WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — With more than 7 billion humans sharing the earth, agriculture has a huge job to do — provide enough food for everybody in a sustainable manner.

Producing high yields on as little land as possible is the agricultural goal for most countries as populations increase and demand for food rises.

“Who is going to win this competition toward this growing market of consumers?” asked Marcos Fava Neves, a professor at the University of São Paulo and visiting professor at Purdue University. “The winners will be the countries or the states or the regions that better use their resources towards the growth in world consumptions.”

During the Top Farmer Crop Workshop at Purdue, Neves defined resources as food, water, people, education, technology, information and other important factors.

He used a triangle trends model that illustrated how resources, risks and consumption are all intertwined to set the stage for agricultural trends.

“We have to build up and use our resources to take advantage of the consumption growth,” he said.

The movement of people from rural to urban areas has a large impact on the agricultural industry due to changes in eating habits.

While eating on a farm in India, Neves had a plate of rice. While visiting the city, he ate at McDonald’s.

Meeting the increasing and changing demands of consumers is critical, the professor said.

When talking about growing economies, China is one of the first that comes to mind for many people. But Neves said that countries such as India are very relevant to the future of ag.

“I had my first chance to go to India this year,” he said. “I will bet with you that in this conference, five years from now, India will be much more spoken about than China, because it’s impressive what you see going on over there.

“They are 40 percent urban, 60 percent rural. India grows 2 million people per month. They will gain in terms of population one USA for each 15 years. In 10 years, they’ll have a GDP 100 percent bigger. For me, that’s where the real transformation is going to be in the next 10 to 15 years.”

Neves said that the average acreage per farmer in India is 2.4 acres. This has to be split among several children down the road.

The need to make farming more efficient is especially important in areas like this, the professor said.

“Imagine all those people there competing for water, competing for land,” he said. “Because cities are growing, cities are taking over farmland.”

In India, a food security bill was designed to deliver grain and foods to those in need in the country. The bill included an increase in grain consumption by 60 to 70 million tons, Neves said.

“That’s what’s going on over there,” he noted. “They are either going to have to produce it or buy it from outside.”

While India and China are growing, they are not the top importers in agriculture.

According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the largest food importers right now are countries in Africa and the Middle East.

“The biggest food importer today is Africa, and it will continue to be until they can urbanize better and come as a world food supplier,” Neves said.

He predicted that African countries will continue to import for about 10 years. He said that their land and water resources will allow them to transition and eventually become a food exporter in 15 to 20 years.

“All over the world is the same phenomena that you see here, about the land prices in Indiana and in other parts of the U.S.,” he said. “It’s the same going on all over the world because we cannot create new land, and that’s the challenge.

“That puts a challenge over our farmers because they’re working on an asset that has tripled in value over the last 10 or 15 years. They must be much more efficient because the cost of the land that they’re working with.”