Essay by Daniel Miller

Daniel Miller won the 2020 $600 Diana Mossip Local Group Scholarship.

My goal is to improve global food systems. To that end, I’ve set a career goal to improve America’s food supply through the creation of a specialty food company. My company will create new produce markets for the edible parts of vegetables that are currently discarded in our supply chain, like carrot greens and sweet potato leaves. This will transform 3 to 6 million pounds of daily waste to 3 to 6 million pounds of highly nutritious vegetables.

There have been many pivotal steps that have gotten me to this point. I have chosen courses, volunteer opportunities, and jobs that allowed me to examine the global food system’s complexities from different perspectives. I have also ensured that I gain the required skills to run a business.

My passion to work in food systems was sparked as an undergraduate at USC. I spent a summer with The School for Field Studies to contribute to marine ecosystem research projects. I saw firsthand how implementing restorative fishing practices stimulated the local economy, improved the quality of seafood being sold, and helped restore a thriving marine ecosystem.

To start my career, I gained financial analysis experience at S&P Capital IQ. I then transitioned to an outside sales role at an education company to better understand the revenue generating side of businesses.

Outside work, I found activities to expand my exposure to the food industry. I participated in an education program that taught me about urban agriculture, and urban food chains. I volunteered with Food Forward to understand the volume of produce normally wasted. I volunteered with the Los Angeles CleanTech Incubator, performing due diligence on the food and agriculture sector and providing guidance on their investment strategy.

After a career move to XPRIZE, I managed one project focused on the creation of tablet-based education software for out of school children, and another on the creation of artificial intelligence technologies designed for a social good. Although not directly related to food, these projects equipped me to properly manage and excel at working on complex projects tackling large-scale, global issues.

After 6 years of work experience, I’ve bridged the gap between my personal passion and my career through the Sustainability Management MS program at Columbia University. The program combines business, environmental science, economics, finance, and public policy. I’ve learned skills to create a sustainable business, like incorporating sustainability frameworks into financial analyses, and conducting greenhouse gas accounting.

This upcoming semester, I am excited to take a course that teaches the history and roles of science, policies, politics, institutions and economics in advancing agriculture and food security. I also plan to work at Columbia’s Center for Sustainable Investment assisting a research project on incentives that support responsible investment in agriculture. This summer I plan to work on a farm on Long Island, NY to get first-hand farming experience. I know that if I am to succeed in food and agriculture, I will need to have truly lived the life of a farmer to empathize with them.

Because my path has jumped across disciplines, I have obtained a wholistic understanding of food systems. I welcome the challenges I will learn from as I continue to apply my skills towards this field, which is why I am confident I am along my path to success.

 

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