This article shared by the Partnership of Inclusive Innovation features Retaaza’s mission to make food more affordable and accessible to people in Georgia who are food insecure. For the full story, visit https://bit.ly/3LfsTUi.
By Péralte Paul
Georgia boasts a diverse economy that includes financial technology, logistics, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare, among other sectors. But agriculture remains the state largest industry, contributing roughly $75 billion to Georgia’s total economic output of $533 billion a year.
As a leading producer and exporter of broiler chickens, cotton, timber, and pecans, the industry — which, along with forestry and related fields — employs one out of every seven Georgians, is focused on remaining competitive.
“Agriculture is not just the state’s largest industry, it’s also the oldest and to remain a viable segment of the Georgia economy, we have to look at and continually incorporate new innovations and technologies,” said Debra Lam, executive director of the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation,” a public-private entity created in 2020 to lead coordinated, statewide efforts to position Georgia as the Technology Capital of the East Coast.
In late February, Lam and others across the state convened in Atlanta for two days of discussions and information sharing at the Georgia Chamber’s Future of Georgia Summit to discuss critical issues connected to workforce, supply chain and infrastructure, and energy and sustainability.
“All of these issues affect agriculture, not only from the perspective of the business of agriculture and forestry, but also from the standpoint of challenges related to the sector that we need to solve,” Lam said.
The Summit served as a conduit to bringing some of those agricultural solutions to the forefront to tackle several challenges, ranging from reducing food waste and slowing the loss of farmlands to highlighting the innovations emerging from rural Georgia and showcasing the opportunities for high-tech careers in the agribusiness space.
The Partnership, or PIN, has been at the forefront of helping to develop those solutions through its Innovate for All program, which supports a portfolio of projects that scale essential innovative programs, services, and technology deployments across the state.
“One out of every eight Georgians are hungry, and one out of every seven kids are hungry which is astonishing, given the fact that we’re an agricultural state,” Sehgal said, estimating some 2 million tons of food from Georgia farms is wasted each year. As a Partnership for Inclusive Innovation funding recipient, the company aims to expand its operations from southeast Georgia to the southwest area of the state, as well as metro Atlanta and Savannah. Retaaza’s Fresh Food Forward also projects to reduce waste by 100,000 pounds and connect more than 200,000 tons to families fighting food insecurity.
“Coming together fosters innovation in a way that you just can’t do sitting behind your computer,” she said.
It was a sentiment echoed by Will Bentley, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council.
“PIN is doing a lot of great work with the different partners,” he said. “Some of the projects that PIN has funded and supported — we’ve seen those be able to connect with folks that may have other resources whether it’s access to capital, access to land, access to knowledge. That’s what this thing is really about — bringing people together that have a shared interest in making sure that agriculture is strong in our state.”
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