Bill Gates demands "digital revolution" to feed the poor

Former Microsoft man Bill Gates has donated a pile of cash from his vast personal wealth to help bring about a “digital revolution” to feed the world’s poorest people.

As part of the philanthropist project the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates has pledged to spend $200 million on agriculture grants to help the world’s needy.

In a speech at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gates appealed to UN bodies to create a more “innovative” approach to agriculture.   If farmers can be supported more adequately then suffering in some of the poorest parts of the world can be alleviated, Gates said in a statement.

A more up to date approach is needed to make farmers self sufficient, Gates reckons, with current methods “outdated”.

At the speech in Rome, Gates called for a “digital revolution” in smallhold farming practices, AFP heard.

Gates wants to push genetic sequencing, which he thinks should be used to predict how seedlings will perform, as well as using genetically modified organisms to create higher food yields.  While such practices have been controversial, as Gates points out, when your family is starving you are likely to care less about whether your rice was grown in a lab.

Satellite imaging data would provide more insight into the quality of individual fields, Gates says. If such technology is not implemented in poorer regions then Gates warned of a “digital divide” in agriculture.

With another couple of hundred million dollars invested in improving agriculture, Gates’ foundation has handed out almost $2 billion in total.