New Farmers, New Food
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse stories with the mission to inspire kids and youth around the world to become entrepreneurs with empathy. This series features interviews of LGBT founders by a character named Spiffy to help young readers observe Pride Month with a renewed commitment to build a more equitable world for all.
Hi everyone, I'm Spiffy, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth. Today, I am interviewing Jonas Günther, Co-Founder & CEO, We Are The New Farmers.
SPIFFY: Hi Jonas, thanks for this interview. What challenge are you addressing?
JONAS: You're welcome, Spiffy! Thanks to the activists of Fridays for Future, Rebellion Extinction and other grassroots movements, the climate crisis has earned a lot of public attention. More and more people around the world, and especially in the United States, are realizing that irreversible damage from climate change will be inevitable if we continue on our current path.
The agriculture industry is one of the biggest contributors to the climate crisis, accounting for almost a quarter of global emissions. More than 50% of all food emissions stem from animal agriculture and about 21% of all food emissions come from the cultivation of crops for human consumption – the direct result of agricultural production. These emissions include the release of nitrous oxide from the application of fertilizers and manure; methane emissions from rice production; and carbon dioxide from agricultural machinery.
SPIFFY: And what motivated you to take on this massive challenge?
JONAS: We started We Are The New Farmers because we realized the need for a major shift in the way we produce food. Because a global change towards a plant-based diet seems unlikely and the demand for productivity enhancing fertilizers will only increase with a growing population, we need to come up with entirely new ways of thinking about food. We asked ourselves: what is the most future-friendly food? And we believe the answer to that is microalgae. We envision a world in which microalgae is a staple in every kitchen, making any meal better, brighter, and more sustainable.
SPIFFY: Nice! So, how is ‘We Are The New Farmers’ working towards a more equitable world?
JONAS: We Are The New Farmers is an edible algae company. Located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, we cultivate the microalgae Spirulina in an indoor urban farm to maintain its purity and freshness. Unlike other Spirulina products, our fresh Spirulina is never processed into a powder and has no clumpiness or bitterness. But most importantly, it is incredibly sustainable to grow making it a potential carbon-neutral and therefore future-friendly food source.
SPIFFY: Tell me about a recent milestone by We Are The New Farmers. What impact does that make?
JONAS: We just completed a 6-month project with a team of MBA candidates to identify our biggest sources of emissions from our production so that we can get one step closer to zero CO2 emissions. They really took apart everything we do in our farm to calculate our carbon footprint and compare it to other forms of agriculture. Turns out that if we implement some of their recommendations in our next facility, we can already get really close to carbon-neutral food production.
SPIFFY: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from failure?
JONAS: We are pioneering a brave new algae world and charting a new course is rarely smooth sailing. I can not count the amount of times we failed to accomplish something or something didn't work the way we intended it to. But we have developed the courage to venture forth and to embrace failure as part of the learning process.
SPIFFY: What is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?
JONAS: During the last couple of weeks, we have all been thrown into an entirely new situation due to the global pandemic. Businesses had to close, people started working from home and many old patterns and habits came to a sudden stop. If I learned something during these past weeks, it's that change is possible. Humans are incredibly adaptable and creative. When I walk now through the streets, I see people coming up with ingenious ways to continue to thrive. COVID taught me, despite all the tragedy surrounding it, that things don't have to stay the way they are and it is up to us to create the future we want.
SPIFFY: Well said, Jonas! On that note, it's time for me to fly off but I wish you and your startup the very best! Until next time, bye!!
JONAS: Bye, Spiffy!
Jonas is the CEO and co-founder of We Are The New Farmers - an urban farm in Brooklyn cultivating the microalgae Spirulina. He has graduated from NYU with a master's degree in Management of Technology and he is originally from Germany. (Nominated for Spiffy's Blog by: ImpactHub New York)
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