The Made In Produce Heaven Promise A Happily Ever After For The Planet races

What is the world’s most underrated but vital industry?

If healthcare comes to mind, think again, nearly 8 billion people around the world need to eat, every day, to stay alive.

Farmers may not often be front and center as some of the most important people on the planet, but any serious disruption to the food industry brings into focus where the true value of farmers lies.

In June this year, the World Bank committed $2.3 billion to help combat growing food insecurity after the war in Ukraine dramatically fueled global food price inflation, triggering food export bans in 21 countries as the nations are scrambling to shore up their own supplies – further exacerbating food supply chain issues.

To compound the crisis, extreme dry and wet weather conditions – a key feature of climate change – have dealt further devastating blows to farmers and food security. From Europe to Africa, across large swaths of southern China to Argentina and the US – dry weather and wildfires have wreaked havoc on farmers and left millions at risk of starvation. Meanwhile, apocalyptic floods submerged ⅓ of Pakistan and in Japan, 9 million people were displaced as a super typhoon battered the country.

But as the world is reeling from dangerous crises and governments and aid organizations rush to respond, the long-term security and resilience of the agricultural industries themselves often remain on the sidelines.

It’s something Pablo Borquez Schwarzbeck, founder of ProducePay, knew all too well as a fourth-generation farmer.

“Farmers are often part of a heavily exploited group,” says Schwarzbeck, “they take 90% of the responsibility that comes from growing – it doesn’t really make sense for farmers to take all the risk and not take the most part of the return for that commodity.

“Most of the products we consume come from emerging economies, and often emerging economies are the ones that have the most fragmented and broken or least accessible capital markets.”

After finishing college, Schwarzbeck spent three years in a role that saw him travel extensively across North and South America to meet farmers: “That’s when I really realized that the issues I was seeing at home were the same issues everywhere,” he says. Schwarzbeck.

Agricultural products are often sold through a series of middlemen, which means that only a small percentage of the profits remain in the hands of the farmers: “many of the farmers will fail to make the product available to the final consumers because they do not know where these consumers end up – customers who are willing to buy the product,” says Schwarzbeck.

He went on to start an MBA at Cornell University, but what he had seen and experienced about the challenges facing farmers stayed with him: “I would tell my teachers about the problems and the change they needed and they would say, ‘what with you ? I said, “why not?” They helped me feel brave.”

Schwarzbeck created ProducePay as a unique fintech and digital marketplace solution to empower farmers with both the capital they need and the ability to cut out the middleman and sell directly to the end buyer.

“We are building strong technical infrastructure that connects farmers to consumers and services to enable them to reach customers. As an alternative for farmers, we provide strong consumer markets, strong prices, along with the capital and infrastructure to reach these customers – we believe this is the formula for maximizing long-term returns.”

“We built a mechanism for traditional capital in the United States to reach farms around the world. And in doing so we help people who are best equipped to grow fruits and vegetables to reach global consumers.”

ProducePay is disrupting the agriculture market to create greater resilience and profit for farmers. The proof is in the pudding: in just 8 years since launch, ProducePay has truly changed the nature of business for a staggering 700 farms that together produce approximately $4 billion worth of agricultural goods, helping them get the most out of their produce.

Tackling inequality in the global agricultural sector, Schwarzbeck dared to go where many before him feared to tread.

When ProducePay first launched in 2014, it strove to “make people care about growing food and vegetables. They sure do now, but when we started the company, it wasn’t sexy. People were talking about photo apps. That was all the rage.

“The startup business and investment world now sees agriculture in a very different light because they have seen what the world looks like without access to food. And it’s pretty scary, right?

“During the pandemic where access to food was in question, it was our ability to ultimately help these farmers get the product to these places like Los Angeles that allowed us to ensure that we brought healthy food to local communities in which we work on. “

Schwarzbeck also had to win over a traditional industry that typically resists change to implement a technical network-based solution: “farmers have been exploited for millennia and in many ways it makes them distrustful.”

But Schwarzbeck’s credentials as a 4th generation farmer proved instrumental in understanding and transforming the industry from the inside out: “Where I grew up we were all farmers. My father, my grandfather, my great grandfather. I grew up thinking that agriculture was the center of the universe and eventually realized that my world was shaped by coming from a farmer-centric background. I see that the links between the way we work and the environment are the same.”

As part of its support offering for farmers, ProducePay is launching a decarbonisation program to help reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint: “this includes everything from how they irrigate, what they apply to the soil and ultimately how they cultivate the land,” explains Schwarzbeck. .

He credits much of ProducePay’s impact to intergenerational thinking: “a lot of what I’ve learned that drives better behavior not just on farms or sustainability, but in heritage and daily rituals that you want your children to repeat is to think between generations. Is this something I would want my children to see?’

In the last 18 months, ProducePay has tripled its market share with a huge growing agricultural network across North and South America and is set to expand into Europe with its unique solution to help decarbonise and decarbonize agriculture .

“We’re very excited to follow this until we can bring a new reality that is largely available to the farming community around the world,” says Schwarzbeck.

In 10 years, he would like to “sit down with my daughter, who will hopefully be a fifth-generation farmer, and tell her…at one time, agriculture was much weaker because they lacked technology, infrastructure and resource availability.”

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