What is your professional background and fields of expertise?
I have a bit of a mixed background. I studied agriculture and geography with a minor in aquatic sciences. My PhD. was then in agricultural economics. I previously worked in economics (doing sustainability studies) but I am now leading the group for Global and Regional Land-use Change at the University of Basel.
When you look 30 years into the future, how will our land-use pattern shift? What is the main challenge?
What I really hope is that we will meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). I hope that we will not have more land-use but that we use land more efficiently, so that we don’t spread out agricultural land, but still are able to feed the global population. I also hope, that we can stop the urban spread and other built-up areas. This also means that we will actually restore forests and have more space for biodiversity.
How would you wish we would manage our (agricultural) lands better?
It’s about where we produce what and about how we can produce crops that are efficient or don’t use much land. Another point is also, how we change our diets. We should eat more of what uses less land, because we see that in the current consumption patterns, it is a lot of land that is being consumed to have the same amount of calories.
Is there a role for innovation and new tools that could play a role in making better decisions about how we manage and use our land?
I think precision farming will play a big role in informing farmers for instance how to farm or not overuse fertilizers and pesticides. More in general, there is a lot of information about the land cover on a global level available - the things we can see from above - but we don’t really know what is going on the ground itself. We know more in industrialized countries compared to developing countries, so I see a lot of possibilities for scaling in monitoring by using AI and other new tools.