This is Part 2 of a two-part series on Partnerships for Youth Food Security. Part 1 can be found here.
According to the UN, the average age of farmers in the United States and other developed countries is approximately 60. Questions are abound regarding the future of food production. With a constantly rising global population, more mouths need to be fed. Team this with the global youth unemployment rate which stands at three times more than adults across all regions of the world, we need to ask ourselves if we’re doing enough to prepare the next generation for their lives ahead. The re-engagement of youth isn’t merely to boost statistics. It’s a way to empower them to connect with their own food, bring their fresh ideas to the table to transform local food systems, and to then build economies that lift up entire communities.
“Young people do not automatically gravitate to farming. To see agriculture as a profitable and exciting career path, young people need education, technical training, and resources (such as land and finance).” – USAID
There is much to be said about a community that empowers its youth. As USAID describes above, one of the key elements for successful empowerment is education. Therefore, when Newlab reached out to us about taking part in their Youth Education Program, we wanted to know more.
As a refresher for those reading, we were invited to join Newlab in spring 2021. We were one of seven companies selected from a competitive pool of global applicants as part of Newlab’s collaboration with Bank of America to support early-stage technology companies led by underrepresented founders. Working out of their flagship location in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a space that used to serve as the primary machine shop for every major ship launched during World Wars I and II, but has now been transformed into a high-tech hub, we have constantly learnt from other innovators in that space. From our experience, innovative spaces which are well run usually make an effort to spread its good work to its surrounding communities.
So, what exactly is Newlab’s Youth Education Program? It’s an initiative to connect local middle and high school students to frontier technology, entrepreneurship, and the work happening at Newlab. As one of the agriculture technology firms in the space, and knowing the dire need to education and re-engage youth towards agriculture, we were more than excited to take part.
We were lucky enough to be assigned a session with students from a summer program at the Bed-Stuy YMCA which we then carried out over Zoom. During the session, we broke down what indoor farming is all about followed by a demo of our product development process.In turn, the students then asked a few questions which included what our process looks like, the type of waste and food byproducts that we work with, and the size of farms that we cater to.
Tinia, Re-Nuble's Founder & CEO talking to the students via Zoom
Overall, we’re excited to see how youth can be engaged further as the controlled environment agriculture (CEA) industry continues to grow - whether it’s through education programs like these, or research projects such as the ones we’ve carried out over the years with a number of universities across the US, or even educational apps for students such as the ones listed here by New York Agriculture in the Classroom. We’re always looking for opportunities to educate and partnerships that can help us achieve this. If this interests you as well, you know where to find us!
By Riyana Razalee