How can technology and transparency shape our planet's future?

Berlin-based startup Varda's CEO Davide Ceper dives into how technology and data can revolutionize agricultural practices to address climate crisis, sustainability, and economic prosperity.
How can technology and transparency shape our planet's future?

In the face of constant environmental issues, our planet is striving to tackle them head-on. Sustainability embodies the aspiration to conserve the environment, promote social fairness, and foster economic prosperity. It acts as a guiding force to steer our endeavours in an ever-evolving world and construct a resilient tomorrow. 

As the global community grapples with the repercussions of the climate crisis on agriculture, the increasing prominence of technology within the industry offers an opportunity to address these challenges. However, in order to transform this prospect into a tangible outcome, it is crucial for businesses to initiate collaborative efforts aimed at enhancing connectivity and efficiency across the agricultural sector, ultimately fostering a food system that is aligned with the principles of environmental preservation.

Where do we stand presently in terms of sustainability? Are we effectively attaining our sustainability goals? And how can technology help solve this problem?

The optimistic outlook of our future

There is a growing recognition, especially among younger generations, of the inadequacy of the existing economic model. People are increasingly aware of the urgency needed to take action and this awareness is spreading through various channels, facilitated by the continuous flow of information and extensive media coverage. Leading to a collective understanding that proactive measures are indispensable in tackling this situation effectively.

Once awareness is established, the subsequent crucial phase entails translating it into tangible action. From an ecological standpoint, the overall condition of our planet has significantly deteriorated compared to previous decades. Addressing these issues and implementing concrete steps to restore the well-being of our planet is of the utmost importance.

The other side of the coin

Despite dedicated endeavours that have successfully tackled specific elements, the comprehensive evaluation paints a disheartening picture when assessing diverse climate-related factors. Instances of extreme climate events, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, waste, and deforestation depict a bleak scenario. It is crucial for us to use this alarming reality as a catalyst for more urgency in addressing these challenges.

By improving communication channels and ensuring easy accessibility of information to the general public, we can emphasise the urgent need for action and convey that our desired goals have not yet been achieved.

Solving the problem

One way of mitigating the problem is effectively using technology. The agricultural sector has already experienced positive outcomes through the implementation of various technological advancements, and harnessing data effectively holds immense potential in monitoring and improving the overall environmental footprint.

This, in turn, supports initiatives aimed at reducing negative impacts. By using incentives across the industry, agriculture can proactively embark on a path towards better use of data, thereby enabling more sustainable practices.

One way in which technology can transform the industry is the use of data. Currently, the agricultural industry stands as a highly fragmented ecosystem, distinguishing it from sectors like pharmaceuticals, which boast concentrated production and standardised processes regulated by authorities.

This industry encompasses millions of independent farmers engaged in cultivating numerous diverse crops, each necessitating unique farming techniques adapted to varying environmental conditions specific to different locations. Moreover, the supply chains within agriculture are extensive and operate with distinct dynamics across different markets.

Consequently, any situation that involves the measurement of multiple variables across different stages or farms necessitates the aggregation and retrieval of data from disparate individuals, systems, and structures, all lacking consistent standards.

The intricate nature of this data collection system renders the potential of data largely untapped, as coordinating such efforts becomes exceedingly challenging.

While regulatory control commonly ensures standardisation in other industries, it is worth noting that these industries often involve fewer major players and shorter supply chains, enabling more effective alignment.

In contrast, the agricultural industry has evolved over centuries, adapting to diverse local conditions, which has resulted in a wide array of individual processes and solutions. Standardising farming practices in the same manner as shipping goods simply doesn’t work.

To succeed in gaining more transparency in the complexity of the food value chain, Varda is starting from the field level, assigning a unique field ID to each plot of agricultural land. In this way, the product, Global FieldID, provides an infrastructure for participants, across the ag and food industry, to make better use of their data and understand its source.

If this data system became aligned, we could begin incorporating the environmental impact of our consumption into the pricing of goods. This can have a profound effect on current consumption patterns.

By accurately incorporating the genuine cost of environmental consequences into the prices of the goods we consume, we would witness a transformative change as people would take a more considered approach to their consumption patterns. This would result in a differentiated pricing framework for products, which could act as a strong incentive for driving change.

Now is the time to make a change

Fundamentally, enhancing transparency regarding the impacts of our consumption choices holds immense promise as a solution for sustainability. It can act as a vital catalyst for expediting change, utilising prices as a potent indicator to foster a perception of scarcity.

This approach has proven its efficacy in the past, as evidenced by initiatives such as carbon credits or carbon pricing, which seek to drive transformation through economic incentives.

Nevertheless, it is vital to recognise that for this approach to achieve success, it necessitates unified action and equitable implementation across all countries and supply chains. Without such collective efforts, it may result in distortions of competition and provide an unfair advantage to those not bound by such regulations. Therefore, considerations of fairness and equity should take precedence when implementing these measures.

Significant progress has been made in terms of sustainability, reflecting commendable efforts. However, there remains a substantial journey ahead to safeguard our future. Whether it involves developing methods to accurately assess the external impacts of products or deploying technology to facilitate sustainable practices, concerted action is imperative to consistently meet our sustainability objectives.

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