Dec 5 Pauliina Alanen
Here are the insights shared by Daan Luining from Meatable, Nasir Yammama from Verdant Agri-Tech, hosted by Grace Donnelly, an associate editor at Fortune Magazine on Evergreen stage.
Verdant Agri-Tech is a Nigeria-based agricultural educator that offers solutions to support farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural value chain. The Founder and CEO Nasir Yammama views sustainability in the following way: “You need to be able to produce more with less. At Verdant we want to enable a new wave of agriculture with a clear implication of environmental, social, and economic value – we aim to solve this by educating the farmers in Nigeria.”
Meatable on the other hand is solving climate change in a very different way, focusing in one of the biggest sources of pollution in the developed world: the meat production in the US. Their CTO Daan Luining was already involved in the first lab grown hamburger project in 2013. His company Meatable is working on growing meat out of a single cell. “25 kilos of grains and soybeans produce one kilo of beef. If you’re making meat from a single cell, you will reduce the consumption on all fronts as you can grow the meat in a building in the city with much less resources,” Daan stated.
The meat industry today is worth seven trillion dollars and Luining does not believe that is going to change soon: “Replacing this is delusion. I believe we will succeed in diminishing the amount of kettle, but I think meat is not going anywhere. You can see it in the society already today, only about five to eight percent are vegetarian or vegan.”
China has been eating more meat than the US since 2012, with pork and poultry leading the way. With beef, the consumption is only at around three kilos per capita, compared to the 26 kilos per capita in the US in 2018. Meatable is trying to mitigate the bad habits in the meat industry, such as the suffering animals and antibiotics, but Luining doesn’t believe you can feed the world with organic meat production. “The cost of meat is way too low. At the moment, the rest is paid via environmental burden. Our method is completely antibiotics free and we can decide what types of amino acids and other nutrients we produce in the meat. In the future you can have meat that has more protein and more certain kind of fat,” he said.
According to Luining, their method will be validated in two and a half years and then they will have to scale. Meanwhile he is hoping people will get more people accustomed to the idea of producing meat in a lab and that the lab meat could be priced reasonably. “There will be more variety. The problem is so big that we need to tackle it on multiple fronts: we want to develop protein out of insects, lab meat and plants.”
Yammama and his company Verdant are working with 10,000 farmers in Nigeria and elsewhere. According to him, it’s the farmers that are experiencing the worst of the climate change: they suffer most from draughts and floods, and see that this change is part of a chain reaction. “We’re offering services that help the farmers and inform them of the weather related issues and ways to tackle them,” he said.
Yammama’s company is focusing on farmers who have below two hectares of land. Typically it’s a family who owns a small piece of land that they are completely depending on. Often they are also financially excluded, meaning that they don’t have bank accounts. Verdant helps in getting bank accounts and getting more included into financial and insurance services.
Yammama believes the solution to produce food for ten billion people is mechanized agriculture, that will permit to produce 70 % more food. In the developed world this is the most common way. He emphasized that the land we have today should be used more efficiently, since growth won’t come from increasing the amount of crop land. His company focuses on small family type agriculture to help them become more knowledgeable in this, and more efficiently use the land they own. “They are also more prone to use organic fertilizers,” he added, but also mentioned that without information there won’t be change. “Infrastructure is important, but farmers need data first. Verdant AgriTech is able to help farmers even through text messages and calls regarding problems like weather or pesticides.”
Both speakers agreed that someone needs to do something. Yammama sees the development of Nigeria and Africa crucial in general, and wants to contribute his entrepreneurial spirit to the purpose of educating farmers. In 10 years, he wants to look back and see the impact of his work. Luining is very passionate about science and he feels like he is living the dream, while also contributing to solving the climate change.
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