It’s no secret that our global food system is up against many constraints, from climate risks to sustainability to land use and distribution. Climate smart agriculture (CSA) practices aim to mitigate these challenges and create more agricultural resilience and adaptation. This approach is particularly favorable for the highly vulnerable specialty crop sector (i.e. fruits, vegetables, flowers and tree nuts), as it can enhance productivity and profitability in the produce industry while reducing emissions and improving adaptation to changing weather patterns.
Innovative companies are developing new climate-smart methods and tools to mitigate risks, but if these technologies are not widely adopted, the challenges among the produce sector will continue. Accelerator programs, such as the International Fresh Produce Association’s Fresh Field Catalyst, allow innovators to connect with key stakeholders (from growers to retailers), understand industry needs, commercialize their product offerings and scale their businesses. These opportunities can create more avenues to scale climate smart agriculture practices and transform the food supply chain over the long term.
What Is Climate Smart Agriculture?
CSA is a holistic approach to food production and related climate impacts, with three core objectives: 1) increase the resilience and productivity of agricultural systems, 2) reduce these systems’ carbon footprint and 3) improve their adaptation to climate change impacts. CSA can be advantageous from both an environmental and social perspective throughout the entire food supply chain.
In the produce industry specifically, these benefits are critical to the long-term survival of commercial fruit and vegetable production, which currently encounters multiple challenges. The produce industry is highly sensitive to climate change impacts, such as the multi-year droughts in the US western states from where the majority of domestic produce is sourced. Furthermore, the energy-intensive processing practices and transportation modes of delivery also contribute to emissions, exacerbating the problem.
With proper implementation, CSA can alleviate these challenges in myriad ways, such as through the adoption of drought-tolerant crops and efficient irrigation, low-emissions transportation, and sustainable processing methods. These solutions are beneficial, not only for specialty crops, but the entire food production system, and we are seeing this play out in the US and abroad where CSA-related programs and investments cover multiple areas of the food supply chain.
To have CSA practices implemented on an even wider scale, key parties need to get involved. For example, CSA requires support from governments, NGOs and other stakeholders, including financial and technical assistance and policy incentives. With adequate promotion and adoption, CSA will lead to the development of new business models that incentivize sustainable practices and connect consumers with producers. It will also unlock creativity in the agtech sector, particularly from startups, driving further technology innovation and CSA adoption.
What Is the Fresh Field Catalyst Program?
To scale their technologies, many startups have joined accelerator programs that provide the resources and immersive experience to achieve success for their businesses and their industry. For entrepreneurs building cutting-edge, climate-smart technologies that can be applied to specialty crop production and distribution, the Fresh Field Catalyst program is an excellent opportunity to tackle major challenges in the produce industry and develop innovative solutions.
The Fresh Field Catalyst program evaluates and accelerates the commercialization of the scalable tech-based tools connected to the production, manufacturing, logistics and distribution of food and agricultural products in the produce industry. Both established companies and startups with applicable technologies in all areas of building resilience, mitigating risk and increased productivity are invited to apply. Technologies must be applicable to the produce industry and be market ready within two years. The six-month technology accelerator program includes field visits and virtual meet-ups with experts and mentorship from senior IFPA members. In 2022, the program’s cohort included startups from six continents, focusing on soil health, farm robotics, supply chain visibility, quality control and many other solutions that elevate CSA practices. Applications are due by March 20.
S2G is proud to sponsor the Fresh Field Catalyst program, which aligns with our mission of partnering with entrepreneurs who are developing new innovations to tackle some of the planet’s biggest challenges.
To learn more, come see our panel at World AgriTech in March. The panel features agtech leaders from cutting-edge companies and technologies that support CSA. You will hear about the Fresh Field Catalyst program from Vonnie Estes, Vice President of Innovation at IFPA, and from two of the hottest companies: Elliot Grant , CEO at Mineral, Kaitlin Fitzgerald, Vice President of Sustainability at Sound Agriculture (and former participant in the Fresh Field Catalyst). In addition, S2G’s Cristina Rohr will join the panel to discuss agtech investments and CSA development and adoption. Register for World AgriTech.
This article is co-authored by Vonnie Estes, Vice President of Innovation, International Fresh Produce Association.