An introduction to Zero Hunger
Zero Hunger is the second goal of the 2030 UN Agenda, a fundamental issue to which everybody can contribute.
It is crucial since every human being’s survival depends on food quality and availability. Consequently, insufficient or wrong nutrition causes health problems that lead to poor living conditions in general.
It is not an overstatement saying this is the goal from which most of the others depend.
For example, it is impossible to have the proper energy to work or study without sufficient nutrition. So ending hunger and malnutrition is the first step towards many SDGs, starting from SDG1, No Poverty.
Apart from the actions that should be taken by Governments and international organizations, there are many things that could be done by private companies and citizens.
It is clear that only with everyone’s commitment we will be able to solve these urgent global problems.
That is why, here at GründerAtelier, we decided to give useful guidelines to entrepreneurs wanting to develop their own startup around SDG2, or simply willing to make the difference thanks to positive behaviours incorporated into their company culture.
But it is impossible to take effective action without having at least some information and data about hunger, food insecurity, malnutrition and related fields.
That is why we will give our readers a general insight on these issues, before proceeding on what employers and employees can actually do to help solve them.
Alongside it, as we did for SDG1, we will provide you with some examples of startups that are working towards Zero Hunger.
Zero Hunger: an overview
The issue of Food Insecurity
According to the United Nations, almost 690 million people were undernourished in 2019 and this number is likely to get worse because of the recession caused by covid-19.
Apart from the strongly undernourished ones – who are mostly concentrated in Southern Africa – an estimated 25.9 per cent of the global population – about 2 billion people – is affected by moderate or severe food insecurity.
“People experiencing moderate food insecurity are typically unable to eat a healthy, balanced diet on a regular basis because of income or other resource constraints. Those facing severe food insecurity – around 750 million people – tend to run out of food and, at worst, go a day, or days, without eating”.
Again Southern Africa is on top, followed by Central and Southern Asia. Also Latin America experienced a recent increase in food insecurity, mainly due to the political situation of its countries.
In fact, in contrast to what is commonly believed, the main reasons for hunger and food scarcity in Africa too are not just linked to lack of agricultural productivity and difficult climatic conditions.
These are only the most well-known causes, but alongside them, there are:
- Population growth: In Southern Africa, the population increase is also caused by the lack of sexual education and the unavailability of birth control methods; food production is not able to keep up.
- Armed conflicts: Africa has hundreds of trouble spots and most of them are located South of the Sahara. This means that every year lots of cultivated fields and farms are destroyed, but conflicts also cause troubles in transporting food and a high number of refugees.
- High debt and mismanagement: The high level of indebtedness of many African countries as well as poor governance and corruption is blocking economic development. Mass poverty and hunger are the consequences.
- Unfair trading structures: developed countries subsidize domestic agriculture and African small farmers are not competitive with cheap food imports.
- Diseases: The AIDS epidemic, as well as diseases like malaria, inhibits agricultural production in Africa and takes breadwinners from their families.
In addition to this, countries like Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, are experiencing a huge locust plague.
Swarms of locusts are very nocive to agriculture, as they devour everything on their path.
These locusts have also reached Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan and South Sudan.
Overweight: the other side of the spectrum
The hunger problem concerns all types of malnutrition, as is specified in target 2.2.
In opposition to Southern Africa’s hunger problem, there is another huge malnutrition issue, regarding (also, but not only) the richest countries: overweight.
The incidence of overweight, especially in young children, is on the rise increasing and this is a warning sign for future health problems.
In 2019, 5.6 per cent (38 million) children under age 5 worldwide were overweight, with Northern Africa and Western Asia, North America and Oceania leading.
Overweight and wasting often coexist in a population, and are considered the double burden of malnutrition.
It is impossible to end this Zero Hunger goal’s overview without mentioning another huge problem: food waste.
FAO calculated that one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted every year worldwide, for an equivalent of 1.3 billion tons of food.
These amounts of food, however, are mostly wasted not by consumers, but while in supply chains or storage. This wasting contributes to food poverty, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
Zero Hunger: what can companies do?
Working towards more productive and sustainable farming
Increasing farming yield is fundamental to feed a growing population, especially in those areas of the world that are most affected by the phenomenon.
This result, however, must be achieved without further deforestation or damaging the soil irreparably.
A solution exists and it is called precision agriculture. It combines data from sensors, aerial or satellite images and IoT (Internet of Things) to enhance agricultural productivity.
Swedish startup Vultus, for example, develops satellite solutions for precision farming.
By analyzing satellite images, the startup determines the exact fertilizer needs for any farm. It also detects threats such as pests weeks before the symptoms are visible to the naked eye.
Additionally, the startup provides insights on plant health, water stress, and weather patterns, as well as intra-field performance.
US-based startup Agbotic combines ecology and IoT to enable resilient and sustainable farming. The company promotes regenerative farming through crop rotation, strategic tree planting, carbon sequestration, and habitat restoration.
It also utilizes automation and advanced analytics to enable improvements in crop quality and yield, while minimizing resource use.
Apart from but not excluding precision agriculture, there are urban farming solutions that help to achieve Zero Hunger by helping cities become self-reliant.
A startup working in that sense is Nextfood.
Nextfood is a Danish startup that provides automated vertical farming solutions, ideal for city settings.
The startup’s solution uses soilless aeroponics to allow growers to precisely control inputs, as well as save fertilizers and water.
Reducing food waste
Agricultural and food waste is a phenomenon that hurts economies worldwide.
As stated by the European Commission, all actors in the food chain have their role to play in preventing it, from those who produce and process foods (farmers, food manufacturers and processors) to those who make foods available for consumption (hospitality sector, retailers) and ultimately consumers themselves.
This can be done in multiple ways. For example, there are food and agriculture startups that try to extend food products’ shelf life.
It is the case of Thai startup Eden Agritech.
They produce natural ingredients that enable the shelf-life extension.
To be precise, the startup develops an anti-fouling coating that extends fresh produce shelf life by up to three times. This coating prevents oxidation and browning of fruits, as well as microbial growth.
But extending products’ shelf life is not the only possible measure.
In fact, waste from one food processing unit may often have critical ingredients for a different food processing unit.
Greencovery is a Dutch startup that upcycles valuable ingredients from food side streams. The company developed technologies and techniques to recover ingredients from a food chain, making them available for other processes.
From the consumers’ point of view, instead, it is dutiful to mention Too Good To Go, the most successful app against retailers’ food waste.
This app creates a bridge between shops/restaurants/supermarkets and people, preventing food from being thrown away by offering the surplus one at a very convenient price.
People can pick up the ingredients or meals directly from the businesses that are part of the Too Good To Go network (currently 13,307 all over the world) inside a special bag called “Magic Box”.
As we stated before, overweight and wasting are rightly considered the double burden of malnutrition.
Being overweight is bad for people’s health and can cause serious conditions.
Sometimes it is a genetic predisposition, but many times it is developed or increased by wrong nutrition choices that may be caused by mental health issues or simply ignorance and superficiality.
According to that, there are a few startups that developed new technologies or treatments in order to fight overweight induced by malnutrition.
Some of them are tools that, through specific questions, are able to develop personalized programs to help people lose weight.
It is the case of Noom, a Ukrainian startup that has collected funding up to $657.3M.
Users have to answer medical and behavioural questions on their app or website, thanks to which their algorithm draws up a custom program based on their physical and psychological needs.
The tool also provides the person with a date on which, according to their calculations, he/she will be able to reach the target.
MyNetDiary is another successful app that helps people not overeat.
Users have to set their goal weight, then the program creates a calorie budget to help them lose weight healthily and safely.
These were just a few areas and business ideas to end hunger, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, but there is still much that can be done by companies.
In the last section, we will show what entrepreneurs and employees can do, in addition to or apart from that, in their everyday lives.
Actions employers and employees can take in their daily lives to reach Zero Hunger
Regardless if a business has its focus around one or multiple SDGs, it is advisable that every enterprise follows them in its company culture.
In fact, only through every person’s commitment, we will be able to reach these fundamental goals.
The following are some everyday actions that you and your coworkers can take in order to help to achieve SDG2, No Hunger:
- Support local producers, preferring local and seasonal foods over exotic and non-seasonal ones.
- Grow some of your own food in your garden/balcony or, if you don’t have any of them, rent a small piece of land at a local urban vegetable garden.
- Don’t waste. Freeze fresh products and leftovers if you don’t have the chance to eat them in a short period of time and/or reduce the amount of food you buy at a time.
- Find organizations (for example, Too Good To Go) that prevent the wasting of unsold food surplus.
- Consume less meat or become vegetarian.
The meat production industry has a huge impact on the environment.
- Find a Goal 2 charity you want to support. Any donation, big or small, can make a difference!
GründerAtelier’s Impact Accelerator
This was the second article of our SDGs series, which aims to make the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals easy to put into practice for startups and entrepreneurs, in general.
If you are in charge or work for an impact-related startup that supports one or multiple SDGs you can apply to our Impact Accelerator where we will guide you through the journey to become investment-ready and, then, introduce you to our VC partners.