Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) is an international research project that is engineering plants to photosynthesize more efficiently to increase the yields of staple food crops and improve global food security. The goal is to equip farmers worldwide with higher-yielding crops to increase income and opportunities.
In the wake of widespread famine, the last century saw plant scientists breeding a new generation of plants to feed millions of hungry people across the world. For decades, this Green Revolution enabled food production to rise in scale with population growth. But those advances have reached their biological limits and new innovations will be crucial to keep pace with this century’s growing population: 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050, and 11.2 billion by 2100.
Today, we have the knowledge and tools to usher in the next Green Revolution, enabling farmers to produce more in this century than in the history of humankind. While no single strategy will achieve the 50-70% increase in production needed to meet the demands of 2050, improving photosynthesis remains a source of untapped potential. Today, our team of scientists are hacking this complex 170-step process in which plants convert light and carbon dioxide into the sugars that fuel growth and higher yields.
RIPE formed in 2012, funded by a five-year, $25-million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2017, the project received a $45-million, five-year reinvestment to continue its transformative work from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and the U.K. Department for International Development. In 2018, the project received a $13 million supplement investment from the Gates Foundation to add resources and personnel that will help accelerate the transfer of our successes from proof-of-concept work in tobacco into key food crops: soybeans, rice, cassava, and cowpea. As a partner of the Gates Foundation, RIPE will ensure smallholder farmers in developing countries will have global access to the project's intellectual property.