tank is a good example of an initiative in promoting knowledge on resource use/extraction activities such as agriculture and linking it to social issues like hunger and obesity. Danielle Nierenberg and Ellen Gustafson, the founders of Food Tank, state that their objective is to offer solutions and environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating problems like the ones mentioned above by producing information on these issues and sharing it.  Their hope is that policymakers, the private sector and the academic sector both use and promote these solutions for their countries’ agriculture processes, ensuring that they take into account the environment and how these processes affect people’s lives.

Food Tank is currently an online platform, from which Nierenberg and Gustafson invite researchers, policymakers, journalists, farmers and scientists to become members and contribute to the creation of a free online library on food and agriculture research. It could easily go from a digital think tank to a ‘proper’ think tank (if it wanted to:  see think tank hub idea)

This initiative could also look to other similar programs for inspiration –NPR’s food blog The Salt is an example. The purpose of The Salt is to highlight the relationship between issues like food safety, the livestock industry; in general, reporting on the political economy of what we eat.  It strives to make their research and reporting as interesting and accessible as possible, something that can serve as a great tool for researchers trying to publicize their findings. This makes these types of blogs a great ally and a good link between academia and policy.