Ezekiel 36:29-30 -- "I will also save you from all your uncleanliness: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen."
While exiled in Babylon, the prophet Ezekiel had much to say about the future of Israel and its neighboring states. Towards the end of his book, he details future hope and salvation for the Holy Land.
Since this scripture was purportedly written, famine has indeed occurred in many places around the globe, but science has been quickly working to make the idea of famine obsolete. Between agriculture management, the engineering of the genetic code and fertilization, famine is likely a thing of the past.
Controlling your farm from the comfort of your living room
As an internationally recognized brand, Deere & Company (NYSE:DE) has been providing farmers with the most advance equipment available since its first cast-steel plow in 1837. Since that time, Deere's innovation and consistency have been staples that farmers the world over have grown to rely on.
As part of its latest product line-up, Deere & Co has begun offering its FarmSight suite that promises "Intelligent, automated equipment brings more precision, convenience and uptime to your operation." This setup takes the "Internet of Things" to a whole new level by connecting entire farms wirelessly. By increasing machine uptime and ensuring reliable, uniform methods of tillage, planting and harvesting, farmers are essentially guaranteed to be as efficient as humanly -- and mechanically -- possible. All of this helps maximize yields and cost effective operations.
From the ground up
Aside from the manpower and machinery necessary to plant and harvest the payload, fertilizer is arguably the most important factor in maximizing yield available for consumption. While not undisputed, PotashCorp of Saskatchewan (NYSE:POT) is a leader in all three major fertilizers used by farmers on nearly every acre of arable land. While its bread and butter is its namesake potash, PotashCorp also produces a meaningful amount of nitrogen and phosphate supplements.
According to the company and multiple other sources, fertilizers account for greater than "40% of the world's total crop yield." Without this advantage, not only would a greater percentage of the global population go hungry, but those that are lucky enough to have access would be required to dedicate a greater portion of their income towards maintaining a healthy diet.
Unfortunately, things are only going to get more complicated moving forward than they have been in the recent past. Experts the world over expect the global population to reach 9 billion by 2050. While that may seem like a distant horizon, time has never seemed to move at a quicker pace. In just the next six years alone, arable land available for agriculture could be half the acreage we had at our disposal in 1950. The importance of maximizing yield is far from its zenith.
The building blocks of life
Regardless of your stance on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, they appear to be a necessary evil. Seeds are the foundation of pretty much everything we eat or drink -- aside from water. Unfortunately, overpopulation has created a situation where crop failure on a massive scale could be simultaneously catastrophic to any number of geographic regions around the world.
Resistance to drought, infestation or disease can now be baked directly into a seed's genetic structure, and a large population isn't happy about it. In the grand scheme of things though, this population pales in comparison to the one that would suffer if this practice wasn't spearheaded by companies like Monsanto (NYSE: MOS) and E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (NYSE:DD), or DuPont as it is more commonly known.
Together, these two companies are working towards a more sustainable agriculture landscape geared towards providing a rapidly growing population with a diet of necessary nutrients. Monsanto, for instance, began its quest to double the yield of crops like corn, soybeans, cotton, and "spring-planted canola" within the next 16 years.
On the same token, DuPont has resigned itself to dedicate 60% of its research & development budget towards methods of "ensuring that the world’s growing population has enough to eat." Based on the company's R&D budget of $2.1 billion in 2012, that equates to a single company spending $1.26 billion to ensure the world has enough square meals each and every day.
It take a village...
Together, these companies and their peers are working hard to feed a population of seven billion and growing. By all accounts, these seven billion are becoming wealthier and more accustomed to western diets full of protein and grains. While current developments appear to be making headway towards ending world hunger, myriad challenges remain, especially given the near-30% increase in global population by the year 2050. So while, Ezekiel's promise is much closer to being kept, there is certainly work to be done, regardless of how controversial it might be.
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There’s a huge difference between a good stock and our "Top Stock of 2013" that provided over a 70% return to investors that took our advice to start the year. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it’s one that we believe could replicate that same success. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.
Taylor Muckerman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of PotashCorp. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.