Climate change will pose serious constraints to attaining the joint goals of human and planetary well-being. There is substantial evidence that even with the full implementation of current agricultural technology options, we will not be able to feed 9 billion people and simultaneously reach sustainable development goals (SDGs). A critical issue is that traditional approaches to climate adaptation do not explore the boundaries of what could be feasible if the world adopted ‘wilder’, more transformative options, the potential game changers. And yet, innovations do not always contribute immediately to a more prosperous or just world, and they can create new problems as they solve older ones. Techno-optimists who view new technologies as the path to solving all the world’s problems can at times understate the significant problems and challenges new technologies and practices can present to societies as they disrupt the status quo. Innovation is critical to easing constraints to changing the food system, but no single innovation is a silver bullet.

Envisioning the possible

The goal of the Wild Futures project is to develop tools to help inform food policy to harness the power of innovation, while also building in rail guards to try to avoid the worst unintended consequences of more radical change.

Project Overview

This work does not attempt to pick “winning” technologies or predict which technologies or practices will be adopted. Instead, this work is rooted in anticipatory governance methods, which provide tools for decision-makers to engage with future uncertainty to consider a wide range of possible outcomes, to better assess how food systems can and could function, and how innovations can contribute to a more sustainable, healthy, and just food system.

Ultimately, the goal is to build a better understanding of the innovation ecosystem, how innovations are created, adopted, and deployed at scale. To identify key constraints and challenges to innovation at scale, and improve innovation foresight to anticipate unintended consequences to build bundles of innovations including policies and regulations to enhance the positive outcomes while mitigating the negative outcomes.

Project Team

Mario Herrero

Principal investigator
Cornell Atkinson Scholar
Nancy and Peter Meinig Family Investigator in the Life Sciences, Department of Global Development

Daniel Mason-D'Croz headshot

Principal investigator
Senior Research Associate, Department of Global Development

man in blue shirt

Principal investigator
Flagship Leader & Principal Scientist, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi, Kenya


  • Alliance Bioversity-CIAT (Heather Zornetzer and Roseline Remans) subcontract to help with the application of backcasting to develop innovation roadmaps.
  • FAO ATIO project led by Chris Barrett with Mario Herrero & Daniel Mason D’Croz as co-PIs.

Project funded by

Thank you to our former team members

  • Cody Kugler
  • Claire Lynch
  • Jackson Hart