A visionary and all-around great guy who has quietly been revolutionizing our food system for decades.
“Tokya is an organic Jedi that has been involved in the business for almost 25 years. We both worked in cocoa and banana supply project in Costa Rica for Stonyfield with the support of the Ecosystem fund.”
Early Years and SymBio
In the early 1990’s, Tokya Dammond, an environmental sociologist, foresaw the future plight of the agricultural industry. He quit his job on Wall Street, where he worked alongside Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, to invest everything he had into organic agriculture. Organic was an extremely niche market at the time. Tokya, motivated to find solutions to food security for an exploding global population amid the dire risk of biodiversity loss and climate change, chose Poland, a then-emerging market, to begin developing organic food supply chains.
After 50-years of communist occupation, Poland seemed to be sealed in a pre-WWII time capsule. There were hundreds of thousands of small family farms that still used traditional farming practices. Now, the free market was knocking on their doors, selling pesticides and fertilizers and promising poor farmers the yields that the rest of the world had been enjoying.
Tokya taught himself some rudimentary Polish and he was able to offer Polish farmers the option to remain on their farms, earn a good living and maintain their traditional way of life without the chemicals Dow was trying to sell them. Poles who are notoriously suspicious of foreign intervention, somehow trusted Tokya despite the fact that, for them, Tokya seemed to have arrived from the future. At a time when few Americans had visited Poland, Tokya drove his Toyota Corolla – that had been shipped over still bearing its New York license plates – all over the countryside to visit farms. Tokya was the only person to be seen working in cafes on a laptop. He found ways to connect to the Internet in its infancy in order to forge communication pathways to supply agriculture extension services to farmers. And he delivered on his promises. At a time that inflation was catastrophically high, Tokya was able to provide livelihoods to Polish family farmers while building on their traditional agricultural practices through his company, SymBio.
“Leaving little to chance, SymBio locks in supplies via contracts with farmers and provides fertilizer and seeds, training and round-the-clock technical support. It also helps farmers to attain EU and Polish organic certification and in some cases provides shared processing equipment – doing everything, in short, except growing the product.” – By John Reed, Financial Times
Supported by the Environmental Fund, these organic farms and a new generation of farmers are thriving. Through SymBio, Tokya was able to convert over 25,000 acres to organically farmed land. This created a model for many others to follow. Tokya has worked on many global supply chain projects since. Now, almost thirty years later, he is gearing up to do it again with regenerative agriculture, but this time with the technological power he didn’t have then. Tokya and his team are currently developing a supply chain builder unlike anything the food industry has ever seen to advance efficiency, agility and traceability of supply. With these tools in play, Tokya is confident we will achieve our regenerative goals by 2050 that mitigate climate change while securing global food supply.
“Tokya is a deliberate, dedicated catalyst for positive change on a global scale. I’ve had the good fortune to work with him on several projects over the last decade and remain impressed at his visionary thinking and dedication to action that makes a real, tangible difference, from Symbio’s work in organic agriculture to combatting climate change through CDI.”
Co-founding the CarbonDrawn Initiative
Tokya is joined in this effort by his life partner, Maya van der Meer, who’s technical and story-telling abilities are a perfect complement to Tokya’s entrepreneurial gifts. Together, they founded The CarbonDrawn Initiative (CDI) on January 1st, 2020. Since then, Tokya and Maya have established the foundation for CDI by launching the beta phase of a virtual network to support the mission, where stakeholders collaborate around regenerative supply chain projects. Tokya and Maya are currently raising their children in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York’s Hudson Valley.
G8 Climate Change Summit Paper
A Ground Up Perspective
by Tokya Dammond, President, SymBio Impex Corp.
Prior to the first Green Revolution, which began modernizing agriculture six decades ago, food production was close to carbon neutral because it was based on the recycling of agricultural waste and the use of solar energy for nitrogen sequestering. Today, food production in many developed countries consumes more fossil fuels than all other sectors except for transportation. In fact, the food production industry as a whole is the leading single contributor to greenhouse gases. The development of approaches to reduce our carbon footprint should thus include strategies to alter the ways we produce food to accommodate the growing global population.
Thanks to the Green Revolution and the growth of the industrial and service sectors, families in wealthier countries spend a smaller proportion of their household income on food than they did before 1945. The caloric output of the world agricultural sector is way up. Modern agricultural productivity is feeding a rapidly growing global population. On its face, this looks like quite an accomplishment.
Modern agriculture does produce a lot of food calories. Indeed, in many sectors, it overproduces. Whether this overproduction is a net good, however, depends on what is being measured.