Agriculture today faces the dual challenge of becoming more environmentally sustainable, while feeding a growing population. Global food security is one of the greatest sustainable challenges of our time.

Agriculture is the platform on which human development and social welfare are built, and is the basic foundation for any thriving economy. It feeds every person on the planet, while providing 40 percent of the world's jobs, but it also accounts for 70 percent of global water withdrawals and 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Nearly one billion people are hungry today, half of them farmers. Yet by 2050, the world's population is expected to grow by three billion to reach nine billion in total, with much of this growth in regions of the world currently most susceptible to food insecurity. To meet this demand, world food production must double and possibly even triple if the growing global middle class continues to demand higher quality proteins in their diets. To put this in perspective, in order to feed the world, we need to match the last 10,000 years of agricultural production improvements in the next 40 years.

We can't simply convert new land to agriculture. We need to retain the world's current forest footprint. Our forests naturally sequester carbon and are a major asset in mitigating the potential negative effects of a changing climate. Between 1961 and 2005, higher net crop yields on existing agricultural land, driven by seed, fertilizer and better management practices, avoided the emission of approximately 161 gigatons of carbon by preventing deforestation. Compared with the baseline technology in 1961, every additional dollar invested in agricultural yields has resulted in 68 fewer kilograms of carbon emitted. Balanced soil fertilization, improved seed varieties and better crop management are far more effective and more ecologically sound ways of increasing food supply than converting more land to agriculture.

Fertilizers are already responsible for 40 to 60 percent of crop yields. Although impressive, we have to do even better. All farms, whether large or small, must employ best management practices to ensure demand is met. Education is key to ensure farmers pair the right crops with the right soils, choose the most productive seed varietals, fertilize with a balanced supply of nutrients at the right rate, place and time, and establish efficient market mechanisms to get the food to the consumer at the lowest possible cost. Proper use of fertilizer is also essential to protect water supplies and water habitats, while at the same time increasing farm incomes. With better management practices, production can increase without an environmental compromise.

Most importantly, we must all recognize the problem and work together to find solutions. Mosaic aims to be actively involved in the dialogue, ensuring increased awareness of all parties: farmers, growers associations and cooperatives, trade associations, businesses, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), universities, governments, and consumers. These disparate groups, united by a common cause, must work together to create an effective series of widely used sustainable models to help the world grow the food it needs.