Startups working for global food security

CleanTech News was invited to an online conference, the Tortoise G7bn Summit, which highlighted serious concerns for the future. One of the biggest was global food security. Here are three startups which are ready to save the world.

A global leadership summit, the Tortoise G7bn Summit took place online, ready to discuss topics from vaccines to restarting economies to supply chains. 

The Tortoise G7bn Summit aims to bring all of us together to collectively examine what a post-COVID-19 world should look like and draw up a to-do list for the international community to lead the world out of this crisis.”

Tortoise representative, Stephanie Sproson.

One subject which touched a nerve with everyone was the issue of food security.

To the delight of vegetarians and vegans, Coronavirus has led attention back to the argument against eating animals. After all, it is thought the crisis started in a meat market. 

Experts ran through the previous warnings, where contaminated meat has caused animal-to-human infections which have then been spread human-to-human, with disastrous consequences: 

  • The Spanish flu: With a higher fatality rate than the Black Death (1347-1351), the Spanish Flu did not start in Spain, but on a farm in the USA. As soldiers left the country to fight in Europe, the flu was brought with them and spread into a pandemic in 1918. Countries involved in the conflict refused to report on the crisis in case it impacted morale, but neutral Spain did – and got stuck with the name. It’s believed 50 million people died as a result. 
  • Sars virus: the 2003 virus is believed to have been spread to humans via bats
  • Swine flu: What originated on a pig farm in Mexico was quickly transferred to humans and spread around the world, with The World Health Organisation declaring it a pandemic in 2010.
  • Ebola: Discovered in 1976, an outbreak hit West Africa in 2014, with a fatality rate of 50%. It is believed to be animal-borne and at some point was transferred to humans. 

Meanwhile, the Chat board buzzed with the plight of Britain’s 2,000 food banks. Despite the UK’s ranking as the sixth wealthiest nation in the world, food banks saw an 89% increase in food parcel distribution (according to The Trussell Trust) through lockdown. 

“Access to healthy diets is abysmal,” concluded Caitlin Welsh, Director of the Global Food Security Program. “3bn people around the world don’t have access to minimum healthy diets.”

Some of the biggest problems are in urban areas with the prevalence of the so-called “food deserts”.

In such locations, fresh fruit and vegetables are only available in cans or as frozen items in corner shops, with supermarkets a long distance away.

Additionally, obesity rates are rising, as junk food with less nutritional benefits is cheap and quick to prepare.

Furthermore, agriculture is causing problems for our planet, from the negative impact on soil due to pesticides to widespread deforestation

The closing argument of the session was that the world’s leaders need to make healthy diets more affordable for the planet’s rising population. 

How can we save the planet?

Despite all of these miserable statistics, there is hope…

These startups are reducing the impact on the planet concerning where our food comes from and how it is made. 

NOQUO

Swedish startup NOQUO (pronounced to rhyme with “status-quo”), is shaking up the dairy industry with plant-based cheese.

In 2018, it was reported that five top meat and dairy companies were emitting more greenhouse gasses, than major oil companies. 

We are living quite an unsustainable life right now, on this planet,” said Sorosh Tavakoli, founder and CEO of NOQUO. “A big part of making our life sustainable is about the food. The animal-based food system is extremely inefficient and where there are good alternatives, people are switching over.”

iFarm

Another chapter in the development of vertical farming, the Finnish startup, iFarm. iFarm allows one of the coldest countries in the world to farm all year round. 

The airtight rooms at iFarm allow for light and temperature to be manipulated, as rows of plants are stacked on top of each other to grow, instead of side by side.

CleanTech News has previously reported on other ventures in vertical farming, from the British startup LettUs Grow to urban farms in Singapore

PATS Drone Solutions

Pats-Drones looked to nature for inspiration for their moth-detecting drone and the result is something out of Black Mirror crossed with Planet Earth

A PATS Drone does the job of harmful pesticides, in eliminating moths from greenhouses as they are shredded by the wings of the drone.

But don’t worry, the PATS Drone’s are too small to harm humans. They will, however, incur the wrath of tiny dogs. 

Look to the future

Global leadership has stumbled this year,” said Sproson. “Now more than ever, there’s a need for all of us to convene and think about solving global problems: from dealing with vaccines and travel restrictions, to restarting economies and supply chains.”

These startups are a part of the change – and so are you. 

Helen Adams

Helen Adams is an Editor and Senior Writer for CleanTech News. A keen journalist, Helen developed an appreciation for the need for change in the battle against climate change after travelling and is passionate to communicate this through her work at CleanTech News. Now studying for her NCTJ Journalism MA, Helen wants to champion clean developments using her writing. Presently, Helen is developing her data journalism, video-making and podcasting skills which she is looking forward to incorporating into her role as Editor.