Nutritional diversity and farm size of food systems [Global]

The challenge

Globally, 800 million people are hungry, two billion suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, and two billion are overweight or obese. The structure of global food production, and diversity of food supply are key to debates on how food should be produced and are fundamental for the design of feasible responses to improve food production and agricultural livelihoods – essential for attaining multiple Sustainable Development Goals.

Our response

CSIRO, and partners1, estimate global agricultural and nutrient production by farm size and explore the associations between farm size, agricultural diversity, and production of key nutrients2. Our work incorporates the latest spatial and statistical data on crops, livestock, and fish products, which have seldom been included simultaneously in prior analyses. We show that:

  • Production and nutrient diversity diminish with increasing farm size
  • At the global level, both small and large farms have key roles in food and nutrition security
  • Maintaining production diversity as farm sizes increase are likely to be necessary to maintain diverse nutrient production and viable, sustainable landscapes


CSIRO, with partners1, provides information to international organisations and studies that lead efforts to eliminate hunger and achieve food and nutrition security internationally including:

  • The Global Nutrition Report 2017
  • The Global Burden of Disease
  • The EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems
  • The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services global assessment on biodiversity

Our work helps to ensure that agricultural livelihoods and their linkages to land use and their associated ecosystems services and human health are taken into consideration in the global drive to achieve global food and nutrition security.

Contact Mario Herrero for more information.

1Partners include the International Livestock Research Institute, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, Bioversity International, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the University of Minnesota, the University of Illinois, and the University of Tasmania.

2Herrero et al. (2017) Farming and the geography of nutrient production for human use: a transdisciplinary analysis. The Lancet Planetary Health, 1(1), e33-e42.