Thursday, July 25, 2024

Top 5 This Week

Breaking Ground on the Pursuit to Smarten Up Our Agricultural Ideology

The Coalition for Food Security (CFS), led by minority-owned AgTech start-up, Ponix, is officially set to implement a $5 million grant from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), as a part of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program. In case you weren’t aware, the stated program is made to actively measure and promote climate-smart farming practices. Anyway, in this context, the initiative will design and launch an inclusive marketplace for sustainable vegetable producers, and empower minority and underserved communities to sell both their produce and carbon credits to corporate partners. Furthermore, it will conceive a research effort on CFS’ part to find out which farming method produces less harm to the environment – a tech-enabled farm that grows lettuce with Ponix’s proprietary indoor hydroponic vertical farming methods or a conventional farm that employs outdoor farming practices. Assuming it is able to achieve a sizeable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions than its conventional counterpart, CFS’s tech-enabled farm would allow for a new carbon credit program to develop where farmers, major distributors and retailers, and individual consumers would be able to earn, buy and sell carbon credits. The entire development, markedly enough, builds upon last month’s events where CFS established Ponix’s hydroponic farm, a farm which would sprawl across a 300 square-foot footprint in a Decatur facility. More on its size would reveal how the stated facility is equivalent to one acre of an outdoor conventional farm. Moving on, with its set first harvest penciled in for mid-May, the Ponix hydroponic farm will kick things by growing just under a ton of lettuce per month.

“With current conventional farming-related emissions estimated to account for 24% of total greenhouse gas emissions, the success of the CFS pilot presents a major opportunity for the future of the agricultural industry by creating a blueprint on how to not only mitigate the devastating impact of climate change, but also reduce food insecurity and racial inequities,” said Michael Choi, CEO of Ponix.

Coming back to dig deeper on CFS, it is essentially a diverse coalition of multidisciplinary and minority-focused partners who are all focused on educating 24 minority-owned landowners, underserved farmers and HBCU students on how to use and adopt Ponix’s AgTech hardware and software solutions. On top of that, CFS will provide internships to HBCU students, packing them up with several agribusiness opportunities. Talk about these partners for a second, they include Ponix; the PROPEL Center, the first innovation hub built for the future of HBCUs, powered by Apple and Southern Company; Slater Infrastructure Group, a woman- and minority-owned professional services firm that specializes in water, transportation, environmental and energy services; and GTC 360° Advisors, a business strategy, government contracting and carbon credit consulting firm. Beyond that, the stated program will also see participation coming from the likes of FoodChain, an online marketplace, which connects sustainable food producers with wholesale buyers; the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) the nation’s capital’s only public, land-grant, research HBCU; and Georgia Bio, a non-profit that is empowering the next generation through biotech.

As for USDA, it has already invested nearly $2.8 billion in 70 selected projects under the first pool of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, as well as another $325 million in 71 more projects under the second funding pool.

“Through Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, USDA will provide targeted funding to meet national and global demand and expand market opportunities for climate-smart commodities to increase the competitive advantage of American producers,” said Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary. “We want a broad array of agriculture and forestry to see themselves in this effort, including small and historically underserved producers as well as early adopters.”