Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) is an international research project that is engineering crops to be more productive by improving photosynthesis, the natural process all plants use to convert sunlight into energy and yields. The goal of RIPE is to ensure global food security by equipping farmers worldwide with higher-yielding crops to increase their income and opportunities.
In the last century, plant scientists bred 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 from the RIPE project and other efforts 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 to 70 percent increase in production needed to meet the demands of 2050, improving photosynthesis remains a source of untapped potential. Today, our team is hacking the complex 170-step photosynthetic process to realize global food sustainability in this century.
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 U.S. Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and the U.K. Government's 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 to our project's five target food crops: cassava, cowpea, maize, soybean, and rice. 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.