Currently, I am doing some research and consultancy work in the field of sustainable agriculture. It is a very interesting field and its importance to food security in the world is unquestionable. It is quite disturbing how that sustainable agriculture is not yet being taken seriously by most African countries. The overall average government spending on agriculture in Africa is 5 per cent. This means government spending specifically on sustainable agriculture is even grossly lower. There is also a widespread legislative or policy gap across the world when it comes to sustainable agriculture. Public expenditure to or on agriculture in most African countries is stagnant or declining. This clearly shows there are huge gaps that need to be filled because one thing is for sure, sustainable agriculture is and will be needed moving forward.
Why Sustainable Agriculture Though?
There are growing concerns about the harmful effects of traditional agriculture practices. Some of the major concerns are Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions, deforestation, pollution, and water usage intensity, amongst others. Globally, agriculture is said to be responsible for over 40 per cent of all deforestation. Another example is livestock production. GHG emissions from livestock production account for over 7.1 gigatonnes of carbon emissions annually. That is over 14 per cent of all carbon emissions every year. Roughly a billion tonnes of agricultural waste is produced every single year. All these unfavourable outputs are borne out of traditional farming practices. Not only do you affect the environment but they even comprise food security moving forward. That is why sustainable agriculture is now becoming the much needed go-to.
What Sustainable Agriculture Is All About?
Sustainable agriculture refers to profitable farming practices that are bent on protecting the environment. Essentially some balances seek to be struck and maintained. For instance, you want to produce more, using less, with minimal or zero negative effects, but still being profitable. Ways of carrying out sustainable agriculture are quite a number. Broad examples are precision agriculture, conservation agriculture and agroecology, waste management and recycling, use of alternative animal protein feed, integrated crop-livestock systems, and precision livestock farming, just to mention a few. According to some study that was recently carried out, some of the major markets focuses on sustainable agriculture right now are:
Greenhouse Gas Emissions – 34 per cent
Waste Management – 20 per cent
Biodiversity Conservation – 13 per cent
Deforestation – 13 per cent
Resource Consumption (Water) – 13 per cent
Water Pollution – 7 per cent
So that can give you a rough idea of where to place your focus on. Let us look at why you should take advantage of this business-wise.
The Business Prospects Are Infinite
Remember what an entrepreneur is, I have talked about it many times. Entrepreneurship is:
“The addressing of a common, widespread problem using a novel or disruptive solution, often tech-based, that is monetizable.”
The more and deep-seated the problems are, the more the business prospects will be. The urgent need to rollout sustainable agriculture globally is a great business opportunity. Already many startups are emerging to enter the space. Here are some examples:
Danish firm, Novozymes – uses enzymes as a seed treatment for plants to absorb and utilize nutrients more efficiently.
The Dutch firm, Royal DSM – is developing a feed additive that reduces ruminant methane emissions.
Singaporean startup, ProfilePrint – a food fingerprinting technology bent on improving consistency across the food supply chain.
Singaporean startup, Allozymes – uses a proprietary microfluidics tech to develop custom-designed enzymes for cleaner and sustainable manufacturing of complex natural products.
Here are some examples of startups working on alternative protein:
Amai Proteins – an Israeli that uses Agile Integrative Computational Protein Design (AI-CPD and precision fermentation biotechnology to produce a healthy sweet protein (a cheaper alternative to sugar)
Alver – a Swiss startup that uses fermentation to produce vegan protein powder from golden Chlorella algae
Plantible Foods – a US startup that produces lemna protein from Duckweed. Duckweed does not need farmland, irrigation, chemicals, and the like
Innovopro – an Israeli startup that produces 70 per cent chickpea protein concentrate
Mycorena – a Swedish startup that converts agricultural waste into high-protein products
All this just goes to show you that there are so many business opportunities because there is plenty that needs to be addressed.
More And More Funding Is Being Availed
There are concerted efforts to make more and more funding available. This means if you come up with good business ideas or projects on sustainable agriculture you can make money. For example, HSBC Group (USA) has committed to providing between US$750 billion and US$1 trillion in financing and investment to enable its clients’ net-zero transition between 2020 and 2030. MasterCard, with its 30 plus partners plans to restore 100 million trees in the next 5 years. Shell is investing US$100 million annually in nature-based solutions e.g. forest conservation and restoration. L’Oreal, Fund for Nature Regeneration, is a €50 million impact investment fund for the restoration of at least 1 million hectares of damaged marine and terrestrial ecosystems. There is also an investment firm in Singapore, called Bluegrass Partners that is working on a fund worth hundreds of millions of dollars towards sustainable agriculture. These are just examples to show you that many investors are now interested in bankrolling sustainable agriculture enterprises.
I was recently approached by someone who is looking to start a US$80 million protein project in Zimbabwe. They stand a good chance of finding funding because their project is actually anchored on sustainable agriculture practices. So for those interested in agriculture, your primary focus should now be sustainable agriculture. It is even postulated that the next African billionaires will emerge from agriculture; specifically sustainable agriculture I would say.