Today’s young food and agricultural entrepreneurs are developing innovative ways to revolutionize the entire food chain. They are at the forefront of reducing food loss and waste, increasing crop yields, improving market access, developing novel technologies, and increasing urban and sustainable farming practices across the globe. They come from diverse backgrounds, with unique insights, perspectives, and approaches to tackling global food system challenges.
Food Tank is highlighting 16 young food and farming entrepreneurs who have transformed their love for food, farming, and sustainability into tools to build a stronger and more equitable food system.
1. Jamila Abass, Kenya
Jamila Abass is CEO and co-founder of M-Farm, a virtual co-operative for subsistence farmers in Kenya to help them reach buyers and access vital market information via SMS. Through M-Farm, farmers in the same areas can share their experiences and advice, pose questions to industry experts, and connect with each other to combine crops and find larger buyers. Abass was elected for the 2013 Ashoka Fellowship, 2015 Aspen New Voices Fellow, and as Quartz Africa Innovator.
2. Onyeka Akumah, Nigeria
Onyeka Akumah is founder of FarmCrowdy, Nigeria’s first digital agriculture platform that connects small-scale farmers with sponsors who invest in the full farm cycle. Sponsors’ funds are used to secure farmland and insure farmers and their produce from seed through to harvest. Once the crops are sold at market, profit is split between the farmer, farm sponsors, and FarmCrowdy. Sponsors can receive updates throughout the farming process via text, pictures, and video. The company has more than 1,000 sponsors across Nigeria, the United States, and the United Kingdom that support more than 2,000 small-scale farmers across eight states in Nigeria.
3. Alli Cecchini, United States
Fourth-generation farmer Alli Cecchini is the founder and Executive Director of First Generation Farmers (FGF). Providing after-school programs, summer camps, farm tours, and Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) placements, FGF draws hundreds of people to their farm in California each year. FGF also run their Urban Edge Sustainable Farming Program, an immersive, full-time residential program for aspiring organic specialty crop farmers. The program provides training in foundational production skills, business knowledge, and personal development to establish the next generation of resilient urban farmers and farm enterprises.
4. Alfredo Costilla Reyes, Mexico
Electrical and computer engineering graduate student, Alfredo Costilla Reyes, is the founder of BitGrange, a hydroponic system that can be sustained using only an LED light. Using novel software, BitGrange evaluates environmental variables, such as temperature and light, in real time and notifies growers through BitGrange’s iPhone app to take necessary actions, such as adding more water or plant food. Through its four-step process of “Plant-Connect-Sync-Play”, BitGrange aims to gamify agriculture for its users, encouraging and engaging youth to participate in agriculture. In recognition of his development, Costilla Reyes was awarded the Mexico National Youth Award, the highest award presented by the Government of Mexico to the country’s youth.
5. Luke Craven, United Kingdom
Luke Craven is a co-founder of BiJimini, an award-winning start-up that farms crickets and produces a high-protein cricket blended flour, PowerFlour. PowerFlour combines organic white and wholemeal flours sourced from local millers with finely milled cricket powder. The flour is rich in vitamins and minerals and is an alternative to traditional forms of animal protein. Cricket farming emits fewer greenhouse gases, requires less space, and less feed than conventional livestock. BiJimini aims to promote its flour product and pure cricket powder to consumers searching for a sustainable source of protein.
6. Matt Fountain, Scotland
Matt Fountain is the founder of Freedom Bakery, a social enterprise and artisan bakery aimed at reducing the reoffending rate in Scotland through providing on-the-job baking training for prisoners and ex-offenders. Through an apprenticeship program, graduates attain an industry-recognized qualification to help increase employability and decrease the risk of reoffending. For some of its products, the bakery sources ancient grains indigenous to the Scottish highlands and utilizes Scottish artisan baking techniques. Freedom Bakery is the first social enterprise to establish itself within a prison in Scotland and is now expanding outside of prison to open a second bakery, Freedom 2.
7. Josh Gilbert, Australia
A farmer first and foremost, Josh Gilbert is also an advocate and changemaker in Australian Indigenous, agricultural, and environmental fields. Gilbert creates a range of campaigning and educational materials, including Climate Reality Project video ‘Australia’s Young Green Farmers’, podcast Tractor Talks, and upcoming cookbook collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund showcasing the stories of 50 Australian farmers. As the Chair of the New South Wales Young Farmers’ Council, he moved one of the first international agricultural climate change motions in 2016. For his advocacy, he has been recognized as the Australian Geographic Young Conservationist of the Year and the Foundation for Young Australians’ Local Legend Award.
8. Dean Hale, Canada
Dean Hale is the founder of Growing Green Hamilton, which aims to advance urban agriculture by helping people grow their own produce through Square Foot Gardening (SFG). SFG is a method for people with limited space to plan and create a small, but intensively planted vegetable garden. Hale helps members in the local community to cultivate square foot gardens, providing a nutrient-rich soil mix that is weed-free, requires no fertilizers, and can grow up to five times the amount of produce than conventional methods. Hale has connected with local community groups and churches to set up gardens to either sell the produce to raise funds or donate it directly to food banks.
9. Kate Hofman, United Kingdom
Kate Hofman is co-founder and CEO of GrowUp Urban Farms, a community aquaponic urban farm that produces fish, salads, and herbs for a local London market. Their GrowUp Box is capable of producing more than 950 pounds of sustainable salads and herbs and 330 pounds of fish each year. Hofman plans to further develop and build GrowUp Boxes across London to provide local communities with the opportunity to learn about sustainable agriculture and provide local employment for young people who may have dropped out of formal education or are unable to find employment. She was selected as a “London Leader” by the London Sustainable Development Commission in 2015.
10. Justin Kamine, United States
Co-Founder and Partner of KDC Ag, Justin Kamine is growing technologies that actively shift the agriculture world toward a more Circular Agriculture Society where there is zero waste. KDC Ag has developed a technology with California Safe Soil that converts more than 30 tons of fresh food waste into fertilizer and animal feed in just three hours. Kamine serves on the board of California Safe Soil, is an investor in Aerofarms, and is an advisor to Food Future. He was recently the winner of the Clean Tech Equity Award, presented by the Prince of Monaco, for the most environmentally progressive technology.
11. Santosh Kaveri, India
Growing up in the small village of Shedbal, India, Santosh Kaveri worked on his family farm before and after school to help his family. In college, he joined the LEaders Accelerating Development (LEAD) Program of the Deshpande Foundation and begun developing practical solutions for small-scale farmers. They include a water-efficient, no-electricity carrot cleaning machine which is helping hundreds of farmers throughout 10 villages and a bullock cart brake system that reduces stress on farmers and their oxen. Kaveri was presented the Best LEADer award in 2013 and 2014 for his carrot cleaning machine and other successful initiatives.
12. Christine Moseley, United States
Christine Moseley is Founder of Full Harvest, the first business-to-business produce marketplace connecting large farms to food and beverage companies to buy misshapen and surplus produce. Full Harvest improves growers’ ability to maximize their harvest, increases the supply of healthy produce, including organics, and decreases the wasted resources associated with food waste, including land, water, and farm inputs. Full Harvest has sold more than 2 million pounds of produce from U.S. and Mexico farms that would have otherwise been wasted. Moseley was a finalist in the 2017 Unilever Young Entrepreneurs Awards.
13. Solveiga Pakštaitė, United Kingdom
Industrial designer Solveiga Pakštaitė is the founder of Design by Sol and Mimica Lab and designer of Mimica Touch, a tactile food expiry label. Made from gelatine, the bio-reactive food expiry label is checked by touch—if it’s smooth, food is still fresh and if it’s bumpy, the food has spoiled. Initially developed for the vision impaired, this award-winning food label has the potential to dramatically reduce household food waste and is currently in development. Pakštaitė has won multiple awards for her work including London’s 2015 Low Carbon Entrepreneur Award, The Guardian’s 2014 Start-Up of the Year, and the 2014 James Dyson Award, among others.
14 & 15. Ili Sulaiman and Basira Yeusuff, Malaysia
Chefs Ili Sulaiman and Basira Yeusuff founded Agak Agak, a restaurant that provides a one-year apprenticeship program for youth from underprivileged communities in Malaysia. Apprentices are taught a wide range of food service skills, from food preparation and cooking to training in managing and operating an eatery. Sulaiman and Yeusuff also provide leadership and career development training that focuses on specialized skills chosen by the apprentice. Upon completion of the program, graduates are encouraged and supported to start up their own businesses or pursue a career within Sulaiman and Yeusuff’s community of partners.
16. Shi Yan, China
Shi Yan is the founder of Little Donkey Farm, the first community supported agriculture (CSA) scheme in China. After learning about the CSA model on a farm-stay in Minnesota, Yan launched Little Donkey Farm the to implement organic and sustainable farming methods that engaged local farmers and consumers. She has since developed Shared Harvest, a smaller, educational farm aiming to be an easily duplicable model for aspiring CSA farmers. Through the two projects, Yan aims to further the education and public participation of its surrounding community in sustainable food system issues.
(Danielle Nierenberg is the President, Food Tank <firstname.lastname@example.org>)