WE OFTEN THINK of crude oil and the oil industry when we hear of “Black Gold”. However, it may be time to shift our perspectives on what we value. Innovator, world changer, scientist and next-generation “Guardian of the Earth”, Joshua Forte is on a mission to ensure that “Every living person on this planet can easily access the most nutrient-dense foods available to improve their health and lives overall.” That’s no easy feat for a pioneering 27-year-old trying in one of the world’s oldest industries – Agriculture.
Global food production is a 5 trillion dollar industry, and agriculture involved in this process covers 50% of all habitable land worldwide (51 Mil km2). Of that, only 23% (11 Mil km2) is used for crop production. Still, these figures, reported by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), truly become astounding when it is noted that the world’s urban footprint (settlements and infrastructure) only covers 1% of habitable land.
With such an extraordinary landmass devoted to agriculture, it should be no surprise that farmers have made a substantial investment in developing tools that assist with the heavy weight of fulfilling the world’s food demands. However, the resulting impacts have yielded mixed levels of success.
For example, 21st Century farmers now require only 30% of the land needed 50 years ago to produce the same yield. This feat is partly possible due to the prolific use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides (which we’ll call “Chemical X”), with a hefty global price tag of $300 billion annually.
Of course, the cumulative effect of the widespread use of Chemical X has brought its challenges: among these are reduced soil quality, impacted water supplies, a massive reduction in beneficial soil micro-organisms and chemical traces sometimes left in the food we consume.
At home in Barbados, similar challenges exist as our agrochemical market is heavily dependent on synthetic imports. However, the tide is changing as the detrimental effects of these products on the environment and on our health continue to be documented. This is fueling the desire for healthier alternatives produced by organic farming and, more recently, by regenerative farming. It was a similar driver that initially propelled then-teenage Joshua Forte into the market some years ago.
At 19 years old, Joshua found himself in a fight with an unknown illness that severely sapped his energy and fogged his brain. His search for possible solutions led him to a lifestyle change that focused on expensive nutrient-dense foods from nutrient rich soils. The new diet worked, but the inability to easily access these foods on the local market, along with his passion for all things natural, set Joshua on a journey of discovery; this was the catalyst that birthed the innovative and award-winning company, Red Diamond Compost Inc.
Today, Joshua operates at the helm of Red Diamond Compost as a Sustainable Environmental Management practitioner, certified in Agricultural Policy, Food Security and Climate Change. There, he sees his role as a simple one: replace the existing synthetic imports with natural liquid fertilizers, bio-stimulants, and soil conditioners, producing them to scale using organic waste materials and composting – a first for the region.
Red Diamond Compost is a biotech social enterprise working to infuse new life and vitality into the soils and foods across the globe. They do this through the research, development, and commercialization of high quality clean and green agrochemical solutions for Environmental Management that are safe and sustainable for use in commercial and residential applications. Composting is an integral part of the process.
75% of all waste dumped in Caribbean landfills are organic materials … Some of this can be diverted from landfills and used in the production of premium, high-quality soil treatment and crop protection products
According to Red Diamond, “75% of all waste dumped in Caribbean landfills are organic materials (derived from plant or animal sources). Some of this can be diverted from landfills and used in the production of premium, high-quality soil treatment and crop protection products.” Their resulting portfolio includes natural, nutrient-rich products like Super Seaweed Premium Plant Bio-stimulant and Liquid Sunshine Organic Fertilizer. They are made primarily from organic waste materials and invasive plant species, namely – Sargassum Seaweed, Fish Offal and Thithonia Sunflower (an invasive plant species).
These natural solutions support fragile organisms responsible for building soil structure, storing organic soil carbon, cycling nutrients to plants, and protecting pollinating insects. The process involves a close look at the Soil Food Web to understand the local relationships between large and small organisms living on and below the soil surface.
This helps Red Diamond Compost to determine how the microorganisms assist in providing plant nutrients, protecting plants and building soil structure by aerating soil, increasing its nutrient retention, water-holding capacity and more.
This insight translates into solutions designed to support soil life and its diversity; rebuild soil structure; increase nutrient and water retention; improve overall soil health and significantly increase soil organic carbon. The net result is improvement in our environment overall and reduction of the required annual soil maintenance.
We’re building a reputation of integrity in product and service quality by crafting toxin-free solutions that enhance the quality of our food supply, are safe for the environment and protect our future.
At its base, many of the core elements of Red Diamond Compost fall under the umbrella of ‘Regenerative Agriculture’. Regenerative Agriculture is focused on agriculture holistically, not just on individual consumer health but on the health of the planet, emphasising the conservation of water, building the soil, sequestering carbon, and improving air quality, while minimising synthetic chemical use.
Regenerative Agriculture is 2021’s hottest food trend, expected to dwarf the “Organic” market, currently worth $165 billion (ReportLinker), in years to come. As a result, the international community is already responding to consumer desires: Nestle, the world’s largest food company, recently announced (September 2021) its intention to invest approximately $1.3 billion into regenerative agricultural practices on its farms over the next five years. There has also been a trickle of big names joining the movement over the past few years: Walmart, PepsiCo, Cargill and General Mills have committed 50 million, 7 million, 10 million and 1 million acres of their farmland, respectively, into pursuing regenerative agriculture along with, Unilever, Target and countless others who are also jumping onto the regenerative farming bandwagon with an eye towards implementation by 2030. Additionally, according to PwC’s June 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey, 50% of all global consumers surveyed indicated that they’ve become even more eco-friendly in their choice of products.
In just a few years, Red Diamond Compost has advanced in strides, advocating for ecosystem restoration and regenerative agriculture while working to increase the number of growers willing to adopt a new approach to working with nature. They also ensure that preventative measures are put in place to deal with the cause of diseases, pests, and poor soil fertility.
To this end, their rewards have been note-worthy, taking home a 2021 Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Innovation Award for Sustainable Development, Red Diamond Compost was “Awarded for their soil treatment solutions that improve organic solid waste management, food and nutrition security, and support climate adaptation and mitigation.”
As the company grows, their influence continues to expand. They now have plans to invest in education, embarking on a program to design and share educational content on the best organic and biologic practices using, e-books, online courses, workshops and regional campaigns such as “For The People”, an edutainment program currently in development.
Joshua’s vision is clear. “… for our future generations to have the best chance at creating a better, safer, cleaner future, we believe the state of the world’s food and nutrition security must be strong.” His efforts to create products that contribute to healthy soils, nutritious foods and thriving plant-life are highly valuable and worth pursuing, just as one might pursue gold.
On the other hand, referring to products as “Black Gold” when their exploring and drilling processes can disturb and damage land and marine ecosystems, shows what humanity has valued. We now pay the price for what we thought would make us prosper. Perhaps we need a paradigm shift; what could be more valuable than preserving the only planet we have to live on and the health of the people who live there?
For future generations to have the best chance at creating a better, safer, cleaner future, we believe the state of the world’s food and nutrition security must be strong.
Creating sustainable and climate-change conscious products and services is not just valuable, it is urgent. Perhaps nutrient rich soil is the new “Black Gold”? Maybe people, like Joshua and Red Diamond Compost, who extract value from organic waste materials and invasive flora are the future “miners” we need. If so, a “Golden opportunity” lies in creating products that support health and prosperity for all.
About The Author
Nicole Forde (MSc) is an award-winning entrepreneur and the founder of Caribbean Dreams Publishing. A dynamic, publishing & communications company, operating since 2013. She is a passionate content creator and has collaborated with the BYBT, BTMI, BTIC & BHTA on several content projects.