15.02.2024 | 5 min read

Here’s How Climate Change Affects What You Eat

Protected cultivation is like a superpower. It protects growers from environmental threats and increases sustainable and efficient growing.
African Blue is Morocco's largest producer of blueberries. It uses WayBeyond's FarmRoad platform. African Blue is Morocco's largest producer of blueberries. It uses WayBeyond's FarmRoad platform.

You can't read the news without hearing that climate change is here and we aren't ready. From the tomato wars in the US to Europe's reliance on crops from North Africa to extreme climate changes, water scarcity, and dwindling farmland worldwide, we can't get away from the headlines. 

And we can't escape the truth that climate change affects how growers will produce enough food to feed the world.

Last week, Deutsche Welle featured an article about 'heatflation' and its impact on Middle East food prices. The World Economic Forum defines heatflation as rising food prices caused by extreme heat. Heatwaves worldwide are damaging and destroying crops, impacting people from the Middle East to North Africa and the United States. 

In 2023, deadly heatwaves occurred in Palestine, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and the Philippines, with temperatures hovering around 40° C. The US Sun Belt also saw triple-digit temperatures in 2023. Earlier this year, in February, the southern coastal zone in Africa experienced heat index values around 50°C. 

Climate change's effect on crops significantly threatens global food security. The threats affect everyone, but it is important to remember that heatflation and rising food prices traditionally affect the most vulnerable people in countries worldwide. 

What can growers do to continue growing our food in these conditions? Should they irrigate more? Should they change the types of crops they grow? What is the path forward in horticulture that can still produce high yields in harsh conditions and the 'heatflation' that impacts our food supplies?


Protected cultivation

Fewer resources and reduced impact on the planet

Even the Deutsche Welle article said there are no easy answers to tackle heatflation. And yes, tackling systemic problems in countries affected by heatflation and other factors like budget deficits and currency devaluation is hard. But also what we're living through currently—conflict and war— the dependencies of some countries on food imports like wheat from Ukraine.

I believe there are answers to tackle heatflation. One thing we can change now that will help farmers grow food as we battle climate change is protected cultivation. 

Protected cultivation, also known as a controlled agricultural environment (CEA), enables growers to grow crops in a controlled environment. Environmental factors--temperature, humidity, light, and other factors--can be regulated by the requirements of the crop, which supports a healthier and larger yield.

As the CEO of WayBeyond, I recognize the immediate and pressing need for growers to access timely, actionable, and scalable agronomy data. Protected cultivation in controlled and protected environments like greenhouses, structures, or indoor vertical farms enables growers to produce consistently higher yields year-round and gives them greater control over environmental variables like heatwaves and extreme weather we see with climate change. 

The ability of a grower to control their growing environment with minimized resource consumption also leads to more sustainable and efficient growing practices with a positive environmental impact on the land–this benefits the entire world. 

It stands to reason that as temperatures rise, crops will struggle and yields will go down. And if yields go down, the price of that crop, say tomatoes or blueberries, will increase. Extreme heat damages crops—and that burns through farmers' margins of error. 

Protected cultivation reduces environmental threats, and if we can control that, we can keep growers in the business of feeding the world.