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Feeding a Growing Planet – Aug. 2016

To the Faculty, Students and Staff,

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Riley Memorial Lecture about the challenges facing agriculture and potential tools and technologies we can use to overcome these obstacles going forward. I would like to share some of what was discussed, because these issues must be faced head on, and I know that NC State will be among those leading the charge to provide solutions.

By 2050, there will be an estimated 9 billion people on this planet. In order to feed everyone, we will have to increase current food production by at least 50 percent. In the United States alone, over 24 million acres of agricultural land were developed between 1982 and 2010. Climate change has altered growing seasons, impacted the nutritional value of crops, and led to the spread of diseases. Food insecurity affected billions of people across the globe this past year, at home in the U.S. and abroad.

The solutions to these problems call for increased collaboration, education and innovative research, one of NC State‚Äôs specialties. I am pleased to say that NC State is already working on some of these issues and will continue to do so. Through the lab work of faculty members and larger partnerships between the university and industry, NC State is able to provide valuable information that could lead to potential resolutions for some of these issues facing agriculture.

This is a good start, but there is more that can be done. The field of agriculture-based research is incredibly varied, and as new technological advancements are made available it keeps growing. We have a rock-solid foundation, but there are areas we have yet to explore. Possible tools include the adaptation of Big Data and artificial intelligence, improvements to conventional plant breeding and genetic engineering, the formation of global organizations and world interventions, and new methods of pathogen and pest control.

This is why the Plant Sciences Initiative is such an important project. This initiative will propel NC State to the top of plant-based research by fostering collaboration between disciplines, promoting education of students and researchers, and providing the equipment, space and resources needed to conduct extensive research. The new Plant Sciences building will include amenities like seminar and classroom space, a rooftop greenhouse, labs and office space for faculty, leasable suites for corporate labs and startups, and an atrium collaborative space.

None of this would be possible without the support of the North Carolina General Assembly, the Connect NC Bond, agricultural organizations and industries, commodity groups and the Golden Leaf Foundation.

NC State is already recognized around the world for our innovative research, brilliant faculty and exceptional students. The Plant Sciences Building will give us the resources needed to have an even bigger impact on world health and food security.


Randy Woodson
NC State