Navin Ramankutty

Canada Research Chair in Data Science for Sustainable Global Food Systems

Tier 1 - 2017-11-01
Renewed: 2021-10-01
The University of British Columbia
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council


Research involves

Investigating sustainable ways to improve global food security.

Research relevance

This research will propose solutions to improve farming practices so we can meet the world’s need for food without harming the environment.

Research summary

Transitioning to a sustainable global food system is a major challenge for the 21st century. We need to reduce existing hunger and malnutrition, while feeding an additional 2 billion people expected by 2050, at the same time as reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint, and making agriculture more climate resilient. Many, competing, solutions have been proposed to address this challenge, and a contentious debate ranges between those in favor of increasing food production through sustainable intensification, and the use of precision agriculture and genetic engineering versus those favoring food sovereignty and agroecological production methods. I propose that a potential reason for this debate is because the conversations remain global and abstract, bereft of local contexts, and looking for panaceas. To overcome these issues, I propose to develop data and analytical tools to explore food system sustainability solutions that are context-dependent, system integrated, and embrace a diversity of options. I plan to do this by: 1) developing critical new global and regional agricultural land use data sets using previously developed data fusion methods: 2) using systematic reviews and meta-analyses to examine the effectiveness of alternate farming systems; 3) exploring locally-effective and context-dependent farming system interventions by further developing a purposely-built web-based tool, and 4) develop regional-scale scenario models to explore integrated food system solutions. Through this research, I hope to identify pathways toward sustainable and climate-resilient food systems that explicitly consider local and regional contexts, embrace a diversity of farming and food system solutions, and examine integrated solutions.