This byline is sponsored by Eden Green Technology, a Dallas-Fort Worth vertical farming startup that has committed to matching produce sales 1-for-1 with food donations to local nonprofits, and written by CEO Eddy Badrina.
The run on rolls dominated the news cycle, and the grocery lines. Lost in the chaos, however, was the bottleneck that Covid-19 placed on produce and the fresh food supply chain. So when the pandemic shut down local restaurants, businesses and schools in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, our company decided to utilize our R&D greenhouse as a large-scale growing and harvesting facility. The goal was simple: help feed our local community.
Prior to the pandemic, our research facility was the center for testing new versions of our vertical farming technology, propagation techniques and experimental produce variations within our greenhouse. And while we are still focused on selling our vertical farming technology to partners around the world, we had a major opportunity and responsibility to temporarily shift our R&D team’s focus for the betterment of our neighbors.
While we were already aware of the vulnerabilities in the food industry and its supply chain prior to the pandemic, we knew the pandemic would expose and amplify these weaknesses. Food shortages, shorter shelf life, more food waste, and increased worker health and safety risks seemed inevitable and have only grown as the pandemic has progressed. These factors, combined with historical unemployment rates and school closures, have more than tripled the rate of food insecurity in the United States by 38 percent.
Because of the sudden economic crisis stemming from COVID, we needed a quick solution that would help our friends, families and neighbors out, and would offer a new way to address the lack of access to healthy food. And that’s how we started matching local farmer delivery sales with donations as well as partnering with a range of local nonprofit organizations.
Our social entrepreneurship venture with profound foods
We immediately partnered with Jeff Bednar of Profound Foods, a local micro-farmer and restaurant supplier turned home-delivery-maverick. As restaurants quickly shuttered in March, Jeff pivoted overnight to providing DFW consumers with an array of high quality, fresh and nutritious locally grown food from a range of Texas farmers.
Since we had been supplying him with greens for his restaurant customers, we pivoted to providing his home delivery service with the same high-quality produce. Additionally, for every customer they shipped to, we matched with pound-for-pound donations to local nonprofit partners. These partners include food banks, homeless shelters, foster care communities and more.
Since starting in early April, we’ve donated more than 7,000 lbs of leafy greens to those local nonprofits. Our biggest one-time donation was to Open Door Food Bank. For them, we harvested 2,000 lbs of kale, spinach, green and red oak, chard and pak choi for their bi-monthly food drive, and delivered the harvest to the food bank in just a couple of hours.
While we’re making a dent in the DFW area, our large-scale crop production is only one piece of the food puzzle. We believe it’s a good step in the right direction to combat local food insecurity and increase city resiliency, but there’s still more work to be done.
We hope our story can empower others in positions of power within the food industry to think differently when managing unexpected change and adversity.
Solving global food insecurity with local farming technology
We know serving and feeding the entire DFW community, and eventually the world, is a much bigger challenge. A recent Food Banking survey reported 44 countries are experiencing 50-100 percent increase in demand for service during the pandemic and the world is on track to double the number of people facing acute hunger to 265 million by the end of 2020. The state of global hunger was already in crisis prior to the pandemic, but covid-19 has exacerbated the problem.
As we saw farmers dump, bury and destroy their crops in response to the pandemic and supply chain disruptions, we know the focus of the food system is on profit, more than nourishing and feeding our population. Our technology and greenhouse systems will only make a global impact on the communities who need it the most if they prioritize local production, distribution and employment.
Because our sustainable technology can operate in almost any climate, and harvest year-round, rather than 1-3 times a year, in urban and rural settings we can provide full-time employment in regions, cities and countries who can consistently feed their local population at-scale. This regenerative mindset is less common in large-scale traditional farming, who employ migrant workers and export their crops to other markets.
Food scarcity and food insecurity isn’t going away. Even when businesses and schools open up again, the indirect damage of COVID pandemic will still remain. The combined effects of unemployment, inconsistent access to healthy food, and the vulnerability of the food industry and supply chain leave a majority of our neighbors in a food crisis that we cannot ignore.
Get involved with Eden Green Technology
There’s a lot of ways to help feed your community healthy and local food. You can help spread awareness and share this story on social media (make sure to tag @edengreentech). If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you can order our produce from Profound Foods and we’ll match your purchase per pound to local nonprofits.
If you’d like to join our mission, consider starting a petition to bring a vertical farm to your city or even build a greenhouse with your company or a produce partner. Interested in learning more? Reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.