The president of Iceland says rather than boosting ag production, preserving the food we catch, raise and grow already is key to feeding a growing global population. Olafur Ragnar Grimmson was among the speakers at this week’s World Food Prize summit in Des Moines. He told the crowd mankind’s oldest way of preserving food has been to dry it outdoors.

“But in warm and hot countries all over the developing world a big part of the food that is produced gets spoiled within a few days because there is no method to store it,” Grimmson said Thursday.”I’m not talking about wasted food. I’m talking about spoiled food because of lack of sufficient storage methods.”

According to Grimmson, 25 percent of the food produced in India spoils within a week before it can be eaten.

“So the biggest challenge in my opinion in the present state of food security in the world is not how we produce more food,” he said, “but how do we preserve the food we already produce and make sure that it is 100 percent utilization whether it is fish, meat, fruit or vegetables.”

Consumers in Europe and the United States commonly buy frozen food, freezing food is not practical in developing countries that lack adequate electricity. That’s why he’s an advocate for encouraging the drying of food. In Iceland they are using geothermal heat to dry fish indoors.

The beauty of it is that whereas it takes months to dry food outdoors, this only takes five days,” Grimmson said. “And it has grown into a multi-million dollar export market.”

In Nigeria, for example, food vendors are selling dried fish from Iceland.

“Making a good living, like the Icelandic fishermen,” he said. “The core of it is that you can store it after drying it for five days in Iceland for up to two years with zero infrastructure.”

Consumers add the dried fish to warm water and Grimmson says they have a nutritious, low-cost protein dish. Grimmson has helped organize projects around the globe to test food drying methods over the next two years.

“The reason why it is informal is that I believe we need the two years of proving to the established leaders of the world that this can, indeed, be done,” Grimmson said, “because quite frankly too many of them think it’s too simple to be a real option.”

Grimmson is a long-time friend of Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and was the first speaker this past Wednesday at the relocated “Harkin Institute” at Drake University.