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Using Technology to Fight Food Insecurity

2022 has been a year of recognition for Ryan Hamze of Western Governors University. The Wichita Business Journal recognized him with its 2022 Innovation Award and he was included in the Arab America Foundation's (AAF) annual 40 Under 40 list.

The AAF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote and celebrate Arab heritage and achievements, educate others about Arab identity and culture, and pursue connections with other cultural organizations across the nation.

The AAF publishes an annual list of notable Arab Americans under the age of 40 from a variety of fields to celebrate their accomplishments and bring awareness to the role they play in national life and business. 

For Ryan, these honors came largely as a result of his impressive pursuit of a technological response to food insecurity.

He launched Aabey LLC, a startup that bridges technology with hydroponics science to help grow food using water-based nutrient solutions and other materials such as sand and gravel. 

Hydroponic farms can sustain larger yields than more traditional methods because they allow plants and crops to grow vertically as well as horizontally, making better use of limited space. 

Many view hydroponics as a potential solution to food scarcity and insecurity. Ryan’s company creates innovative responses to help communities struggling with a high Global Hunger Index.

His company’s signature product is the Modular Hydroponic IoT Farm. Ryan’s startup is just one of his endeavors. He’s also a project manager for a global agriculture and construction vehicle manufacturer.

He earned a master’s degree in information technology management from WGU, plus several certifications in cybersecurity and leadership, including a Six Sigma Lean Green Belt certification and Certified Ethics Associate CEA-IT.

“Launching my startup and receiving this national recognition from the AAF took dozens of certificates, endless hours of research, and achieving a high degree of consistency in delivering creativity through my designs. As author Robert Heinlein wrote in Time Enough for Love, ‘Specialization is for insects.’”

Building an Innovative Company Instead of a Side Hustle

Having a side hustle has long been popular, and cheerleaders and detractors alike acknowledge the phenomenon. Many highly-motivated people from a variety of fields and backgrounds see value in pursuing something in addition to their day job. 

Ryan’s no different and his mission is a big one: to help end global food insecurity as a result of crises, conflict, and famine by marrying technology and agriculture. That’s a big goal, and it requires an equally sizable commitment. 

He credits the NSLS with giving him the tools necessary to create an innovative company instead of pursuing secondary employment or smaller projects. 

Many of the educational resources at the NSLS focus on the importance of developing an overarching vision, breaking that vision down into SMART goals, and working consistently to overcome any obstacles.

For Ryan, the key to success was staying focused on the mission and using his end goal to bring his overall vision to life.

“The NSLS helped me focus on the long-term goal, and helped me build a vision that guides my daily efforts.”

Ryan’s Advice for Future Leaders

Ryan’s dedication to solving real-world problems by pairing technology skills with leadership skills is reflected in the high-profile leaders he admires, including Elon Musk. 

He sees Musk as a person who creates global solutions to crises that otherwise may go unaddressed. Good leaders know how to inspire and motivate team members so they work together as a cohesive group in pursuit of the stated goal. 

“To me, leadership means expert conflict-resolution skills paralleled by sheer focus on the target. We don't manage products, we manage people.”

Ryan also wants future leaders to be aware of the importance of soft skills in developing leadership skills.

Attitude, communication, and other soft skills are essential for bolstering bankable leadership ability that attracts employment, career, and personal opportunities.

Ryan’s advice to future leaders consists of a simple reminder that leadership doesn't rely on hard skills. 

“Your attitude determines your leadership style.”

When you’re building a new company, it can become difficult to juggle competing priorities and obligations. That’s why learning time management skills is essential.