New York City, September 22nd, 2022 - On Wednesday, September 21, a group of panelists representing the spectrum of the regenerative agricultural supply chain sat down at the Columbia University Faculty House for a conversation about the future of Regenerative Agriculture.
Presented jointly by Smallholder Data Services, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the Energy & Environment Program at Columbia University | SIPA, and sponsored by INARU, Smallholder Farmers Alliance, The Data Economics Company, and Terra Genesis, the panel, titled “Where is Regenerative Agriculture Headed?”, took place before an in-person and digital audience of executives, policy makers, and Columbia University students concerned about the responsibility of global enterprise to agricultural sustainability.
In a time of constant environmental crises, the adoption of regenerative agriculture is especially relevant as businesses and governments evaluate their indirect impact on and contribution to the sustainability of global natural resources.
Moderator Hugh Locke, President of Smallholder Data Services, opened by welcoming the panelists, whom he identified as “key figures in what we are calling the quiet revolution.” Locke went on to provide context for growing awareness of the #regenag movement: “Not everyone has heard about regenerative agriculture, but it is a growing global movement and we are pleased to have not only some of the smallholder farmers who are engaged in the field but also representatives of some of the corporations, foundations, and institutions who are key stakeholders.”
Global enterprise is just beginning to understand how the cultivation of locally sustainable crops in a regenerative manner, where both the planet and the community can be supported, can result in a premium consumer product continents away. There are nascent commercial and ecological opportunities that can be realized by transitioning from unsustainable, extractive agricultural practices that exploit and neglect local communities towards regenerative models that foster sustainability, growth, and self-reliance at all levels of the supply chain. The panelists, each invited to represent different stages of the supply chain, described the opportunities and challenges of their unique positions.
Panelist and Thai smallholder farmer Chonchaya Chanrawin described the struggle of Thai smallholders producing a single commodity crop, for which they have no control over market price. Timote Georges, overseer of a regenerative project in Haiti, highlighted the benefits to farmers of regenerative practices, including increasing yields, decreasing costs, and the opportunity to become self-sufficient.
Several panelists identified the need to align on a definition of regenerative agriculture to meet the requirements of governments and regulatory bodies and incentivize enterprise. Luke Smith, CEO of Terra Genesis, differentiated between regenerative agriculture as a way of thinking and an actionable practice: “We consider regeneration to be a paradigm. It’s also a process that’s inherent to all living beings on planet Earth.” Sara Farley, VP of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Global Food Initiative, highlighted the urgent need for a global food system that is nourishing and equitable, cognizant of indigenous traditions, and restores and replenishes natural ecosystems.
Speaking to institutional skepticism around the adoption of regenerative agriculture measures, Melissa Pinfield, representing Meridien Institute and Regen10, stressed the importance of developing frameworks with and for local cultures, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach: “Regen10 tries to understand the outcomes of different practices and learn from the ground up what this means in different contexts. By looking at the principles and metrics that make sense at the farm level, we want to align everyone around a regenerative agriculture framework.”
The complete list of panelists included Chonchaya Chanrawin, smallholder farmer from Thailand who is part of the Wanakaset organic agroforestry movement and involved in a regenerative rubber project; Timote Georges, Executive Director of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance who is overseeing a regenerative cotton program with smallholder farmers in Haiti; Sara Farley, Vice President, Global Food Initiative of The Rockefeller Foundation; Atlanta McIlwraith, Director Social Impact & Activation, Timberland; Melissa Pinfield, Senior Partner, Meridian Institute, lead in the Global Secretariat for Regen10, and former Program Director of the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU); Jeannie Renne-Malone, Vice President of Global Sustainability at VF Corporation; and Luke Smith, CEO of Terra Genesis. The Moderator was Hugh Locke, CEO of Smallholder Data Services.
Please enjoy the recording of the complete conversation on our YouTube.
About Smallholder Data Services
SUPPORTING SMALLHOLDERS ON THE GROUND - On-site support in Haiti, Thailand, and other countries provided by partners with trusted, trained agronomists working directly with smallholder farm communities.
REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE PARTNERSHIPS - Our partnership with Terra Genesis International means that SDS is at the forefront of defining and promoting regenerative agriculture among smallholder farmers and educating major crop buyers on the regenerative paradigm and the value that it brings to agricultural products and consumer goods.
POWERFUL TECHNOLOGY ENABLING ADDED VALUE - Built using the Lydion Engine at the core, SDS operates on a decentralized Data Economic Network (DENET) where each smallholder farm owns and controls its own data vault. DENETs bring value to smallholders, and corporate partners can join a regional or crop-specific DENET to gain insight into traceability, regenerative standards, and larger sustainability and community impact.