Interview with Ying-Chen Lin

Ying-Chen Lin introduces the Taiwan Hub

In the final installment of our introductory video series Ashley Colby of SCORAI sits down with Ying-Chen Lin of the Taiwan Hub. We discuss the Taiwanese context for sustainable food supply chains, the role of agro-photovoltaics in the sustainable food transition, and goals for Taiwan’s food self-sufficiency.

In the case of Taiwan, being a small island and with a demand for urban development, there are limited farmlands. One of the foci of the Taiwan hub is national food self-sufficiency, which has lowered from 56% in 1984 to 31% in 2022. This decline is due somewhat to the adoption of the Western diet – such as hamburgers or bread – which has required importing foods not typically produced by Taiwanese farmers like soybean, corn and wheat. Paddy rice, contrastingly, is suited to Taiwan’s climate and is the traditional food grown by small farmers.

The research question of the project is how to get Taiwanese food policy to address the overall food self-sufficiency of Taiwan? Ying-Chen has brought in academics, civil society NGOs, local practitioners and even the Ministry of Agriculture on this project. The local stakeholders include a cooperative of sweet potato farmers, a family farm who produces soybeans who also promote food education, and several traditional family farmers.

Another concern of the project is the advancement of agro-photovoltaics – a policy tool for putting solar panels on farmland with the idea that the farmland will continue to be productive – which have a mixed track record in Taiwan. Ying-Chen is most concerned of cases where agro-photovoltaics develop farmland in a way that incentivizes farmers to stop producing on the land, considering the limited scope of farmland available in Taiwan. Ying-Chen explains he hopes policymakers learn to balance the goals of food self-sufficiency with energy generation.

Ying-chen is excited to learn about cooperative business models of the other country hubs that are participating in this consortium and to bring those insights into the Taiwanese context. One unique aspect of the Taiwan hub is that because it is such a small country there is an opportunity to take some policy insights from other countries to powerful actors in Taiwan to make significant transformations of the Taiwanese food system.