Local photographer Jim Richardson spoke at Kansas State University March 18. The topic? Feeding the world.

Local photographer Jim Richardson spoke at Kansas State University March 18. The topic? Feeding the world.
The world's population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, up from 7 billion today. This, combined with changing culture, is expected to require a doubling of food production.
“My presentation, 'Feeding a Hungry Planet,' focuses on the challenge we face to feed all the people who will be living on Earth by 2050. That is projected to be something like 9.5 billion people,” Richardson said. “We have seven billion people now, and with improving diets around the world and a greater appetite for meat, that means we will have to double agricultural production by 2050 in order to feed everyone.”
Richardson's presentation is based on research and stories about agriculture he contributed to in National Geographic.
Richardson said there are many challenges food producers face going forward, including finding land and making new discoveries.
“First, we have already used up much of the prime agricultural land on the planet. We'll be expanding into more marginal land if we try to simply plant more acres to meet our needs for food,” he said. “Second is the lack of sufficient research that is relevant to the vast number of farmers around the world, combined with insufficient means to distribute that research information.”
Another challenge facing producers comes from outside the industry — public opinion.
“There is a distorted view of agriculture that assumes that the solutions to our problems can be solved by just one or another of the farming options available to us,” he said. “ In truth, we are going to need virtually every farming technology we can possible use.”
Richardson said Kansas plays an important role in meeting the growing demand for food because a lot of grain is produced in Kansas and sold globally.
“Kansas farmers play a huge role in the production of cereal grains and the expansion of our knowledge of how to do it efficiently,” he said. “We still produce vast amounts of grain that is available for export, even if we are not the largest wheat growing country overall (that would be China.) Kansas State University is one of the central players in wheat research worldwide, for example.”
He said finding a solution to the food problem is important not only to counteract world hunger, but to reach world peace.
“We have only 35 years until we reach 9.5 billion people on Earth, with the hope that will be the peak of human population, which will level off and then begin a gradual decline. That's not a very long time. And food is one of the great triggers for unrest and war in the world,” he said. “Growing enough food to feed everyone by 2050 is more than just a humanitarian issue; it's an issue for world peace, too.”