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nadir godrej
Retro classic typewriter from circa 1950s with sheet of paper on wooden desk front aquamarine wall background. Vintage old style filtered photo

Nadir Godrej, India’s bard of agtech

November 20, 2019

Nadir B. Godrej, 66, is not just a titan of Indian agribusiness. He is also an accomplished poet, as a wide-eyed audience discovered at this year’s Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Week in Singapore.

Godrej, who serves as chairman of his family’s animal feed and agribusiness Godrej Agrovet Limited (GAVL), set the room alight with a lively reading of his poem below — a far cry from the more prosaic (and often repetitive) paeans to sustainability, which normally get trotted out by large corporates to a smartphone-distracted crowd on such occasions.

In an interview with AFN after his poetry reading, Godrej said he got his knack for a poetic turn of phrase from his grandmother, who used to write in support of Indian independence.

Godrej said he writes poems all the time, always with a purpose. (You can read some here). And a love of verse has continued down the family. His son, he said, prefers rap.

“If I had enough time, I could beat him,” Godrej said of the possibility of a father-son rap battle. Though he conceded that he would likely lose if he had to improvise.

Aside from poetry, Godrej has a Bachelor’s degree in Science from the Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Harvard University. He has been associated with GAVL since 1991.

Godrej has played an important role in developing the animal feed, crop protection and chemicals businesses owned by the Godrej group. His active interest in research related to these areas has resulted in several patents in the field of agricultural chemicals and surfactants. The French Government, meanwhile, has honoured him with the awards of “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite” and “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur”.

If you think you can draft an even better one, please send me a note to [email protected]

The Food System

By Nadir Godrej

20th November 2019

Though population growth will slow

Demographers now think they know

The population will still grow

But at ten billion or so

The population may stabilise.

Nevertheless it would be wise

To study what new technology

Could possibly help us to be

Quite hunger free sustainably.

What is the challenge that we see?

Greater resources, it can be seen,

Are needed to produce protein.

And this indeed would be the case

Whether animal or not be the base.

It is true that vegetable sources

Would require fewer resources,

Environmental damage would be less

But all the same I must confess

That vegetable sources have their flaws.

There’s a reason why we’re omnivores!

Low concentrations are very sad

Amino acid profiles are pretty bad.

One exception can be seen

And that would be the soya bean.

But before the nutrients are won

Much processing needs to be done.

These are the reasons many eat

Considerable amounts of meat.

But now we eat more and more.

More than we need and that’s for sure.

A major problem with meat is that

It often comes with too much fat.

But fat can add to the taste

So very few would then make haste

In eating meat that’s very lean

As most of us would not be keen!

A bigger problem that’s clearly seen

Is meat production isn’t green.

This is particularly true for beef

And that would be the general belief.

For chicken and pork as we know

The feed conversion would be low.

For milk and eggs lower still

And I’m confident that there will

Be technologies that will soon prove

That feed conversion can improve.

And if indeed this is so

It is very good to know

That the environmental mess

Would also be that much less.

At any rate we should make haste

In valorising animal waste

Through biogas and fertiliser.

This approach is so much wiser!

We should clearly understand

There are ways to use less land:

Vertical agriculture and hydroponics

Can prove to be useful tonics.

The water used is that much less

We can avoid more water stress.

By now I think you would have seen

That we can get much more protein

Without using more resources.

There could be several sources

If new technologies are made available

Animal protein could be more sustainable.

We could also eat much less meat

For those who think that’s not a treat

In innovation we should trust:

Impossible Burger, Perfect Day and Just.

These may not seem the real thing

But soon we will achieve the feat

Of cultured milk and cultured meat.

There are technologies in between

Such as single cell protein

That can be used for food or feed

With all of this we could succeed

In feeding all sustainably.

In the years to come we’ll see

Improvements in technology.

And all of us must make haste

In reducing all food waste.

Indeed there is a lot of charm

In reducing waste on the farm.

There is also much to gain

By stopping wastage in the chain.

And I think it would be great

If nothing’s wasted on the plate.

With surplus food we could succeed

In supplying all those in need.

Excessive sugar, fat and salt

Is a very widespread fault.

Through overeating much is lost

It is a very heavy cost.

Just ponder if we only gave

All the food that we could save.

Malnourishment would then end.

We could then set a better trend.

It’s good that we have this debate

But we can’t afford to wait.

Solutions we will surely find

If only we apply our mind.

But can we get our firms to budge

If we don’t give them a nudge?

Alas! The outcome won’t be great

Unless we try to collaborate.

But that’s not in our DNA

As competition is our way.

Collectively we should decide

It’s time a newer approach is tried.

Innovation will find a way

Innovation could save the day.

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