Tamanna Mohapatra

Currently, I have my hand in many pies because I can’t refuse the opportunity to be part of the solution team. I am primarily helping Medair, a Swiss-based humanitarian organization, calculate its carbon footprint. Secondly, I help a French NGO, Asso-Eko, maintain its website. Recently, I attended a Swiss Govt. sponsored food system workshop, and I am working with folks at a Bern-based university to develop an app. The goal of the app is to help reduce consumer food waste and motivate users to eat better. I am also a board member for a Brooklyn-based non-profit called Human Impact Institute, and lastly, there is the role of being a West Europe Ambassador for Thought for Food.

Tell us a bit about your career. What do you love about your job and how did you get here?

I have about eighteen years of work experience as a Business Analyst and a Project Manager. My industries range from tech start-ups, web, telecoms, and insurance to academia. What I love about my job so far is interacting with others, trying to understand their problems, and then offering them a technical or improved business process solution. I love to ask “why/why not?” and help businesses see the facts in a new light.

What advice would you share with young people who hope to contribute to sustainable food systems and farming?

Don’t give up. Learn about your world and learn about your part in making it better. Do your research. See how everything and everyone is connected and just start somewhere. Always try and work on the needs vs. the wants.

How does agriculture need to change to be more sustainable?

Currently, much could be improved in our agricultural practices. There is too much reliance on chemicals as a quick-fix solution. Too much land is being employed in agriculture. We harvest a lot thinking we must feed the human population of eight billion people, but then end up wasting so much food. Agriculture is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases. Then, there is excess use of fresh water and the flying of food from one end of the world to the other just to let it perish on grocery or refrigerator shelves. All of these practices need to be looked at and revised to make agriculture more sustainable.

How can science and innovation help promote sustainability in food and agriculture?

Communication is one means by which science and innovation can help promote sustainability in food and agriculture. Technology can help spread ideas and news faster and to all corners of the world. Technologies like artificial intelligence, traceability, blockchain, precision technology, and drone usage all have a major role in helping agriculture around the world be more sustainable.

In what ways are you leveraging innovation to promote strong food systems?

Much research is being done on topics of my personal interest, such as food waste. I am always on top of the latest research and solutions from around the world. For example, Twiga is an African app that provides a marketplace for farmers and small retailers. Then there is PDD, which connects farmers to consumers who buy produce as a group and help prevent farm waste. Afresh is a US-based company trying to digitize the paper-based inventory management system in the grocery chain. A lot is happening. A lot more needs to happen. It’s an exciting time to be alive.

How do you see next-generation agricultural technologies contributing to biodiversity, climate change, and food loss and waste?

Many of the problems facing the natural world, including loss of biodiversity, deforestation, climate change, and food loss and waste could be addressed by examining our existing agricultural practices and beliefs. To usher in a new and better world, we need to seek next-generation thoughts, processes, and technologies in the agricultural space.

Tamanna is just one of many inspirational young people working in agriculture. Visit our NextGen #FoodHeroes page to hear from other next-gen innovators working to improve plant science and nutrition.