Omnivore Farm Logs: Venture Capital for Climate Action

Here’s to investing with intention, evaluating progress, and contributing to the global efforts to navigate climate change.

When we think of climate change, it instantly conjures worrying statistics in reports, troubling documentaries, and rousing speeches by influential personalities. We passively consume the information, feel a little wiser about the issue, but we don’t fully realize how close this man-made catastrophe has come to our doors. So then, what is the inconvenient reality of climate change?

By 2030, the yield of staple food grains is at risk to decline by 10%, which will trigger volatility in supply and prices. Between heat waves and other natural calamities, the cultivation period may shrink by 15%. Imagine working on open fields in boiling 50 degrees Celsius, then enduring months of erratic torrential rains. To adapt to shifting climate trends, farmers will have to modify crop selection and growing practices. These changes will have a profound impact on India’s food security.

Agriculture: Part of the problem, part of the solution

Indian agriculture contributes 20% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, but is also the sector most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. With an average yearly household income of USD 1354, India’s farmers have limited resources to tackle the dual challenges of climate mitigation (reducing GHG emissions) and climate resilience (via adaptation). The future of 130 million farmers, alongside their families and rural communities, rests on redesigning Indian agriculture.

How can venture capital move the needle faster?

Omnivore’s investment strategy hinges on our Theory of Change (ToC), with its four pillars of improving smallholder profitability, enhancing smallholder resilience, improving agricultural sustainability, and catalyzing climate action. As Omnivore works with agritech startups addressing climate challenges, we focus on two fundamental questions — are they mitigating climate risks, and are they building resilience in our food system to manage the impact of climate change? We are working to achieve both by enabling climate-smart production, mitigating financial risk for smallholders, building efficient supply chains, and promoting sustainable consumption.

Climate Mitigation

Efforts to fight climate change in agriculture must start well before sowing. Farmers have to plan the season despite poor data on soil, irrigation, and weather. To leapfrog into a sustainable future, innovations in biotechnology (climate-resilient crops and cattle, biological inputs) as well as progress in precision agritech and farm automation will play a crucial role in helping farmers achieve better productivity with optimum use of resources.

Next comes post-harvest waste, a formidable challenge in our fragmented value chain. More than 40% of the total fruits and vegetables produced in the Indian market go to waste annually. It translates to a loss of approximately INR 63,000 crore every year and an unchecked carbon footprint. Storage facilities closer to the farm-gate, decentralized food processing infrastructure, and reengineered supply chains can eliminate waste and improve food systems resilience to shocks and volatility due to climate effects.

Finally, the pandemic made people reflect on their food choices, and the demand for premium, residue-free, and traceable fresh produce is on the rise. The trifecta of scarce resources, climate-smart agriculture, and heightened consumer consciousness will shape our consumption patterns in the years to come.

Climate Resilience

Farmers are already feeling the brunt of climate change on their livelihoods. Interventions to build resilience to climate shocks and adapt to climate trends are crucial to secure a better future for the 130 million strong agri community. Improving production decisions, conserving natural resources, reducing financial risks, and preventing volatility in the food supply are the guiding principles of innovations in this space. Over the last 5 years, a quiet revolution is underway and we are seeing more human-centered solutions in this space. We shall explore climate resilience in agriculture in more detail in our next article.

Where do we go from here?

To continue on the current course spells certain doom for the tens of millions who depend heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods. However, the path towards sustainable agriculture will not be a straight line forward, but a journey of twists and turns, trial and error. More than damage control, we need scalable, long-term solutions to help us move away from practices based on natural resources extraction and depletion to ones designed for regeneration. We aim to invest with intention, evaluate progress, and contribute to the global efforts to navigate climate change.