Earth Day 2021, and how innovations in agriculture, fashion and AI are paving the way for climate resilience

Materra
4 min readApr 22, 2021
Photo: NASA

This image of our beautiful Spaceship Earth so vividly captures the awesomeness of our planet, and how interconnected we all are on this blue marble flying through space. Our earth is a highly complex and resilient system, which we must nurture to continue sharing the beauty, resources and biodiversity that it harbours for future generations.

Errday is Earth Day

A day like today is a potent reminder of the work that we need to do collectively to address the climate crisis and protect the fragile ecosystems that we all depend on from ourselves. It is not, however, a day for us to feel anxious about the work we haven’t done or work yet to be done. Instead let’s celebrate all the progress made over the past decades and brace ourselves for great challenges of tomorrow which will define the way we live, work and care for one another. So let us use this day to band together and open-up dialogues, engage with the current climate crisis, and explore the innovative solutions for a better tomorrow.

Towards climate-resilient agriculture

It is the solidarity around humanity’s collective power highlighted by Earth Day that is at the heart of our company. At Materra, we’re on a mission to accelerate the transition to a net-positive fashion industry. We’re doing this by building resilient farming systems to empower more sustainable cotton supply chains.

Cotton is an incredible fibre and the most widely used natural fibre in the fashion industry. Today, while dominated by China, India and the USA, cotton production supports the economies of over 100 countries around the world and it is estimated that 300 million people are involved in the sector — from farming to transportation and manufacturing. The industry is huge, and so is its environmental impact. Cotton is often regarded as the world’s thirstiest and dirtiest crop, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead the water and chemical intensiveness often comes from the social and economic factors connected to its farming. Due to its low sale price and a lack of accessible investment for farmers.

That is why our work focuses on helping cotton farmers build more future-proof farms without harming the planet. By combining AI-driven precision agriculture with better farming practices, we can achieve great resource savings. While carefully managing processes at farm level, we can also track in real-time what our plants need. That means that our farming solutions enable higher and more reliable yields, higher fibre quality, and with 80% less water, no pesticides and a 30% CO2 reduction.

Photo: Materra — All Rights Reserved.

Half a century after the creation of Earth Day, Materra is proud to be engaging in tackling some of today’s most pressing issues at the core of this year’s agenda. These include resource scarcity, the protection of biodiversity and social empowerment in the face of climate change.

Resource scarcity

Our precision agriculture methods are unlocking highly resource-efficient forms of agriculture that can drastically reduce reliance on water, nutrients and pesticides. This is particularly pressing as ⅔ of the world’s population faces water scarcity by 2025. Our novel agricultural tools are future-proofing farming practices in desertifying regions by providing economic resilience to large communities and ultimately fighting the inequalities driven by climate change.

Protection of biodiversity

Despite being grown on 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land, the cotton industry is responsible for the use of 16% or insecticides and 6.8% of herbicides globally. These chemicals contaminate local ecosystems and water sources, thereby leaving massive harmful impacts on biological diversity. By utilising the power of predator insects, our methods require no pesticides, and by operating in closed systems, no agricultural inputs can escape our farms. Additionally, we use up to 75% less land to grow similar amounts of cotton as on traditional farms, thereby freeing it up for other purposes like agroforestry.

Social empowerment

While the farming tools we are developing to aid cotton production are state-of-the-art, we are ensuring they are accessible to the many in intuitive ways. By giving nature a voice, we are empowering the people at the bottom of the supply chain, equipping them with tools for more sustainable practices but also strengthening the connection between all stakeholders within the supply chain. At Materra, we also aim to empower the supply chain stakeholders most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. It only takes a virus to become a global pandemic to highlight that we are only as strong as our weakest link. So we are building farming systems that enable outright transparency from the get-go, in doing so we hope to facilitate a more equitable supply chain!

The future is ours to shape

Materra is on an ambitious mission to redefine the cotton industry, and we hope our work can also benefit others beyond our immediate remit in the coming years. Ultimately, we believe in resilience through diversity because there are no silver bullets to the hard problems we face, and it is safe to say the world needs a broad variety of approaches to more sustainable fashion and agriculture.

Today is another reminder that all industries must take a closer look at their supply chains to rectify the systemic social, environmental and economic harm they cause in truly impactful ways. No planet B means no time for complacency, no time for cynicism and time for action. The future is ours to shape, so let’s get to it!

Join the conversation via our Instagram Live today from 12:00BST with the Fashion Revolution Week and the Trampery. @materra.tech @thetrampery @fash_rev.

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Materra

Materra is a planet-centric technology company working towards climate-resilient cotton agriculture.