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Food insecurity woes will continue to grow around the world as the effects of climate change evolve. The challenge to farmers: produce more high-quality food while reducing environmental impact.SUPPLIED

Nutrien is working to strengthen food security by scaling sustainable and productive agriculture

Recent global events including war, the pandemic and extreme weather are important reminders of the critical role agriculture plays in our daily lives – and the vulnerability of our food systems.

Supply chain disruptions over the course of the pandemic, and more recently Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – two major global food producers – have led to shortages of key commodities such as wheat, corn and the fertilizer required to produce them. More frequent severe weather events such as floods and drought have also impacted crop production worldwide. The combination of these events has caused a spike in food prices and contributed to skyrocketing inflation.

Another ongoing challenge is feeding a growing population. The United Nations forecasts the population will reach 8.6 billion in 2030, up from 7.6 billion today, putting even more pressure on food systems.

“It’s been a perfect storm with respect to these global issues, which have impacted the global food system and the ability to get food to people,” says Tim Faveri, Vice-President of Sustainability and Stakeholder Relations at Saskatoon-based Nutrien Inc., the world’s largest provider of crop inputs and services.

These issues underscore the agricultural industry’s biggest challenge: producing more high-quality food while continuing to reduce its environmental impact.

“On a global scale, you can’t talk about the issue of food insecurity unless you talk about climate,” Mr. Faveri says.

He believes Nutrien is uniquely positioned to help feed the world more sustainably, given its integrated network of fertilizer production assets, distribution capabilities and a direct connection to farmers. Nutrien produces and distributes more than 27 million tonnes of potash, nitrogen and phosphate products for global agricultural, industrial and feed customers. It has more than 23,000 employees across 13 countries and an agriculture retail network that services over 500,000 growers.

“Our purpose is Feeding the Future,” says Mr. Faveri, adding that the company is committed to continuously improving its environmental performance and working with the industry, governments and other stakeholders to fight food insecurity and combat climate change.

Nutrien has a goal of enabling growers to adopt sustainable and productive agricultural products and practices on 75 million acres globally by 2030. In its initial pilot work in 2021, it measured 545,000 of these sustainable acres in North America alone. Mr. Faveri points to Nutrien’s partnership with farmers, policymakers, non-governmental organizations, and other value chain actors to build and scale a carbon program that will support the advancement of a carbon asset market for the agricultural industry through soil carbon sequestration and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

“No one company is able to solve the challenges we face,” Mr. Faveri says. “To be successful, we need a broader mindset. Through collaboration and engagement between industry and policymakers, we can tackle these issues head-on.”

The company is also employing carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) programs, including two such projects at facilities in Alberta and Louisiana. Nutrien is also investing in renewable wind and solar energy projects and collaborating with farmers on ways to conserve water in their operations.

Nutrien works with global organizations, such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, to help advance sustainable agriculture practices and has donated more than $20 million to around 3,000 community partners supporting sustainable agriculture and food security causes.

The agriculture leader has also renewed its commitment to the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS), a Saskatoon-based organization Nutrien co-founded in 2012 alongside the Government of Saskatchewan and the University of Saskatchewan to drive the discovery, development and delivery of solutions for the production of globally sustainable food.

The mission at GIFS, located within one of the world’s strongest agriscience ecosystems, is to find innovative solutions to produce sustainable crops and achieve global food security, says its board chair Alanna Koch.

“It’s about finding ways to reduce environmental impacts while also maximizing yields,” she says.

GIFS works with about 60 partners across industry, government and academia to develop and deliver technologies and tools that enhance the food production system, Ms. Koch says, while also expanding research capabilities and capacity to find innovations for the future.

“What we want to bring to the market is game-changing innovation,” Ms. Koch says. “Innovation is the only way to sustainability. We can’t keep using today’s technologies and tools to meet tomorrow’s challenges; we need to always stay ahead.”

Some innovations and approaches are already in widespread use, she says, including CCUS, precision agriculture and seed genetics.

“The technologies we’ve already seen make a difference on our farm and farms across Western Canada is mind-blowing,” says Ms. Koch, who farms grains, oilseeds and pulse crops with her husband and two daughters in Edenwold, Sask., just outside of Regina.

Mr. Faveri says Nutrien will continue to use its expertise, products and influence to assist in the transition to a food system that protects biodiversity, nourishes soil, sequesters carbon and stewards water resources – all while boosting crop yields.

He says the company will also continue to leverage the latest technologies to reduce variability and increase the reliability of the global food supply.

“The pace of change is furious, and it’s up to industry leaders to dig in and focus on their core strategy,” Mr. Faveri says. “At Nutrien, we have the strategy, the purpose and the right people to influence change. So I’m very optimistic about the future.”

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Nutrien. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.