Greenhouse Pioneer: James Alden, Climate Edge

James Alden Climate Edge

Access to data and technology can transform smallholder farming, helping some of the most vulnerable people adapt to climate change. This is the idea behind Climate Edge, which makes low-cost weather stations and software to help these farmers use real-time environmental information and research.

Managing Director James Alden told us what drives him and how their Nexo weather stations are helping farmers grow high quality coffee, fairly traded from seed to cup.

Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about Climate Edge – what’s your mission? 

Climate Edge develop agricultural technologies to turn data into action for the smallholder agriculture market.

What drives you? 

Our team is motivated by having a big impact on the smallholder market.  Smallholder farming communities are some of the most underserved communities in the world, both in terms of economic opportunities and technology.  But there are many opportunities to innovate in this space to support farmers and the wider value chain.  We are excited to be entering this market at a time where our work can shake up the industry and make a big difference.

What is your greatest achievement to date? 

As a young company in an uncertain market, our greatest achievement has been creating working prototypes of both our Nexo weather station and our Farm Tracker web application.  We tested them during a number of pilots, most notably a 6-month trial in partnership with Fairtrade International and Nicaraguan coffee farmers.  The feedback we received from the farmers, producer organisations and Fairtrade showed us that our products can increase resilience and reduce uncertainty in smallholder agriculture.

small weather station used with smallholders

The Nexo weather station.

What are the challenges you face?

Smallholder farming is built on narrow profit margins, and often, low incomes.  This means it is difficult to develop technologies which add sufficient value whilst still being affordable. As a result, there is little innovation in the market.

We believe creating products which benefit a number of stakeholders, including farmers, is key to spreading the cost between users, and achieving a suitable price point for each.

What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?

We are beginning to work with Catracha Coffee in La Paz, Honduras.  Catracha work closely with coffee farmers, processors and traders, maintaining a high quality, fair supply chain from seed to cup.  We will be installing our Nexo weather stations on several farms to help them improve coffee production in the area, ensuring they are economically and environmentally sustainable in the looming face of climate change.  This is an extremely exciting project for Climate Edge, and it is a nice opportunity to show off the great work that we have been beavering away on behind the scenes!

Where do you want to take Climate Edge next? 

We are looking to scale up Climate Edge’s impact over the next few years.  We are establishing our environmental monitoring network through partnered projects such as the Catracha project, and are now looking to use this valuable data to work with other stakeholders such as agricultural insurers, financers and traders.  Through the data we can help these stakeholders establish less risky, and therefore more affordable products and services. These provide more value to farmers, and therefore more value for the industry as a whole.

What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?

My best advice is to always be conscious of where your food and drink comes from. There are a lot of companies in the world, large and small, who are doing great work to create economically and environmentally sustainable supply chains, and offer fair deals to producers.  If consumers understand the supply chain and support these responsible organisations, they will help to create a sustainable market globally.

How is what you are doing inspiring change in others?

As young entrepreneurs attempting to shake up a vast and old fashioned market, I hope we can inspire other creative, motivated and socially oriented individuals to follow suit.  It is incredibly rewarding to follow through on your passion and beliefs, and there are a number of global challenges which require the same innovative thinking. To those people, I say do it!

Smallholder farmers using software

What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?

I am currently enjoying the Hamilton soundtrack.  I am counting down the days until I see the show live in London, I just need to make sure I don’t accidentally sing along to all the tracks. It’s a musical, not karaoke!

Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero? 

My Eco Hero would have to be AGRIman. AGRIman is a character created by Alpha Sennon to educate young people around the world about the importance of agriculture, and to get them excited about where our food comes from.  Alpha has particularly focused on countries which depend heavily on agricultural production for subsistence and export, particularly in the Caribbean and Africa. Alpha is extremely passionate about promoting sustainability within agriculture. I was lucky enough to hear him talk at the TFF Summit in Amsterdam, so he would definitely be my Eco Hero.

About Greenhouse

At Greenhouse, we support a wide variety of organisations pioneering new standards of sustainability across multiple sectors. Whether it’s fashion, finance or farming, we’re always on the look-out for new opportunities to reach our clients’ target audiences. If you’ve got a great story and need our help to tell it, we’d love to hear from you.