Hello! My name is Spiffy, I’m an interplanetary journalist. I’ve been speaking with innovators from around the world who are working on ending hunger! Anyone has the ability to take an idea and grow it into a world-changing business. One of those people is Danielle Rose, CEO of Ceragen, from Kitchener, Ontario. Let’s see how she’s improving agriculture, one plant at a time.
Spiffy: Welcome, Danielle, these plants are delightful! Can you tell me what challenge you’re addressing?
Danielle: Thanks, Spiffy! We are helping farmers sustainably increase the amount of food they can produce from the same amount of growing space. We do this by adding helpful microbes to the roots of the plants. These microbes help the plants grow better under stressful conditions—like extreme heat.
Spiffy: I see, and what motivated you to do this?
Danielle: Ever since I was a kid I have always wanted to change the world for the better. When I was in school and learned about the amazing ways that microbes can help plants, I decided to use these microbes to improve how we grow food so that we can feed the growing human population in a way that doesn't hurt the planet.
Spiffy: How would you say that you’re working to make the world a more equitable place?
Danielle: Well, Spiffy, fruit and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, but globally we produce only 35% of the fruits and vegetables that we need for everyone to eat a healthy diet. To address this problem our company's initial focus is on developing products that increase vegetable production so that more people can access the vegetables they need to improve their diet.
Spiffy: That would be an amazing feat, for sure. Have you reached any encouraging milestones that you could share with us?
Danielle: We now have several commercial tomato growers that are using our first microbial product, ACCelerate, on their farms. We are in the process of signing up several more growers to use our products.
Spiffy: I’m always curious to learn how entrepreneurs deal with failure. What about you, Danielle? When have you faced failure and what did you learn?
Danielle: When you are doing science that no one has ever done before your experiments fail on a pretty regular basis. Failure is a natural part of trying something new and when things go wrong you can always learn something that helps you do better next time. The most important thing is to learn from your mistakes and then try again.
Spiffy: Try, try again! Before we sign off, is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Danielle: You are never too young to start changing the world. The key is to start small and then work your way to bigger problems as you learn the skills you need. A great way to start is to think about your life and your community, write down the problems you see and brainstorm possible solutions. Changing the world isn't easy, but with a little determination, you can make a big difference.
Spiffy: Do you hear that kids? An idea you have in school can grow into a new innovation that can change the world! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, Danielle, it’s been an honor!
Danielle Rose, CEO of Ceragen, is a microbiologist, an avid gardener, and an entrepreneur who is using microbes to help improve agriculture. (Nominated by TômTex. First published on the Ladderworks website on November 12, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.