When do you think the computer age began? Many would say the 80s and 90s when personal computers and at-home internet took off. Others would point to the birth of Silicon Valley in the 60s or the advent of the first vacuum tube computers during WWII. But, to find the true origin of the digital revolution, you would have to go back a hundred years further to a woman named Ada, Countess of Lovelace.
In 1843, Ada Lovelace wrote the world’s first computer program and envisioned the first universal computer. She caught a glimpse of what the future could hold and laid the foundation for a seismic societal shift. So, here’s my question: who is today’s Ada Lovelace?
We’re on the cusp of a new age that will be defined by repeated climate and food crises. In July, Paris hit 108.6 degrees Fahrenheit during a blistering heatwave, smashing the all-time high. On August 2nd, Greenland lost 12.5 billion tons of ice, the largest single-day loss in recorded history. But the scariest omens of what’s to come are the long-term trends and not single incidents like these.
As the effects of climate change intensify, modern farming practices are becoming increasingly unsustainable. A recent UN report found that soil is being lost 10 to 100 times faster than it is forming and more than half of it is already classified as degraded. 70 percent of the world’s fresh water is used in agriculture alone. And a third of greenhouse gas emissions originate in the food system. Experts warn that with more-frequent droughts putting new strains on the food system, we could be on the verge of a “multi-breadbasket failure.”
Fortunately, there are visionaries today, who like Ada Lovelace before them, have seen what a different future could hold. Groups like Practical Farmers of Iowa, Future Farmers of America, and Sustainable Agriculture Initiative are leading the charge in an effort to get more people to adopt regenerative agriculture and soil health practices that can reverse the damage we’ve done. By making simple changes such as using cover crops or growing two or more crops together, farmers can not only make farming more sustainable but begin the process of healing our planet.
At PepsiCo, we’re focused on doing our part to help advance this movement. Through our Next Generation Agriculture strategy, we’re working to make agriculture more resilient, intelligent, and inclusive by providing farmers, especially women, with training and resources specifically tailored to address the sustainability challenges their communities face.
I believe today’s Ada Lovelace is not one person but rather the millions of farmers, especially women, who form the backbone of our food system. And so, as PepsiCo continues our efforts to help build a more sustainable food system, we will strive to ensure that the farmers we work with have the tools they need to adopt the regenerative agricultural practices that will help heal and protect our planet for generations to come.