Following on from our recent discussion with Agri-guru Laurence Olins, we have talked to Sarig Duek, CEO of Phytech, an innovative international agri-business headquartered in Tel Aviv, capitalising on the need to actively manage resources, specifically water, in response to climatic change. Phytech sees the challenge of water management as crucial to successful agri-practice, and in a world where population is predicted to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, technical innovation will be one of the key tools for successful production. We are facing diminishing land resources, decreasing food resources and increasing food demand. This is one of the solutions to those rapidly increasing pressures. 
 
Sarig explained that there is a crucial need to optimise the key inputs to producing a crop, namely labour, water, fertiliser, and energy use in order to enhance yield. Phytech have developed a sensor which is connected to individual plant stems and provides data in real-time on plant stress status. This enables the farmer to ensure that inputs to the crop are managed in the most resource effective way possible. It’s clever stuff, and Phytech supports farmers in some of the most extreme climates for growing crops, including Australia, Israel and the mid-west of the USA. It has a global communications system, interconnected with cloud-based servers and web-based software. 
 
As Sarig says, it’s all about data – after all knowledge is power, even at the individual plant level. This is real-time continuous plant feedback – effectively the plant talks to the farmer constantly updating its status and allowing for small tweaks to the inputs with big impact, helping farmers to transform their irrigation practices with the most efficient and effective schedule. 
We are delighted to kick-off the jsglobal interview series with insights from Laurence Olins, the 2018 winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award for services to the fresh produce industry, and the FPJ Editors Award for outstanding achievements in the UK Fresh Produce industry. He is the only person to have won both awards in one year. 
An acknowledged expert in the international food industry, he draws on over 40 years of experience with UK and overseas farms, supply chains, major supermarkets, investors, government departments and ministerial appointments. 
 
January 2019 and political uncertainty swirls around the globe. Brexit dominates the UK, the US Government is in the longest period of shutdown in its history, alarm bells are ringing on a global economic slowdown as the OECD warns that China’s exports have shrunk, and growth is slowing in the US, Germany, France, Canada and Britain. 
 
In this maelstrom of insecurity and doubt, one thing is for sure – the changing climate will continue to be front and centre in the year ahead. Looking back at 2018 extreme weather was a dominant theme, from heatwaves across much of the northern hemisphere, with wildfires in Europe and the US, drought in the UK, floods in India and typhoons and tsunamis in south-east Asia. 
 
According to the World Meteorological Organisation, last year was the fourth hottest on record and confirms a trend of rising temperatures giving an inescapable signal of climate change. Droughts, floods, high intensity storms and heatwaves, as well as rising sea levels are all expected to increase markedly as a result.  
 
Towards the end of the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its starkest warning yet if climate change and rising global temperatures are not addressed. The latest IPCC report on the state of climate science was clear in spelling out the dangers of more than 1.5C of warming above pre-industrial levels.  
 
Whilst 1.5 degrees sounds like an insignificant rise when you consider globally the temperature is already at nearly +1C, in climatic terms the extra half a degree pushes the planet into a perilous world with mass coral reef death, species extinctions, exacerbated levels of drought and flood, and huge declines in agricultural yields. 
 
So – are there any reasons for confidence as we look to the year ahead? Well, yes, apart from being a natural optimist and a glass half full type anyway, there are significant changes happening in response to a combination of planetary stress and social pressure. JS Global anticipates amongst the top issues where progress will be made include: 
 
So, as COP24 comes to a close js global’s website goes live – and provides us with an opportunity to reflect on an intense two weeks debating the world’s changing climate and the challenges ahead. Held in the Polish city of Katowice – irony writ large with the Climate Conference being located in the heart of the country’s coalmining region of Silesia, where the taste of coal dust hangs in the air, smog is normal, and the day the delegates arrived to start the conference it was officially the second most polluted city in Europe. 
 
Poland, relying primarily on coal for some 80% of its energy mix, is one of the EU’s highest polluters, and coal is the dirtiest of fossil fuels. But, maybe this was a good thing, particularly for some of the organisations operating in a business-as-usual bubble, to bring home the reality that the world still relies heavily on coal, and time is running out. 
 
Two weeks of tough negotiations between nearly 200 countries culminated on Saturday with an agreement on a set of universal, transparent rules designed to control emissions and limit global warming. Sounds good – delivering the Paris climate accord of 2015 enabling countries to action the principles agreed then. 
 
But – and after all there’s always a but – there were fierce disagreements on two specific climate issues. 
 
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