Innovation Online Series: Thought Leaders on Biodiversity May 7, 2020 by Kate McDonough

Designing Products from Ecosystems

HowGood discusses the opportunities presented by biodiverse product design with Mike Lee, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Alpha Food Labs.

Mike Lee Alpha Food Labs

I call it the Avenger strategy: you’re not just selling Captain America, you’re selling the Avengers. It’s the group, not the ingredient. That can be as simple as going to market with quinoa plus the other ingredient that is crop rotated with quinoa. You don’t have to market 13 ingredients or a whole system — start with two or three. As a farmer, say I’ve got dairy, but then I’ve also got apple trees or walnut trees. That’s the shift in marketing that we need, to start talking about ingredients not as single units, but as groups.

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Measuring Biodiversity

Ethan Soloviev, HowGood’s Chief Innovation Officer, and Arthur Gillett, HowGood’s Director of Research, discuss the quinoa problem, why big brands are finally addressing biodiversity, and the opportunities presented by emerging measurement approaches.

Ethan Soloviev HowGood

There’s a real difference between measuring practices or claims and measuring outcomes. Moving away from statements about planting trees and toward a focus on tracking on-the-ground outcomes that emerged from planting trees. The better certifications and standards that are starting to come out, (like the Savory Institute), are actually measuring and tracking the outcome on the ground in the carbon and the biodiversity that has emerged. This is a really important shift that is starting to happen in the industry–a focus on outcomes as opposed to tracking practices.

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Crop Commercialization

Pierre Thiam, Executive Chef and Co-Founder of Yolélé Foods and Teranga, describes the dangerous impact that monocultures and big agriculture have on our perspective and the need to bring traditional crops to the global market and incorporate them into our diet.

Pierre Thiam Yolélé

This is part of the colonial mentality we have, the mindset that we need to change. We think of crops like fonio or sorghum or millet as substandard crops or country people crops because we think we want to consume those things that the French are consuming. So, we spend so much money bringing wheat flour into the country to bake bread and baguettes because people in Dakar need to have a fresh baguette every day.

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Scaling Biodiversity

Tyler Gage, Co-Founder of Runa and Innovation and Strategy Consultant at Terrafertil, describes his work in empowering indigenous communities in the Andes and the Amazon and connecting their products to the global market.

Tyler Gage Innovation & Strategy Consultant at Terrafertil

Storytelling ultimately doesn’t create impact. We were trying to create direct economic impact for these communities. Whether or not the consumer was buying this product because they felt this unique spiritual connection to the Kichwa people, or if they were just chugging this can of Runa before a workout and had no clue where it came from, the concrete impact was exactly the same.

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The Carbon Opportunity Cost

HowGood’s Chief Innovation Officer and Director of Research discuss the gaps in the current LCA model, the work being done towards creating a living LCA, and the merits of the forest delta approach in how we think about carbon accounting.

Arthur Gillett HowGood

We need a certain number of hectares to feed ourselves and there are different ways of utilizing and managing those hectares for our different purposes, some of which may need to have a negative impact on global warming and some of which may be able to be managed in a way that helps us fight global warming really well. Making that choice available via LCA is a very grounded, clear addition to the current LCA science that makes use of the research that has already been done so well for things like land-use change.

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