THE ACCELERATOR ON BIODIVERSITY has established an initiative called FACT: Food, Agrobiodiversity, Clarity, and Transparency: A Global Roundtable on Food Biodiversity. FACT addresses the challenges food companies face in sourcing crops and ingredients that enhance biodiversity. The roundtable links farmers and supply chain decision makers with a specific intent: to create more transparent and diversified food supply chains that reward farmers for practices that promote biodiversity. FACT also contributes to the broader goal of the Accelerator, which is to facilitate dialogue between supply chain decision makers and stakeholders in the food and farming sectors to identify ways to diversify systems across the agrifood sector, and improve the sharing of benefits in the supply chain.
While there is a lot of agricultural and cultural biodiversity in the world, we underutilize it in our food system. This simplification of food systems contributes to malnutrition, land degradation, and market vulnerability. It is often difficult to find information that relates to questions surrounding crops and their contribution to agrobiodiversity. This difficulty is exacerbated by the myriad definitions of biodiversity and rapid increase in news and stories that traffic in oversimplification of biodiversity loss.
It is especially challenging for food companies to know how to find resources or tools (or how to use them effectively) for evaluating specialty crops, ingredients, and/or products for purchase for various uses. Due to this deficit of universally agreed upon information supply chains often remain “blind,” leading to environmental and nutritional problems.
The increase in production and support of diverse crops enables new marketing opportunities, both locally and abroad, which can offer added value to producers and their communities, especially if they are accompanied by efforts to gain fair compensation through fair trade certification or related programs that support fair benefit-sharing. Many of these efforts are accompanied by the use of more sustainable practices, often building on traditional or local knowledge, along with principles of agroecology. They include a mix of methods to build soil microbiology and soil health, reducing synthetic agrochemicals which can harm beneficial insects, and overall, agro-biodiverse systems of production (such as polycultures, cover cropping, intercropping, and conservation of habitat). These types of sustainable practices also help to build resilience to climate change.
Moreover, food companies and entrepreneurs (including processors, manufacturers, retail, and food service) have begun to incorporate more diversity in their supply chains by reviving, sourcing, processing, and selling novel foods and ingredients that support biodiversity, including some that are called “neglected” or “rediscovered” foods.
Although these many efforts help to make a difference and present important opportunities, there are still urgent needs to increase agrobiodiversity in food supply chains and to improve dietary diversity globally. One of the primary gaps identified by food companies and producers is the lack of information about the sources of supply and demand for unique crops that support biodiversity, and opaqueness of the supply chain. Therefore, supply chain transparency is an urgent necessity and an opportunity for food companies, producers, and for consumers as well.
The FACT Roundtable will develop and work on activities that will address and fulfill this need for greater transparency and clarity about biodiversity in food systems, and build opportunities for innovative companies in the supply chain as well as local food producers and communities.
Clarity and Transparency
FACT’S specific purposes and objective are to:
FACT will retain a leadership group that can leverage tools and direct them to a wide audience of decision-makers at food companies. These tools should assist and amplify ongoing efforts that support integration of more diversity and deeper transparency into food company supply chains. FACT will work in concert with company, government policy and NGO efforts to mainstream biodiversity for food and nutrition globally with targeted tools for action. FACT’s initiatives are also intended to contribute to several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically:
Biodiversity in food systems has been dramatically eroded and underutilized in our food chains. The simplification of food systems contributes to malnutrition, land and ecosystem degradation, and market vulnerability. It is often difficult to find information that relates to questions surrounding crops and their contribution to agrobiodiversity.
Food companies lack resources or tools for evaluating novel crops, ingredients, and/or products for purchase for various uses.
Due to this deficit of universally agreed upon information supply chains often remain “blind” leading to environmental and nutritional problems.
Increasing transparency can enable food companies [and consumers] to have trustworthy information about the supply chain, including food production practices, and gain added value for sustainably-grown products that support biodiversity.
Likewise, food producers can gain important advantages if they also have access to transparent information about the whole supply chain and effective methods for benefit-sharing with farmers, producers and value chain stakeholders.
Methodology, Strategic Actions and Expected Impacts
FACILITATING SUPPLY CHAIN COLLABORATION AND INFORMATION-SHARING
Digital Information Hub
A digital information hub will explain biodiversity in supply chains featuring profiles and success stories, will share knowledge and facilitate collaboration among stakeholders in the food supply chain and across countries, regions, and communities.
Increased awareness of practices, principles, and lessons learned from the examples profiled and will be able to apply the lessons from these cases.
BUILDING TRANSPARENCY, TRACEABILITY AND TRUST
Supply Chain Tool
A digital toolkit/supply chain of custody tracker (and integration of blockchain tools) will enable producers and buyers of crops and livestock to authenticate the safeguarding of biodiversity through practices that support the FACT principles and practices and build connections in the supply chain.
Adoption of efficient and effective methods to gain critical market information about novel food products, and transparency about practices in the supply chain.
CONNECTING THE DOTS ABOUT BIODIVERSITY IN FOOD SYSTEMS: TRANSITIONING TO NEW INGREDIENTS
Curricula for food companies and processors in the form of digital toolkits and storytelling products will identify steps and practices for a transition to innovative foods.
At the same time, an integrated action to communicate agricultural biodiversity principles will be implemented. This will include a website, E-cards and social media assets with innovator profiles and stories.
Expand market innovation and build entrepreneurial opportunities that support biodiversity in food systems. Increased awareness of the importance of biodiversity in food systems, its value for nutrition and health, for farming systems, and for climate change resilience. This will also result in greater publicity which may also increase business success for food companies.
Audience and Beneficiaries
The main audience and beneficiaries of FACT are key stakeholders in the food supply chain, especially small and medium food companies (including producers, processors, distributors, retail, food service), farmers and farming communities.
FACT will also benefit consumers, consumer groups, NGOs, and policy, from greater clarity and transparency about biodiversity in food systems.