Evolve.ag Apr 13, 2023
Emata is providing loans to African farmers to help them thrive
Emata is a fintech company, based in Uganda, that is providing loans to farmers. While farming represents 80% of the employment in that country, it only makes up only 30% of the economy. It’s extremely hard for farmers to break even–much less invest in their farms. Emata is changing economic circumstances for farmers by providing loans at a much lower interest rate than they are used to and doing it all through WhatsApp. In this episode, I speak to Bram and Lillian about why Emata is making such a big impact–with a 95% repayment rate–and the future of farming in Africa. I hope you enjoy!
Dairy industry veterans bet that the future is cow-free
Dennis and JT Cohlmia have been a part of the dairy industry for over 40 years. Their latest venture, Strive Nutrition, is a pivot in a new direction that removes the cow from the equation. Strive Nutrition uses precision fermentation to create a bio-identical, animal-free whey protein isolate and cow-free milk. While vegan-friendly, this is not another rendition of plant-based milk. Instead, they partnered with Perfect Day and use fermented microflora (instead of cows) to create dairy products (and non-dairy oat and almond milks) supplemented with their animal-free whey protein.
There are lots of positive environmental upsides to creating dairy using precision fermentation. And plenty of nutritional benefits too. Because there are no animals used in the process, the supply chain is not reliant on a farm location and weather; factories can be hyperlocal. There are no methane emissions. And up to 96% less water is used.
Dennis and JT believe this new category of "animal-free dairy" is a crucial part of curbing the environmental impact that factory dairy farming has on the environment. Ready to knock on doors and work through their retirement to make it happen, they believe this is the future of milk.
Is the future of pest control biologics and bees?
Bee Vectoring Technologies (BVT) helps farmers achieve greater yields and fight pests with bees. In this episode, I chatted with founder, Ashish Malik, who wanted to create an agricultural solution that could support feeding the earth's growing population. BVT's technology starts in a 'smart hive', where bees dip their bodies in a non-toxic biological fungicide before going off to do their bee business. Bees pass the fungicide along to the plant 95% more efficiently than farmers' sprays--which means less fungicide is needed in the long run. Their proprietary fungicide technology, is known as a "biologic", or a living organism that can help fight off or deter agricultural pests. "Biologics" have become a recent buzzword in agriculture--even though the technology has actually been around for 20+ years. Enjoy the show!
Why the future of food should be hyperlocal and vertical
In this episode, I interview Craig Ratajczyk, CEO of Crop One--an international vertical farm company. You can find them in grocery stores under the name: FreshBox Farms. We talk about how the controlled environment agriculture industry can positively contribute to a more sustainable, dependable, local, nutritious future of food worldwide. And why serving nearby communities is so important. He shares the practices that Crop One takes to ensure they are not impacting the environment. Fun fact: his background is in global ag and national security--which turns out to be an ideal skillset for the leader of a global vertical farming company. We also discuss a topic near and dear to me--what it will take for more widespread consumer adoption of foods grown in vertical farms. The answer might surprise you. Enjoy the show!
Microdrones that mimic bees and measure plants
In this podcast, I interviewed Siddharth Jadhav, founder and CEO of Polybee--an autonomous microdrone company out of Singapore that is mimicking the work of bees and also taking very precise plant measurements in an effort to help farmers increase their yields. We talk about the critical role of pollination in food security and why Polybee is much more than a pollination as a service company. They are the first scalable drone solution targeting producers in controlled environment agriculture and partnering with seed companies who are looking for faster breeding cycles and fewer resources. In the future, they hope to provide prescriptive insights to their customers and help develop crops that are more climate resistant.
Urban Greens is turning food miles into food steps at the first vertical farm in the Philippines
In this episode, you'll meet Ralph Becker, founder of Urban Greens in Manila. Inspired by plant factories in Japan, a lack of fresh produce in the Philippines, and DIY hydroponics videos on YouTube, Ralph started Urban Greens, the first vertical farm in the Philippines. He is currently building out a warehouse vertical farm from the ground up with proprietary in-house design specifically for the tropics, using local materials and his own IoT.
To be more sustainable, he grows crops without energy-intensive cooling systems. Urban Greens sells produce to individuals, bars, and restaurants. He collaborates with chefs to experiment with new crops like strawberries, fiddlehead fern, and anything with bright Instagrammable flowers. And he is minimizing food miles by setting up mini hydroponic systems in grocery stores too.
One of Ralph's main goals is to help people understand where their food comes from. To do this, he sets up pop-up dinners on the farm--giving patrons a literal farm-to-table culinary experience and morphing the idea of 'food miles' into literal 'food steps.' He even hosts local workshops to help people set up their own vertical farms.
Urban Greens is a model vertical farm attempting to improve the food system in Manila with healthy, fresh produce.
Greenfield Robotics is getting chemicals out of regenerative agriculture
"No-till," "carbon farming," and "regenerative ag" are buzzwords in agriculture. But did you know these techniques rely heavily on herbicides to produce food at scale? In this podcast, I chat with Clint from Greenfield Robotics. His company creates solutions for regenerative farmers to minimize inputs like chemicals and achieve success without disturbing precious soil microbes through tilling.
You'll learn the three main things that make a farm more carbon neutral (or regenerative) and why it's challenging to do this on large swaths of fields. We also discuss if farmers are receptive to adopting new technology and what Greenfield is doing differently to help them succeed.
Clint shares a farmer's perspective on how to buy the most nutrient-rich foods for your family and gives a staunch warning about foods labeled 'organic.' He emphasizes why it's so important to consider not just what you're putting in your body but where that food comes from.
Reducing food waste one banana at a time
Experts estimate that over ⅓ of the food in America is wasted. In this episode, I interview Valeria from Peel Soft Serve, who is on a mission to help change that statistic. Peel Soft Serve is rescuing fruit that would otherwise go to waste and turning it into a creamy, frozen vegan treat that’s perfect for hot Miami days. Her company brings awareness to this issue and saves an impressive amount of bananas (and other tropical fruit) from going to waste. Hear about how she gives cosmetically-challenged bananas a second chance and get tips on how to reduce food waste at your house.
What do saltwater vertical farming and sustainable coastlines have in common?
Heron Farms is growing sea beans in their vertical farm and restoring marshland from their home base in Charleston, South Carolina. In this episode, I speak with Sam Norton, the founder of Heron Farms. Inspired by the marsh he grew up playing in, he started the first saltwater vertical farm in the US. Heron Farms grows a type of Salicornia, also known as a sea bean. This plant provides high levels of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and, not surprisingly, sodium chloride. Chefs sometimes use it as a replacement for salt on fish dishes, like Crudo or ceviche. Beyond the farm, they're also using Salicornia to remediate salt marshes.
We talk about the ecological benefits of Salicornia and how marshland restoration can help turn seawater into a resource instead of a concern for people living in coastal areas. We also dive into the challenges of starting a vertical farm. And how important it is to balance the negative aspects of controlled environment agriculture, like expensive lighting and plastic, with activities that support the ecosystem.
Biomilq is making cell-cultured breast milk from dads and moms
What if, in the future, babies could drink breast milk from both of their parents? (No, we're not talking about lactating men.) Research Triangle-based Biomilq applies stem cell technology (commonly used in cellular agriculture) to create custom breast milk from mammalian cells, regardless of gender, age, or even species.
In this episode, we talk with CEO Michelle Egger about this potentially life-changing technology and why infant nutrition is key to raising a healthy baby. We also learn why they want a bioethicist on their team, and the most curious and common question moms have about this product (hint: it's not about nutrition--it's socio-cultural).
Biomilq is still a few years away from market, pending regulatory and consumer hurdles. In the meantime, they are activating meaningful conversations around these topics to help moms make empowered, informed choices about the best way to feed their children. And they're finding ways to ensure their end product is inclusive for moms at all income levels.
While it feels like science fiction to say, soon, parents will be able to get lab-grown breast milk replicated by cells from their own bodies instead of turning to formula.
Space food for earthlings from Mission: Space Food
The very first meal that American astronaut John Glenn ate in space consisted of applesauce and sugar tablets. Luckily, what astronauts eat now has evolved. Companies like Mission: Space Food are designing high-quality, nutrient-dense foods to satiate astronauts' appetites and earthlings' nutritional needs.
In this episode, we spoke with Graham Greene, the Chief Product Officer at Mission: Space Food, who also happened to be a chef and butcher at Michelin-starred restaurants worldwide. We chatted about the constraints of designing food for space, Mission: Space Food's new multisensory product for astronauts and earthlings alike, their philosophy around personalized nutrition, and the future of food in space.
Dope Coffee's mission goes beyond the beans
Dope Coffee is amplifying Black culture through coffee. While their site sells hand-selected, diverse coffees from around the world, coffee-related foods, and skincare products for melanated skin, their overarching platform launches Black creativity out into the world. We talked to Chel, Dope Coffee's Chief Product Officer and co-founder, about how they're holistically approaching coffee while weaving in hip-hop, nutrition, and discussing issues important to the Black community.
The future of food waste lies with flies
How do you turn food waste into a viable protein? At Oberland Agriscience, they are feeding food waste to black soldier flies with voracious appetites. We interviewed Greg, Oberland's founder, and learned how they're creating a nutrient-rich feed ingredient for agriculture and aquaculture (like your favorite sustainable farm-raised fish) that's high in protein and produces zero waste.
After a few years of R&D, they've figured out how to use black soldier flies throughout their entire lifecycle. Even better, the flies in their closed-loop facility are massively reducing (and building awareness around) food waste in Nova Scotia.
We admit, the picture that comes to mind of fly larvae eating their way through a pile of food waste may generate a visceral reaction, but we PROMISE that you'll get over it once you hear how inspiring their mission is.
InnerPlant is using plants as sensors to identify problems before they can be seen
In this episode, we interview the founder of InnerPlant, Shely Aronov. Her new technology builds biosensing capabilities into plants that provide early detection of crop issues with targeted, actionable data and recommendations for farmers.
InnerPlant is creating a valuable technology that can be planted right in the field. Their biosensing plants react to crop stressors and transmit location data, recommendations, and more back to the farmer. This allows farmers to proactively address the issue before it becomes widespread in the field. Because InnerPlant operates on the microbiological level, problems are identified much earlier and more acutely than what would be seen by the naked eye.
Learn what inspired Shely to start InnerPlant, how this technology works, and how it can be applied to many types of agriculture--from finding fungus in soybean farms the size of San Francisco to identifying nutrient deficiencies in regenerative agriculture. We also discuss high tech farming, how the entire food industry is being affected by COVID-19, and what all of this means for the future.
Shiok Meats is bringing cell-based crustaceans to life
In Singaporean or Malaysian slang, "Shiok" means 'fantastic or delicious'. In this podcast, you'll meet Durga from Shiok Meats, a cell-based, clean meat company based out of Singapore. Their mission is to create healthy, clean, delicious food without harming animals.
Similar to cultivating a new plant from a plant cutting, Durga explains how Shiok's technology isolates cells from an animal and then grows them in a nutrient-rich solution. They only produce the meat portion instead of the entire animal--which is extremely helpful for chefs and cooks who hate peeling and deveining crustaceans.
In this episode, you'll learn about their process, their philosophy, the importance of clean meat, why Singapore is an excellent place to start a cell-based protein company, and much more.
MetroGrow Hawaii: Honolulu's first vertical farm is serving chefs and scaling up
We interview Kerry Kakazu, a plant scientist in Honolulu, who started Hawaii's first vertical farm called MetroGrow Hawaii. They produce specialty crops, like herbs, corn shoots, butter lettuce, and an extra-salty ice plant, using hydroponics and aeroponics. Learn why chefs and customers love their products so much that they're expanding to a larger location (where they will sell food to the public too!) Hear some of the challenges and rewards of building a vertical farm on Oahu.
For more fun and food-related content, check out our site at www.evolve.ag.
TurtleTree Labs: In Singapore, the future of milk is grown from cells not cows
Will we soon look back and laugh about the days when we used to get milk from a cow? The answer is a resounding "yes" if TurtleTree Labs has anything to do with it. Tucked in a Singaporean tech co-innovation space, TurtleTree Labs is growing milk, cellularly, in a lab. Inspired by a lack of clean, raw milk in the region, they are producing fluid milk identical to what comes out of a cow, or a human, or even a snow leopard. Learn how they plan to introduce this to the market from inside-out and make a global impact.
5 food tech trends for 2020 - Evolve.ag
Ghost kitchens, adaptogens, and compostable packaging-oh my! These are just a few of the hot new trends in food and food tech you'll start seeing more of this year. We share what's new in food tech and what you'll be snacking on in 2020. Get the scoop on our top 5 food trends:
- Customizable nutrition
- Food delivery that exceeds your expectations and the rise of ghost kitchens
- Local, vertical, traceable goodness
- Packaging that's better for you and the environment
- The new kale: chickpeas, seaweed, CBD, and more!