July 3, 2024

Rucha Phadke: My journey from being an architect to becoming an ACT For Environment Fellow

I’m Rucha, and I recently completed the ACT Fellowship program as an ACT For Environment Fellow. My journey to learn more about sustainable food systems is what led me to this program and has been anything but typical! After six years as an architect and a regenerative landscape designer, my perspectives shifted by almost 360° when I joined ACT. Suddenly, I had to zoom out to look at climate challenges on a national scale and think BIG!

At ACT, I had to shift from focusing on the intricate details required for program/project design and implementation to viewing climate-resilient agriculture at a macro level and the journey was equal parts a rollercoaster ride and equal parts rewarding. Contributing towards reimagining ACT For Environment’s investment thesis within the agriculture domain was crucial in this journey because up until last year, the investment focus had broadly been on land rejuvenation, water security, waste management, energy transition and air quality. When the 2nd cohort of Fellows came on board, the two of us tagged to the environment vertical realized that we’d soon be working on realigning this thesis to the larger northstar of decarbonisation – with agriculture and food systems being one of the key focus areas within the framework.

And I took on the challenge! Before scouting the solutions landscape to ensure the thesis was relevant to an Indian context, I knew of limited solutions in the agriculture and food sector. Upon extensively exploring the ecosystem, I was exposed to many different kinds of innovative solutions – I had the opportunity to speak with founders, policymakers, investors, and other stakeholders to understand the challenges within the sector, identify their roles, and contributions, and figure out where ACT’s capital could be truly catalytic. These conversations just reinforced in my mind the need for collaboration in the development sector, where multiple stakeholders worked together to solve complex problems.

This process also allowed me to pursue my passion for food systems while leveraging my on-ground knowledge from working with NGOs. I realized how complex fixing Indian food systems is compared to other climate tech interventional areas. It requires balancing climate impact, food security, groundwater recharge, biodiversity, and farmer incomes. Developing an investment thesis helps in prioritizing problems and making informed decisions. Knowing that this thesis will guide ACT’s investments towards ‘fixing’ the Indian food systems in the next couple of years was incredibly fulfilling!

Overall, my journey from architecture to tackling food systems at ACT has been quite transformative. It was like going from sculpting a masterpiece to managing an entire art gallery—both require meticulous attention to detail, but one also needs to see the grander vision to succeed!

Applications for the 2024-25 cohort of the ACT Fellowship are now open! Click here to apply before the deadline of 13th August, 2024.

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