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On International Women’s Day, the United Nations addressed the unprecedented climate crisis by focusing the theme of this year on “equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” Indeed, there is no doubt that the empowerment and support of women leaders are crucial to our continued survival as a planet — and there is no area more impactful than reforming the use of animals in our supply chain.
Current studies suggest that 57 percent of the nearly 17 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions are created through animal production, including 32 percent of global methane emissions, a gas that is largely attributed to cattle production. These numbers are staggering and, unfortunately, the effects of climate change are already disproportionately affecting many developing countries around the world. Fortunately, however, women are tackling these problems head-on and emerging as crucial innovators in their home countries. Let’s meet the women who are standing up for our planet and our future.
Prior to the pandemic, the one jarring moment that captured the global attention of humanity in an entirely different way was the burning of the Amazon rainforest. This headline brought forth the dire consequences facing South Americans — as well, as women across the continent working hard to change this. In Peru, Jacqueline La Cruz drew upon her childhood growing up in a village dominated by the toxic leather tanning industry and set her sights on removing the slaughter and processing of cows by launching Le Qara, a company specializing in animal-free leather powered by microorganisms. Meanwhile, in Argentina, Sofia Giampaoli is tackling the other side of cattle ranching — the beef industry — by creating Latin America’s first cell-cultivated meat company, Cell Farm. On the other side of the continent, in Chile, Priyanka Srinivas is tackling the entire food system from the ground up at The Live Green Co. to create clean, sustainable plant-based alternatives to everyday products.
Turning to the east, there is no ecosystem more fragile than that of Africa, which is on track to face the most severe consequences of the climate crisis out of all continents — despite the fact that it is the lowest emissions-emitting continent. Across the continent, African women are leading a food system revolution, starting with Bola Adeyanju in Nigeria, Africa’s fastest-growing economy. With venture capital investment from abroad, Bola is pioneering Nigeria’s first plant-based protein startup, Veggie Victory, which is aimed at addressing Africa’s growing appetite for meat. Moving slightly west to Ghana, Ashiaki Tei’s Talmond is radically transforming plant-based milk both domestically and beyond by pioneering West Africa’s sustainable tropical almond as a replacement to the water-intensive California almond. Finally, down in South Africa, a completely new revolution is taking place at Msanzi Meat, where Tasneem Karodia has launched the continent’s first-ever cell-cultivated (lab-grown) meat company.
Finally, in South Asia, climate change poses a dire threat to India, a country that is home to many of the world’s fastest-growing cities and on track to reach over 1.5 billion people by 2036. Women’s leadership is vast in all aspects of this diverse country and the food technology space is no different. Turning to their cultural history, many Indian founders are utilizing ancestral grains, such as millet, to develop plant-based milks and to curb the dairy-loving appetite of the growing population, including founders Sujala Balaji of Rainfed Foods and Sweta Khandelwal of Alt Foods. Similarly, Mumbai-based Evo Foods, led by Shraddha Bhansali, has tackled the plant-based egg market and scooped up the approval of numerous investors around the world.
While tackling innovation in the food system is traditionally positioned as an endeavor of Silicon Valley, the reality is that founders from developing nations are making progress in leaps and bounds across the world. Women of color simply do not get the recognition or credit they deserve for the work they are doing in their home countries. As the United Nations so eloquently suggests in this year’s International Women’s Day theme, we cannot continue to ignore their work if we hope to have a sustainable future. The face of food technology is rapidly changing and the signs are clear: The future of food is female.