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Sabrina Williams: Democratizing AgTech

Sabrina Williams: Democratizing AgTech

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Hey, friends! Spiffy here, back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Sabrina Williams, the CEO of SEED. Let’s learn what’s happening at SEED and how Sabrina is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Hi, Sabrina! Thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through SEED?

Sabrina: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Did you know there are some 500 million smallhold farmers in the world, living in some of the hottest, most polluted urban and developing communities? 

Spiffy: No, I had no idea! Please tell me more. 

Sabrina: These farmers are primarily Black, Brown, Indigenous, and women; and they suffer disproportionately from agriculture's 24% contribution to greenhouse gasses, because they lack access to the agriculture technology that big corporations have. SEED is democratizing agtech—which means we help these farmers and others on less than five acres to grow smart, feed more, and reduce the impacts of climate change.  

Spiffy: That’s awesome! What motivates you to do it?

Sabrina: I've grown food with and for others since childhood, under the guidance of my grandmother, the child of a Georgia sharecropper. She taught me good stewardship of the land. I grew my first plants, hot peppers, with her, and we continued to do so for nearly 30 years. She always said take care of the seedlings, and I watched her use imagination and innovation to improve the soil in spaces that were not supposed to be fertile. Raising produce became an act of both defiance and nourishment. I've been driven by that to pair the practice of regenerative agriculture with technological experimentation.


Spiffy: That is a lovely story. What would you say is the impact of your work?

Sabrina: We create opportunities for underserved and urban farmers to become more resilient to climate change, reduce environmental pollution, and increase wealth through higher crop yields and access to trade markets. Supporting these farmers increases their incomes by 300% and lowers their household food expenditures, which can be as much as 60% of monthly income. We've estimated that, in the U.S. alone, use of our technology by a large swath of sites under five acres would reduce GHGs through sequestration of 20 million metric tons per year.

Spiffy: Amazing! Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience or community?

Sabrina: SEED recently became a Certified B-Corporation. We completed a nearly year-and-a-half-long process with the folks at B Lab U.S. & Canada as they evaluated our impact. Creating environmental, social, and economic change is in our DNA, so we're proud to meet this milestone and use business as a force for good in the world. We accomplish this through our commitment to community and workers, the circular economy and right to repair, a cross-subsidy sales model, and access to technology.

Spiffy: Congratulations on that distinction! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Sabrina: In botany, the primary, embryonic root of a plant is called the radicle. It relies on healthy soil to grow. So, we named (and designed the shape of) our soil carbon sensor technology "Radicle" to celebrate all those seedlings.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Sabrina—it’s been an honor!

Sabrina Williams has a background in architecture, law, and urban planning. She also has 25 years of experience working on urban issues. Using self-taught engineering skills, she's built agtech for farm workshops in South Los Angeles and Cuba. She's a Certified Master Gardener whose superpowers are perfect pie crusts and vocal harmonies. (Nominated by Andrea Perdomo of Common Futures. First published on the Ladderworks website on May 23, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.