With the world’s population expected to hit 10 billion by 2050, we need more innovation in agriculture and new ways of farming to feed the world – while at the same time also meet consumers’ growing demands for sustainable production. Anuvia Plant Nutrients, a manufacturer of sustainable bio-based fertilizers has pioneered a new technology that delivers materials essential for meeting those diverse objectives. Anuvia’s proprietary technology helps farmers produce more food through increased crop yield while responding to a wide range of environmental challenges.
I recently had a chance to catch-up with Anuvia CEO Amy Yoder and she describes that Anuvia “reclaims organic materials in the last step of their lifecycle and repurposes them with no waste stream” which allows the company “to combine the power of organic material with the extended delivery of inorganic macro-nutrients to create highly effective, environmentally friendly plant nutrition.” She further told me that by following this process, replacing one million acres of traditional fertilizer with Anuvia’s product is equal to removing 20,000 cars from the road in perpetuity. With nearly 370 million crop acres in North America, such technology has the potential to make a big impact on our planet.
As the agriculture industry strives to deliver plant nutrients more sustainably and efficiently for our growing world, for my research on social and environmental impact, I interviewed Ms. Yoder about the role that Anuvia is playing in making agriculture more sustainable. Below is an edited excerpt from our on-line exchange.
Chris Marquis: With the influx of “new” money into agtech, how is the tech-industry view of “disruptive technology” at odds with the realities of adoption in commercial agriculture? How has Anuvia approached the market to gain traction?
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Amy Yoder: With agtech investment growing year over year, the industry has attracted investors from more traditional tech background that value disruption. They use phrases like “fail faster” and “minimum viable product.” Well, I can assure you that if you talk like that to a grower, it’s a nonstarter. No one in agriculture can risk a crop on a minimal solution. Failure is not an option. For an innovation to be successfully adopted, it must demonstrate substantial benefits that work within current practices. Anuvia is a good example. Our nutrient technology is truly next generation, but our products are plug-and-play. They require no new equipment or changes to current practices. In agriculture, disruption can be a barrier, not an attribute.
Marquis: There is a perception that commercial agriculture is resistant to adopting sustainability practices. Is this changing? If so, what are the forces at play?
Yoder: The average person has the wrong perception about commercial farmers. Even the largest farms in the nation are still family businesses, with land passed down from generation to generation. They have been and remain stewards of the land. What has changed is the increased number of viable options for large scale, sustainable farming. Early on, sustainability efforts were focused on smaller farms. Today, innovations are coming to market that are designed for use in commercial operations. This shift is essential, because we simply can’t meet the demands of growing world population without commercial agriculture. The adoption of sustainable practices and technology is having a profound impact on the health of the soil and the planet.
Marquis: What part does Anuvia play in helping commercial agriculture become more sustainable?
Yoder: We offer an alternative to traditional fertilizer that increases yields while decreasing our carbon footprint. Replacing one million acres of traditional fertilizer with Anuvia’s product is equal to removing 20,000 cars from the road in perpetuity. With nearly 370 million crop acres in North America, we’re out to make an enormous impact.
Our process reclaims organic materials in the last step of their lifecycle and repurposes them with no waste stream. This allows us to combine the power of organic material with the extended delivery of inorganic macro-nutrients to create highly effective, environmentally friendly plant nutrition.
Marquis: Is the advent of carbon markets in agriculture a tipping point for sustainability?
Yoder: I don’t think it is a tipping point because as land passes from generation-to-generation, farmers are always looking for ways to help maintain the quality of their land as it is the most important asset for crop production. However, I do think carbon markets provide a new revenue stream for agriculture and they reward operators to keep innovating, protecting the land, and driving even more technology to commercial producers.
Marquis: How do new entrants into the agtech market need to balance financial and sustainable interests to affect widespread change in farming practices?
Yoder: Growers are under constant pressure to produce more crops with less land and less resources. New entrants into the agtech industry need to ensure the products they are bringing to market are not only good for the environment, but that they also improve profitability for farmers. Fortunately, there’s plenty of research that demonstrates that sustainable farming is, on average, equally or more profitable than conventional agriculture.