Global warming, organic in the canteen… how mathematics could save agriculture

In his book “The Food Equation: how math can save agriculture” (Éditions France Agricole), Jérémie Wainstain assures us that, in the context of global warming, food shortages await us in Europe in the decade to come. Boss of the start-up TheGreenData, this polytechnician advocates the establishment of rational modelling, failing which the subsistence function of agriculture will decline.

How can mathematics solve agricultural difficulties?

JÉRÉMIE WAINSTAIN. Take the current crisis of organic overproduction. No one anticipated it because there is no modeling of prices, nor of consumer expectations or the consequences of global warming. Mathematical modeling offers the farmer tools to project himself. What risks does he take by going organic? How to cover them? At what cost? I defend a human but equipped and informed agriculture, based on objective data. The agricultural profession is lost in the face of Europe’s injunctions for its Green Deal. He is ordered to produce organic, reduce inputs and lose 20% of his income in the process. The Green Deal is a good thing, it’s just the model that’s wrong.

But the farmer is not alone. There is also the agri-food industry, the public authorities…

Yes, that’s why I advocate applying mathematical modeling to all of these sectors. There is war between agriculture and agri-food, even if the EGalim 2 law has tried to establish a common language. The starting point is good: making the prices of raw materials sacred for producers. But without modeling, we did not anticipate its direct impact: an explosion in imports. As the industry can no longer negotiate with the French peasants, it goes to Germany or Poland for supplies at a lower cost.

What leeway for politics?

Mathematics is useful to help States, Europe or regions to anticipate the consequences. If we modeled the decision to introduce 20% organic in school canteens, we would realize that it is difficult for the organic sector to meet this demand at the very low price set by local authorities. And the most important thing is to adapt the current mathematical models of the financial sector to the ecological transition. Environmental performance must be integrated into financial performance. And then we will change scale.

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