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The twentysomethings changing the future of agriculture

Electric-powered trailers, modular vertical farming units, mushroom-picking robots, probiotics for plants and more-efficient fertilisers.

These are just some of the inventions created by the talented men and women under 30-years of age who have made this year’s Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 list.

Candidates are evaluated on factors including funding, revenue, social impact, inventiveness and potential, and the sectors, of which there are 20 in total, range from social media and energy to logistics and consumer technology.

Below are the twentysomethings that have the potential to make large advancements in the agricultural industry.

Social Impact

The majority of people commended for work that will affect the agricultural sector fall this year, under the social impact category.

Noah McQueen, co-founder of Heriloom, is on the list for his work offsetting carbon. Heriloom superheats limestone to extract its carbon dioxide (CO2) and stores it underground, where it there acts like a wring-out sponge, reabsorbing greenhouse gases from the air.

Jacob Foss and Joshua Shefner, founders of Agricycle Global, join McQueen on the social impact list.

Agricycle Global transforms rural food loss across Sub-Saharan Africa into economic mobilisation for thousands of remote, smallholder farmers.

Its passive solar dehydrators, which are patent-pending, work without any electricity to preserve on-farm fruits and grains so they can be sold as higher-value products.

Alexander Olesen and Graham Smith, another duo, are behind Babylon Micro-Farms, which aims to empower people to grow fresh and sustainable food via modular vertical farms (pictured top).

Tim Schnabel, with his company Switch Bioworks, makes the list for working towards producing nitrogen ‘biofertiliser’ directly at the roots of plants. In his PhD research, Schnabel invented controllable ammonia release from microbes.

Pelkins Ajanoh is the co-founder of CassVita, which has invented a patent-pending biotechnology for increasing the shelf life of woody shrub cassava from three days to 18 months.

According to Forbes, CasssVita has raised the incomes of over 1,000 smallholder farmers by as much as 400% by minimising post-harvest losses.

Also on the list for fertiliser advancements is Hunter Swisher, who founded Phospholutions, which aims to create a more sustainable future for agriculture by enhancing the efficiency of phosphorus fertilisers.

The company’s technology, RhizoSorb, is a fertiliser additive incorporated into fertiliser manufacturing to increase efficiency by up to 50% for farmers around the world.

Food and drink

Elle Gadient, a fifth-generation hog farmer from the US, made this year’s food and drink list for her work as a farmer advocate at Niman Ranch.

Seeing her family’s farm grow and thrive through more sustainable practices, Gadient decided she had to amplify it.

She is the only ag-related twentysomething to make the food and drink list.


Natalie Rubio, who has a PhD in cellular agriculture, makes this list for her research focussing on growing meat cells instead of animals. She has worked or advised at three cultured meat companies and her inventions have earned over five patents.

Siblings Danielle and Matthew Rose have founded Ceragem, which has led them to make the 30 Under 30 science list this year.

Ceragen works on creating ‘probiotics for plants‘ that improve the plant’s ability to uptake nutrients and respond to environmental stress.

The aim of this is to make plants more efficient in light of a higher demand for food from agriculture as a result of growing populations.

Also in the science category is French man Adrien Burlacor, who is working to make photosynthesis more efficient. Burlacot also advises a start-up company (CarbonDrop) aiming at using photosynthesis to capture CO2.

Jeremy Rech makes the list for his research into ways to use chemistry to create plastics that can conduct electricity, which could lead to new solar panel material – and more.

Already, he has created a semi-transparent solar panel for a greenhouse, which generates electricity for it while still letting in enough light for the produce to grow.

Consumer technology

Elizabeth Coulombe from Canada made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the consumer technology category.

She is the founder and chief executive officer of Tero, an online appliance company that recycles food waste into reusable fertiliser within hours.


Ben Parker is on the 30 Under 30 energy list this year for his work at Lightship, of which he is co-founder alongside Toby Krasu. The pair, both Tesla alums, are working on making electric trailers to match electric trucks.

Also on the energy list is Zhenyu Zhang, who is developing the world’s first decentralised and electrified ammonia production unit.

This unit uses renewable electricity, air and water to produce green ammonia that can serve as a hydrogen carrier, carbon-free fertiliser, fuel or nitriding chemicals in the semiconductor industry.

Manufacturing and industry

Jamie Balsillie and Wilson Ruotolo make the manufacturing and industry list for Hedgehog, which builds robotic mushroom farms. The duo’s goal is to decrease the cost of producing mushrooms, ultimately making them more affordable for consumers.

Peter McHale and Matthew Carpener are the co-founders of Gaia AI, which looks at applying artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to make forests a viable carbon sequestration solution by helping land owners, project developers, and investors measure the carbon content of a forest with high accuracy.

Caleb Boyd and his co-founder Kevin Bush are developing a technology that generates a stream of pure hydrogen by using electricity to split methane into solid carbon and gaseous hydrogen.

According to Forbes, they claim that the technique uses one fifth of the energy of producing hydrogen via water hydrolysis, which has the potential to make fertiliser more sustainable.


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