1.1 Bio-innovations for sustainable agriculture, forestry, fishery and food systems


Globalization, trade, the Internet and the proliferation of air and sea routes marking the globe in all directions make for an increasingly intensive use of the planet's finite resources, and multiply the human impact on Earth’s natural resource base. Together, climate change and loss of biodiversity can reduce ecosystem resilience and limit our ability to adapt to abrupt changes in natural systems, with threats to our food and agricultural systems, population health, trade, and ultimately, social and global stability (i.e. world peace). The interest in sustainability grows stronger as society realizes the limits of our current development model, which relies on non-renewable resources. As population grows in numbers and consumption capacity, so does the global wish for the economy to use more biologically based, recyclable and renewable – and hence more sustainable – resources; this is the foundation for the new bioeconomy, which has been ranking higher and higher on the agenda of governments and businesses around the world. This workshop session will focus on bio-innovations to help drive sustainability in agriculture, forestry, fishery and food systems around the world. Special emphasis will be given to biologicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, plant health, etc.) in agriculture and forestry; to bio-innovation and services to help regenerate soils, ecosystems and biodiversity; to sustainable intensification of land use, with integrated production models leading to more resilient, low- or zero-carbon food systems; to advanced biological tools directed to genetic enhancement and breeding of plants and animals; and to biomass technologies aimed to help drive production chains away from petroleum and other non-renewable resources.

Workshop Sponsors:

Ben Durham, National Department of Science and Technology, South Africa

Elspeth MacRae, Scion, New Zealand

Mauricio Lopes, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis


To submit a workshop proposal, download and fill in the submission form and send it as one file to

Ben Durham is Chief Director: Bio-innovation at the National Department of Science and Technology in South Africa. His responsibilities included the implementation of the South African Bio-economy Strategy, launched in January 2014, and he now is overseeing implementation of the four themes of Agricultural, Health, Industry and Environment, and Indigenous Knowledge, together with system implementation. Ultimately the purpose is to develop and improve the efficiencies of the National System of Innovation, ensuring socio-economic benefits to the broader society.

Elspeth MacRae is currently the Chief Innovation and Science Officer at SCION, leading forest growing and bioproduct manufacturing activities to deliver a Circular Bioeconomy for New Zealand. Previously she was responsible for biorefinery, bioenergy, biodiscovery and bioplastics, packaging, 3 and 4D printing, clean technology, wood and fibre and biotech/omics activities from discovery to commercialisation. MacRae leads a Portfolio for the National Science Challenge in Science and Technology for Industry. She is further Deputy Chair of the Biopolymer Network Ltd Board and a member of the New Zealand Packaging Council governance group. She cochairs the International Bioeconomy Forum forest bioeconomy working group with Canada and is a member of the Board of IBISBA.

Mauricio Lopes is a member of the scientific team of Embrapa - the Brazilian Agricultural Research Organization since 1986, working as maize breeder (1986-2000), R&D manager (1995-2003), Executive Director of R&D (2011- 2012) and President, for two successive terms (2012-2018). His major scientific contributions include the development and release of improved maize varieties and germplasm, capacity building activities and many research papers and book chapters. His expertise in organizational management range from planning and improving operational strategies to strategic intelligence to improve research, development and innovation agendas. Mr. Lopes is currently an Embrapa Visiting Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxemburg, Austria.