“If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture. We believe that it’s possible for small farmers to double and in some cases even triple their yields in the next 20 years while preserving the land,” Gates said.
He gave as one example of innovation the genetic sequencing that allows cassava farmers in Africa to predict how individual seedlings will perform, shortening the time it takes to develop a new variety from 10 years to two.
Another key development is the use of satellite technology developed by defence departments to document data about individual fields, as well as information videos of farmers discussing best practices to help others.
“If we don’t do this, we’ll have a digital divide in agriculture,” he said.
Gates also defended the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the developing world and large-scale farm land investments by foreign states in the developing world — both highly controversial issues in the aid community.
“You should go out and talk to people growing rice and say do they mind that it was created in a laboratory when their child has enough to eat?” he told reporters at a small media roundtable after his speech.