The Partnership for Inclusive Innovation is a public-private partnership with the mission to support Georgia as a leader in innovation, opportunity and shared economic success. The Partnership coordinates with a number of private corporations, universities, civic organizations and government institutions to improve access and opportunity for all Georgians with the common goal of developing an innovation ecosystem for growth.
The Partnership is a non-partisan organization, supporting geographic, racial, gender and socio-economic equity and in just a short period of time has set a number of programs and projects in motion which have made a real impact in advancing innovation and inclusivity across Georgia. The Partnership helps Georgia to become a living laboratory for innovation by focusing on economic opportunity, community research, student engagement and workforce development.
The Partnership provides financial and social capital for organizations to scale their impact, advances translational research, and develops next generation innovators. They have recently been focused on applications in the AgTech space, buoying Georgia farmers and the broader agricultural community through a number of different projects. In addition to traditional threats such as pests, diseases and harsh weather, farmers now must cope with the pressures of climate change, soil erosion and biodiversity loss on top of the evolving demands of consumers. Add to this the expectations of regulators, food processors and retailers, and it is no mystery why the industry struggles to inspire the next generation of workers to stay in rural areas and take up the plow.
The Partnership and others’ efforts across Georgia help overcome these obstacles and pioneer the future of farming. Here are some innovative and inclusive solutions that are impacting each stage of the farming life cycle:
Improving Outcomes in Subsistence Farming
Naturally, the “farm-to-fork” cycle begins with the farmers that are working day-in and day-out to grow produce and raise livestock. The Partnership, in parallel with the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) and the University of Georgia are working to support farmers and their families by investing in digital literacy programs that develop and demonstrate technologies for small and mid-sized farmers. The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has also developed a robot that can support human-centered tasks such as thinning and pruning fruit trees.
Access to Farmland
The Partnership and the Georgia Working Farm Fund also leverage conservation easements for similar farm preservation. This financing solution developed by the Conservation Fund focuses on ameliorating the rapid loss of critical farmlands in the region by acquiring farmland within 100 miles of Atlanta and placing the conservation easements on the land to permanently protect it from development and environmentally harmful practices.
This program is especially important to encourage and enable young farmers, who often lack the resources to purchase their own land.
Food to Fork Faster
After food is processed into consumable products, the chain of logistics required to successfully transport the processed foods to distribution centers and ultimately stores or restaurants can be maddeningly complex. Fortunately, more informed and efficient decision-making is now possible through “robotics, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, analytics, and cognitive technologies,” all of which are being used by logistic industry giants like Ryder.
Another innovation in farming logistics is adding smart sensors and devices into cold chain transport containers. These help monitor key elements like location and temperature and prevent excess spoilage contributing to industrial food waste. These sensors also allow supply chain managers to monitor their goods while in transport. If the temperature or humidity level approaches an unsafe threshold, the manager can intervene and adjust the settings – no matter where in the world the goods are.
Expediting Ripe and Reducing Rotten
One of the final steps in the food process is the selling of fresh food from farms to distributors and retailers. Emory University committed to purchasing the locally sourced, fresh food grown from farmers entering the Working Farm Fund program. This results in guaranteed income for the farmers and also provides healthier and fresher food for the eventual consumers.
Tons of food from farms ends up in landfills every year in Georgia. An effort to reduce this quantity is the work of the Partnership and Retaaza’s Fresh Food Forward program. Founded by Kashi Seghal and Casey Cox, Fresh Food Forward purchases food directly from farmers that might otherwise go to the landfill and redistributes it to those in need.
Amerilorating Food Insecurity and Waste
Food waste at restaurants and other food businesses is a major problem that contributes to a significant percentage of global emissions.
While not a Partnership program, the Georgia based non-profit Goodr works toward the dual goal of mitigating food waste and providing hunger relief through technology and nationwide logistics to divert waste and provide food to those in need.
The Future of Food
Looking at the Georgia agricultural landscape we see a growing number of challenges that make it increasingly difficult to go from “farm-to-fork,” but the Partnership and other organizations are advancing efforts that develop solutions in novel ways for shared economic success.
Innovative strategies and technologies not only tackle the issues, but also open the door for a more inclusive farming community. Most importantly, when innovation is applied at every stage of the food cycle, the entire community reaps the benefits.
About the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation
Launched in 2020, the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation is a public-private organization that was created to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the leader for innovation, opportunity and shared economic success. The Partnership’s focus pillars of community research, workforce development, student engagement and economic opportunity are a powerful combination that provides technical and financial support to open innovation through collaboration. Since 2020, the Partnership’s work has deployed over $3M in capital and resources throughout the State and catalyzed 30+projects with local governments, universities, start-ups and nonprofits. The projects have created new businesses, increased access to financial and social capital, and deployed more than 170 technologies.
More information is available at www.pingeorgia.org.
About The Author: Debra Lam is the Founding Executive Director at the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation