Jonathan Foley

Photo: Steve Wewerka

Jonathan Foley

19th Heinz Awards - 2014

A scientist on the leading edge of understanding global ecosystems and the study of complex environmental systems, Jonathan Foley, Ph.D., received the 19th Heinz Award for dedicating his career to examining and finding solutions for the challenge of feeding an ever-growing population while at the same time protecting our planet for this and future generations.

While warning that modern agricultural methods are placing unprecedented demands on our natural resources, Dr. Foley’s work offers hope, promise and a way forward, offering strategic solutions for increasing global food production while reducing agriculture’s often devastating environmental footprint.

“Solutions for a Cultivated Planet,” a five-point plan developed by Dr. Foley together with colleagues around the world, avoids the ‘silver-bullet’ approach which narrowly focuses on only one problem at a time. Instead, studying a range of factors, the plan takes a deeper look at agriculture and finds opportunities to deliver more nutrition to the world while reducing waste, improving efficiency and sustaining the world’s ecosystems and freshwater resources. The plan addresses the challenge of feeding a projected population of nine billion people by 2050, and has become a landmark publication for scientists and policymakers on global food security.

A noted science communicator committed to mentoring young scientists and bringing a message of possibility and change to scientific and lay audiences alike, Dr. Foley serves as director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, a collaborative center designed to equip people who have the power to shape solutions to environmental challenges with the ideas, information and inspiration they need to do so.

Dr. Foley also directs the Global Landscapes Initiative, a program that is developing tools to assess trends in global land use. It is also building new collaborations between environmental groups, businesses and scientists in order to find practical solutions to the linked challenges of food production and environmental sustainability.

Note: This profile was written at the time of the awards’ presentation.

Providing for the needs of nine billion people, without ruining the biosphere, will be one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced.”

— Jonathan Foley


Jonathan Foley, Global Environmental System Expert - Heinz Awardee

Jonathan Foley, Heinz Awardee speech, 2014 Heinz Awards presentation, Sen. John Heinz History Center