Supporting Resilient Agriculture with Agritecture’s Sustainability Analyst

Brakeley giving a presentation at Lund University in Sweden, where she studied innovation and global sustainable development.

Editor’s Note: Get to know the amazing team at Agritecture! This interview features Brakeley Bryant, Sustainability Analyst at Agritecture Consulting.

Brakeley with a few members of the Agritecture team.

Brakeley Bryant is a sustainability analyst specializing in the creation of sustainable and innovative food systems across the globe. Currently living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Brakeley has been a vital part of the Agritecture team for over a year.At Agritecture, Brakeley is involved in market research, policy, and sustainability assessments. She contextualizes urban food system planning projects using peer-reviewed approaches and sustainable agro-food transition methodologies.Brakeley holds an MSc in Innovation and Global Sustainable Development from Lund University, on top of her business administration and innovation background. Before joining the industry, Brakeley worked as a consultant on ERP and EPM systems in the information technology sector. In 2020, she shifted from her work in the information technology sector to pursue her graduate studies in Sweden.What drew you to the UA/CEA industry?

Brakeley on a tour of a vertical farm.

Brakeley’s entry into the urban agriculture/controlled environment agriculture industry stems from her deep interests in innovation and sustainability studies. While doing her master’s thesis, she tried to analyze the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on NYC’s food system, highlighting areas and mechanisms that might catapult it to a more sustainable model.“The agro-food industry was quite attractive to me, particularly in the context of the pandemic. The sector’s behavioral, economic, and health impacts have the power to grease the wheels of many cogs preventing more sustainable food, water, and energy systems.”But as she was conducting the study, she realized that it was pretty overwhelming to zero in on a topic. She had to weed through a lot of hype and greenwashing in the sustainability sector. Still, Brakeley realized that the industry could address consequences such as climate change, freshwater withdrawal, land conversion, and nitrogen/phosphorous overloading. Further, efforts in the sector can negate the impacts of new challenges such as destructive weather events, supply chain issues, and land loss.Where do you see yourself most able to contribute to the sector? As a change-maker in the CEA/UA industry, Brakeley sees the industry’s potential to help the planet build resilience.“The best definitions of sustainability I’ve come across essentially boil down to one point: to sustain ourselves and the ecosystem we know we can thrive in. We need to figure out how to use the resources available to us in a manner that does not compromise their use for future generations.” 

Brakeley representing Agritecture at a conference.

As an insider, Brakeley has noticed an upsurge of “eco-innovations” that want to rewrite whole systems and processes to create some utopian future. She feels this mindset can be erratic, especially when it doesn’t consider lag effects, consumer behavior, adoption rates, or transition costs.“In the agri-food sector, I see the role of sustainability analysts as putting the puzzle pieces of technology, indigenous and regenerative practices, and scaling methods together in a manner that fits within our planetary boundaries and builds up our social foundation. This means employing the whole cycle of “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Remanufacture, Recycle, and Recover” when considering inputs and outputs from our agri-food system. Additionally, shifting the goal of this system towards delivering more nutrition, rather than yield, is integral.” What is one of your favorite projects at Agritecture, and why?One of Brakeley’s favorite projects at Agritecture is the City of Dallas Urban Agriculture Plan. A project of such magnitude can always create hurdles for those involved, but for Brakeley, it has been an enormous learning opportunity.“While navigating policy and city bureaucracy is never easy, I have learned a lot from interviewing the individuals who kindly lent us their time and thoughts. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to support their work and allow others to enter the Urban Agriculture scene in Dallas with greater ease.”Where do you hope to see the industry in 5 years?

Brakeley visiting a tomato farm.

While being relatively new to the CEA/UA industry, Brakeley quickly notes that the sector has a lot of growth potential.“In five years, I would like to see (1) a greater focus on the sustainability of inputs going into controlled environment farms (i.e., renewable energy, more efficient LEDs, waste energy), and (2) more infrastructure channels to distribute and market the produce.”Brakeley believes that ag-tech is getting increasingly creative in developing solutions that can support the growth of a variety of crops in several different contexts. Yet, she remains adamant that the future direction for agri-food innovations should be to limit greenwashing and redirect marketplace needs towards nutrition.Feel free to reach out to Brakeley with any questions concerning sustainability, business, or regenerative agriculture.

Meet Brakeley

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