Episode 4: Food Supply with Eric Toensmeier

In this interview, we are joined by Drawdown research fellow Eric Toensmeier to look at how we can improve the world’s food production systems. As established in the food demand interview, sustainably feeding the world’s ten billion inhabitants by 2050 requires significant changes in dietary habits to reduce pressures on land. Nonetheless, even accounting for these changes it is clear food production needs to increase substantially. In this episode we explore solutions that boost agricultural yields in a sustainable and ecological way.

Eric establishes the need for improved agriculture methods to improve the state of the world’s soils and outlines the key tenets of conservation and regenerative agriculture. In particular he emphasises the role these methods can play in sequestering carbon, particularly through agroforestry, but also by boosting yields and thereby reducing the need to create new farmland through deforestation. Many of these solutions, such as silvopasture, tree intercropping and regenerative agriculture are thousands of years old; however Drawdown’s research has been innovative in modelling how they benefit global warming. Eric notes that while these practices are profitable in the long-term, they require substantial investment and we discuss key barriers as well as schemes that can help scale up positive agricultural practices.

Eric Toensmeier has studied useful perennial plants and their roles in agroforestry systems for over two decades. He is the author of The Carbon Farming Solution (2016), the award-winning author of Paradise Lot and Perennial Vegetables; and the co-author of Edible Forest Gardens. Eric serves as an appointed lecturer at Yale University. Outside academia he has enjoyed a varied career including owning a seed company, managing an urban farm that leased parcels to refugee growers, and providing planning and business trainings to farmers.

Find out more about Project Drawdown’s food supply solutions.