November 01, 2011 at 10:55 AM EDT
How to Cash In on 7 Billion Humans
More people means more demand for resources and services -- it's that simple. These are a few stocks that stand to benefit.

While investors try to anticipate next quarter’s earnings results or even examine the big picture in Europe, it’s really important to stand back and look at the even bigger picture. It might not be easy, but it’s what top-notch investors like Berkshire Hathaway’s (NYSE:BRK.A) Warren Buffett do. It takes guts and patience, but the payoff can be big.

One thing to look for is secular trends, which can be powerful forces that propel growth. A big one to consider: population growth. On Halloween, the world population hit 7 billion. And according to estimates from the United Nations, it might reach 10 billion by the end of the century.

This mega-trend undoubtedly will have a variety of major impacts on investments. Here are some to focus on:

Food

One of the impacts of global warming is the higher probability of extreme weather events. Examples include hurricanes, droughts, tornadoes and cyclones. Add to that the increasing demand for land for residential and commercial space, and it probably will become increasingly difficult to boost (or even maintain) agricultural productivity. To deal with this, farmers will look for things like next-generation fertilizers, which can work better in tough environments.

A top company in the industry is Mosaic (NYSE:MOS). It ranks No. 1 for the production of phosphates and No. 3 for potash. More importantly, the company has tremendous barriers to entry because the number of deposits are concentrated in a few areas.

Water

When a doctor removes life support for a patient, he or she can live up to two weeks without food. But without water, death will come in a couple days. Gruesome stuff, but humans’ obvious need for water is something to consider as the world’s population is putting enormous strain on the usable water supply.

There are some solutions, such as investment in irrigation, which reduces waste and helps provide cleaner water. A top company in the sector is Lindsay Corp. (NYSE:LNN). Founded in 1955, it manufactures equipment to help conserve water and lower energy and labor costs. Lindsay Corp. also has been pushing innovation through GPS systems and smartphone applications.


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