Clean Energy Solutions For Agricultural Productivity

Significant barriers exist that hinder the integration of clean energy technology in agricultural development, including lack of farmer awareness and financial constraints to technology providers’ commercial growth.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization projects that by 2050 global food production will need to increase 70 percent over 2005–2007 levels to meet the demand of a growing world population expected to reach 9.6 billion people. For food production to keep pace and feed the world, there will need to be an increase in agricultural production resulting in an increased demand for energy.

Clean energy services offer a sustainable alternative to meeting agricultural demand. By deploying clean energy technologies, farmers can mechanize operations, process raw products to add value to commodities, and extend the shelf life of produce through refrigerated storage to feed more people with less environmental impact.

Energy in the Agricultural Value Chain

  1. Inputs
    • Seed
    • Irrigation / pumping
    • Livestock feed
    • Fertilizer
  2. Production
    • On-farm mechanization
    • Reduction in human labor requirements
    • Increased operational efficiencies
  3. Local Transport / Collection
    • Farm to collection center
    • Collection center to processing facility / market
  4. Storage & Handling
    • Cold storage
    • Moisture control
    • Mechanized sorting / packaging
  5. Value-Added Processing
    • Drying
    • Grinding
    • Milling
    • etc.
  6. Transport & Logistics
    • Warehouse
    • Road, rail and maritime transport
  7. Marketing & Distribution
    • Packaging
    • Retail (supermarkets)
    • Refrigeration
  8. End-User
    • Cooking
    • Transport
    • Household appliances

Energy is critical to almost every aspect of the agricultural value chain. Globally, the food sector consumes 30 percent of total energy supply and generates 20 percent of global emissions. Fluctuating energy prices can negatively impact food production, especially in the developing world, and generating the needed electricity from fossil fuels would significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions within the agriculture sector.

Barriers to Farmers

Farmers are frequently unaware of the variety of new technologies that may be appropriate for them. Because clean energy technologies are relatively new, farmers have limited access to distributors for their installation, parts, and service. Farmers often do not have the means to cover the high capital costs associated with clean energy upgrades, and financing is seldom available.

Barriers to Clean Energy Enterprises

Clean energy enterprises experience challenges accessing debt and equity to support business development and growth. They experience low demand for their technologies due to a lack of farmers’ and other potential customers’ awareness of their economic and environmental benefits. These challenges are amplified by the remote, scattered, and often resource-constrained nature of client bases within agricultural communities. For these reasons, few successful business models have been effective in delivering clean energy solutions to the agriculture sector in developing countries.

The Continued Need for Clean Energy Innovation

The relationship between clean energy and agriculture can be harnessed to maximize developmental impacts in rural areas. Providing farmers with access to cleaner, more affordable energy can improve community health and create more opportunities to earn income through increased and diversified agricultural production. With increased income, households and communities can purchase more energy. This increase in energy demand can enable new or improved energy products and services, which can create more opportunities to enhance livelihoods and strengthen the energy-agriculture cycle.

Last updated: August 25, 2020

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