Bill Gates was due to attend an event in Edinburgh today showcasing innovation in agriculture which could help provide a “lifeline” out of poverty for the world’s poorest nations.

Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and the world’s richest man for 18 out of the past 23 years, according to Forbes, was due to meet with International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt to discuss how improvements to farming technology can help eradicate disease and improve health and wellbeing.

The two are to be part of a Facebook Live debate today at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush campus.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last month pledged $300M (around €255M) over the next three years (2018-2020) to support agricultural research that will help the world’s poorest farmers; it has also announced a package of funding to help UK scientists in their bid to develop new methods.

“For over a billion people living in the world’s poorest countries, agriculture and livestock are a lifeline out of poverty. The science and research being led by the great minds here in Edinburgh are making huge strides in improving the health and productivity of livestock,” said Gates, ahead of the event.

“With this investment in GALVmed (Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines), we can take advantage of the UK’s leading R&D capabilities to fight the spread of livestock diseases, both protecting animals in the developing world and here in the UK.

“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s investment of $40m will help GALVmed make vaccines, medicines and diagnostics accessible to millions of the world’s poorest smallholder farmers.”

Gates and Mordaunt will take part in a discussion event with staff and students to highlight how UK innovations are improving the prosperity of farmers in developing countries.

Animal agriculture is a reliable source of food for people living in extreme poverty and is also an economic driver that creates opportunities for poor farmers to build a brighter future for their families.

Rearing livestock in developing countries is challenging. Diseases pose serious risks to animal welfare and human health and can reduce farmers’ income. Often farmers are reliant on poor quality feed and fodder, suboptimal veterinary care and inadequate breeding systems.

Mordaunt unveiled a package of government funding, worth £90m over three years, for research into new agricultural technologies to support food and nutrition security and growth.

The UK aid research, which is being carried out by international organisation, CGIAR, during a joint visit to the University of Edinburgh with the Microsoft multi-billionaire.

UK scientists, backed by UK aid, will use their expertise to identify the specific genes in crops that help them be more nutritious, grow faster and are more resilient to disease and extreme weather. This scientific work on ‘super-crops’ will help up to 100 million African farmers lift themselves and their families out of poverty, in turn building stability and prosperity, which will help African countries become our trading partners of the future.

Mordaunt announced the new UK aid research, which is being carried out by international organisation, CGIAR, ahead of the visit.

The Bill & and Melinda Gates Foundation itself is an important partner in international research and announced further investment in UK based livestock R&D.

Gates and Penny Mordaunt will also unveil a plaque to formally launch the University’s Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security, a £35 million research and teaching initiative focused on safeguarding the future of the world’s food supplies.

At the University of Edinburgh, scientists are leading ground-breaking work on diseases which cause huge economic losses for African farmers, including Animal African Trypanosomiasis (AAT), a disease which kills over 3 million cattle a year, has been estimated to cost over $4bn a year in total to African economies and can cause sleeping sickness in people.

Bill and Melinda Gates set up the Giving Pledge in 2010, alongside fellow billionaire Warren Buffet, to persuade anyone with a billion dollars to fund good causes; as of last year there were 158 signatories, including Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, as well as Scottish businesswoman Ann Gloag.