Fast Company announced the 2020 award finalists and honorable mentions for start-up businesses tackling the food crisis. The award recognizes ideas, products and innovations that improve the way that food is grown, handled and distributed. The finalists are considered to have a high impact on the food crisis issue, the ability to be used on a large scale, and have a high level of ingenuity. Two of them are on this list.
The GrainChain Platform
Launching in early 2019, GrainChain saw early success in its innovative platform. GrainChain is a platform that helps facilitate fair transactions between farmers and buyers. The platform takes out the need for a middle-man to connect farmers with buyers. It has been launched in Mexico, Honduras and the U.S. GrainChain ensures that the farmers get paid a fair amount for their products. In transactions that include a middle man, there has been evidence of the farmer’s not receiving the full amount they have been quoted. The GrainChain platform increases trust throughout the trade process decreases corruption and helps promote the farming industry in Mexico and Honduras.
Of all poor employed workers, 33% work in the agricultural industry. The GrainChain platform facilitates fair trade deals between farmers and buyers and also ensures fair wages for the farmworkers. This in turn should encourage productivity for the farmers, increasing the number of goods they can produce. This boost in agriculture has seen to decrease poverty and promote stable food prices. The stable prices promote accessibility to food for many people, showing how start-ups help fight the food crisis.
ArgoBanking by United Commercial Bank
Around 21% of the population in Bangladesh is considered to be financially insecure. A large portion of these people does not have any savings or access to a bank account. Since many poor workers are in the agriculture industry, the United Commercial Bank created ArgoBanking as a way to help establish financial security for these farmers. Although it did not make the Fast Company list in 2020, it is one of the three start-ups tackling the food crisis.
ArgoBanking allows farmers to exchange their produce for savings accounts. It has partnered with a major grocery store in Bangladesh to continue to offer fair prices for the produce, allowing farmers then to save and become a part of the formal economy. The initiative also takes out the need for a trading middleman to negotiate the prices of products. These negotiations often fall short of industry pricing standards, leaving the farmers to receive lower profits. This partnership also increases access to buyers for the farmers, thus increasing their profits.
Within the first few months of ArgoBanking’s launch, the project facilitated the opening of 750 new bank accounts. Additionally, farmers traded 58 tonnes of produce through ArgoBanking. This is a major success for the United Commercial Bank as it is a world-first initiative to allow farmers to exchange produce for access to bank accounts. This project promotes financial stability for farmers, allowing agricultural workers to continue producing food for local and foreign markets.
Food fraud is a major occurrence within the agriculture supply chain industry. It is estimated that fraudulent food dealings cost the global market at least $10 billion annually. This misconduct affects agricultural workers in poorer areas of the world disproportionally as there are minimal safeguards to protect these workers.
SIMPLi launched in October 2019 and is one of the start-ups tackling the food crisis. It works directly with farming communities that are affected by the unfair food trade industry. SIMPLi focusses its efforts on the trade of quinoa from Peru, chia seeds from Paraguay and olives and olive oil from Greece. SIMPLi connects farmers directly with distributors, decreasing the number of channels the product goes through before reaching a true sale. This allows SIMPLi to give the farmers a fair price for their produce. Also, reducing the time the product spends in the supply chain increases the value of the product, thus increasing the revenue for the farmers. The organization is working directly with more than 250 farming families in Peru to help promote the sustainable and fair trade of quinoa.
Promoting sustainable and fair trade when it comes to farming ensures the development of the agricultural industry. Many low-income countries rely on the agricultural industry for income and food supply. By promoting farming in these areas, local civilians will have greater access to these products decreasing hunger. These three start-ups tackling the food crisis are just a few of the many innovations that can help.
– Laura Embry