Transforming key industrial sectors

Towards Digitalization for Sustainable and Resilient Agriculture: Climate Change impacts on Agricultural Suitability in Switzerland

As the climate is changing and hydroclimatic extremes are intensifying globally, science-informed climate action is needed to secure agricultural production and long-term food security in Switzerland and worldwide. Among the major challenges posed by climate change in agriculture is the effect on cropland suitability, which significantly affects local and global food production and socioeconomic welfare. A comprehensive understanding of this impact is crucial for future agricultural system planning, management, and policy applications. This aspect has been largely overlooked so far in Switzerland and the current evidence base and decision-support tools are inadequate to support effective and broad-scale decision-making at both national and local levels. Furthermore, the complexity of climatic-biophysical processes driving feedback within the agricultural system requires capabilities to run scenarios that can inform related policies and regulations. While this is essential to guide the transition towards more sustainable and resilient food systems, the adoption and development of digital technologies in agriculture is still in its infancy, particularly for policy-making purposes. The added value of creating “what-if” scenarios, such as those enabled by digital decision support tools, has the potential to drive more targeted and outcome-oriented policy and decision-making. As such, digitalization has the potential to move agricultural policy from direct intervention to information-based governance.

This project proposes to conduct a preliminary computational assessment of climate-driven changes in crop suitability across Switzerland. The work will not only address important knowledge gaps related to future climate-driven stressors and challenges, potentially informing management strategies, but also provide initial, tangible, and science-based results supporting the use of digital technologies and big data for the development of a digital decision-support model for the Swiss agricultural sector.

The proposed work will address the following research questions:

  • How will climate change affect crop suitability across Switzerland? And specifically in canton Valais?
  • What is the potential of digital technologies to inform policy-making in the Swiss agricultural sector?