To Feed the People Agripreneurs Must Nurture the Planet: Nature-positive Food Production is Our Best Chance to Beat Climate Change

We have reached the last line. Almost 40% of the planet’s land surface is farmland. But that doesn’t paint the whole picture. A 2021 research study in Frontier in Forests and Global Change, looking at biodiversity loss and human impact on the Earth, found that “no more than 2.9% of the land surface can be considered to be faunally intact.” 

The balanced, natural environment is collapsing under the strain of feeding the world’s population. Rainforests, animals, and insects across Africa, South America, and South-East Asia are being burnt to ashes to make way for more farmland. The result is a huge increase in extreme climate catastrophes like intense storm floods and long droughts that prevent us from producing enough food to feed everyone. 

Now, let’s take it one step further. “Consider this: If everyone on earth ate the diet of the average American, that would require all the habitable land [on Earth] to be used for agriculture, and we would still be 38% short. And that’s right now.” This eye-opening insight from Freethink tells you exactly how urgent it is that we change our relationship with our natural environment. 

So, are you feeling a bit nervous about the state of the world’s ecosystems? Good! Now, let’s do something about it.

Transforming the food system to be nature-positive is our best chance to beat climate change. We need to bring life back to the oceans and restore our degraded landscape so the planet can support us in the future. 

Permaculture, agronomic carbon sequestration practices like no-till farming, cover crops, and crop rotation, and scientific and technology-based food production like urban vertical farming and lab-grown proteins are all attempting to address the environmental impact of food. There is a lot of work ahead, and some ingenious African agrifood businesses are already taking on the challenge.

A massive contributor to the climate problem is food waste, “with between 8-10% of global carbon emissions linked to unconsumed produce.” Baridi (2021 GoGettaz winner) and Solar Freeze (2020 Impact Award winner) are using renewable solar power to prevent food waste. Baridi (Kenya) focusses specifically on meat markets in the livestock industry, while Solar Freeze (Kenya) uses portable cooling and sharing economy transport logistics to prevent post-harvest crop losses. These off-grid solutions are helping small holders and informal farmers to overcome legacy problems in formal infrastructure, like power supply, lacking cold storage facilities, and inadequate distribution systems.

2020 GoGettaz finalist Lombrisol (Morocco) also tackles food waste. They are concerned with automating the vermicomposting process to turn organic waste in eco-friendly organic fertilisers that don’t poison the environment. They collect lost produce and organic waste from farms and use earthworms to process it into high-quality natural compost.

A popular solution that our climate smart GoGettaz are using is the humble Black Soldier Fly. 2019 Alumnus Ecodudu (Kenya), 2020 GoGettaz winner MagoFarm (Rwanda), and 2021 Impact Award winner AgriLife (Tanzania) and fellow 2021 alumnus ProSect Feed (Ghana) all harness Black Soldier Flies to convert bio-waste into livestock feed and organic fertilizer. Although they have different business models and even proprietary processes, they are using waste and protein rich insect larvae to replace unsustainable fishmeal and hundreds of acres of ecologically devastating, monoculture soy. Their businesses are putting better, cheaper proteins into fish, chicken and livestock feeds. As a by-product, their organic fertiliser puts nutrients back into the soil, without the toxic run-off created by the overuse of chemical fertilisers.

GoGettaz alumni that are taking an alternative approach to alternative proteins is 2019 alumnus Gourmet Grubb (South Africa) and 2021 Impact Award winner NovFeed (Tanzania). 

NovFeed developed a proprietary, chemical-free biotechnology that uses bacteria instead of larvae to upcycle organic waste to produce affordable, sustainable, and high-quality protein for the aquaculture market. Bacteria, algae and fungi are proving to be exciting partners in the fight to make our societies environmentally sustainable. Their massive potential in food production, alternative proteins, new fibres, bioplastics, pollution remediation, and much more, put these organisms at the cutting edge of new innovation across multiple industries. 

Instead of feeding insects to animals, Gourmet Grubb has a more direct approach. They have developed EntoMilktm – an organic insect-protein milk. This revolutionary invention is being churned into delicious ice cream for human consumption. With more protein and a better amino acid profile than red meat, their dairy alternative could be one of the future solutions to reduce the detrimental impact of cattle and dairy farming. 

The beef industry, worldwide, is one of the most harmful pieces in our food puzzle. “To produce one kilogram of beef requires 25 kilograms of grain – to feed the animal – and roughly 15,000 litres of water,” summarises Francis Vergunst of the University of Montreal and Prof Julian Savulescu of the University of Oxford in an enlightening article on the Conversation. “If all grain used for cattle farming “were fed to humans instead of animals, we could feed an extra 3.5 billion people.”

Young African agripreneurs who are designing solutions that challenge the status quo of the food system are not just ensuring our food supply. They are working to bring human processes back into harmony with the Earth’s natural balance. For this generation, there is nothing more urgent. What ground-breaking ideas can you build into a profitable agrifood business that can help repair the environment? 

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