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Creating sustainability in food industry

March 14, 2019
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ANN ARBOR – Creating sustainable change in the food industry has been Nadia Putri’s goal since she was a teenager. Growing up in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, she became keenly aware of how socioeconomic status and population density shape nutrition.

“Both ends of the spectrum suffer,” Putri said. “The wealthy in Jakarta have high rates of obesity, while rural or impoverished areas have high rates of malnutrition.”

This MBA student had a very specific vision for her summer internship. She wanted to use her undergraduate degree in food science and work for a company with a strong social mission.

“I reached out to companies in Indonesia with that goal in mind,” said Putri, who received funding from the William Davidson Institute and the Ross Center for Social Impact. She zoomed in for East Bali Cashews, which is located in Bali, Indonesia. Putri said cashews are a staple food commodity in the island, but crop yield has been poor in recent years.

“The Bali government distributed cashew seeds to farmers in the 60s after a volcanic explosion disrupted the soil conditions,” Putri explained. “Cashews grow very well without much water, so it seemed like a good solution at the time.”

Cashew became a staple for the local community but its productivity lasts between 20-30 years. East Bali Cashews is working with communities to revamp the cashew industry by uprooting old trees and distributing new seeds.

For Putri, her favorite part of the internship was implementing a training program for recently-promoted managers and supervisors where she helped them build confidence and strategic skills.
“Many of these people are from remote areas and not accustomed to formal meetings and pitching ideas,” she said.

Putri hopes to work with nutrition by starting her own social enterprise. “Pursuing my education at U-M has given me a different perspective. It feels good to be a fresh set of eyes for an organization,” she said.

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