Innovation

Tag Archives

nanofarm

Small scale farming and Nanofarming improving

How are we going to feed ourselves in 2050, when the population of the world reaches 9.7 billion? How are we going to manage resources, when the majority of fresh water in the world goes to farming, and nearly half of farm produce ends up in landfills? Food waste of various types is the leading cause of methane gas production from landfills, which is contributing to climate change and impacting our access to fresh water. Across the world, being overweight (rich countries) and underweight (poor countries) is causing loss of life and human potential, and an enormous burden on health care systems. Will a kitchen still be used?

These strangely circular global problems can be broken down into these: unequal land and water resources; systems of agriculture that will require infrastructure development for storage and shipping of food in the developing world; systems of food shopping and eating behaviors in the developed world that perpetuates waste and obesity.  It might seem like a simple problem with simple solutions, to have half of the world ill from poor nutrition and vitamin deficiency, and half dying of diseases caused by obesity. Even stranger to have people going hungry while half the food we produce goes to waste. But these are problems of different systems, and changes in one system, while impactful, do not necessarily cause change across the board.

The challenges of agriculture, infrastructure development, storage and shipping of food, and nutrition in the developing world, are related systems that can be affected by resources, research, and hard work. In the developed world, resources, research, and hard work are also needed to affect change. But what is it that we need to change? Patterns of behavior, cultural standards, entitlement, habit? Are we all just spoiled brats who want what we want, and if it isn’t right, we throw it away in a snit? Will we have to face a global Armageddon on fresh strawberries and the decimation of the artisanal cheese industry before we start showing some care about our food?

We can leave the whole charged issue of spoiled brat/snit to the sociologists. The rest of us want to do better. We want to eat healthy food, and we want to eat ugly squash and tomatoes to save them from an afterlife in the landfill, covered with flies and making methane gas. We don’t want to throw away food, but we also don’t want to overeat, and after two weeks in the fridge, the Chinese food take out really needs to go. We would all probably eat less meat and more quinoa if we had a clue how to cook it, or what you were supposed to do with it in reference to a pot of chili. And we all want to support local organic farmers and reduce the carbon footprint of monoculture farms, but some mornings we just need to grab a muffin and go, and we don’t care how far that muffin had to travel to get into our hands.

These are guilt-laden conundrums, in which we take on responsibility for the fate of the planet as a direct consequence of how far our coffee beans were forced to travel. It’s no wonder that eating, tasting, growing, a simple cob of corn comes with a mantle of blame and quiet desperation before we even begin to douse it in butter and salt. It’s ridiculous, but it’s us.

But individual changes in behavior, while helpful, are not going to change a system that is unsuited for the current population growth v. resources issue as we understand it. At this time, most of us have kitchens in our homes or apartments. We shop for groceries in the grocery store, and take food home to cook for meals. We eat out in restaurants or fast food places a couple of times a week. In this system, farmers are going bankrupt, farm workers who pick produce are starving, fast food and restaurant workers are living below the poverty line, and grocery stores are showing huge profits. In addition, much of the food we buy is better travelled than we are. Those crazy jet-setting grapes, that arrive in the store after a long ocean voyage from South America!

Food waste happens in the current system in several places: at the farms, unattractive fresh fruits and veggies are not even picked–too expensive, and no market. At the grocery store, the nice-looking stuff goes fast, while the asymmetrical squash sits until it is past prime.  And when those lovely grapes are on sale, we take home a huge bag, and after several days of gorging on grapes, we let the rest of the bag sit until it starts to form raisins, even in the fridge, and we throw it away. There are several nonprofit groups who are developing systems to deal with food waste, including rescuing ugly produce and delivering it to food banks. While these groups are doing good work, they are not changing the system that is producing the problem. Continue reading

future

Imagine the Future: Then Crowdfund It

The world is changing so rapidly that much of the information we are given remains an abstraction. How many people is 9.5 billion? Oh, wait, now the number is 11 billion. This is the estimate of the world population in 2050. What does that mean, exactly? Probably a great deal, but the ideas are so abstract it is difficult to picture what it means. But for anyone considering starting a business today, or next year, consider that you will still be in business in 2050, and that number will matter a great deal to you and your business.

While it is hard to imagine 11 billion, or to form a picture of this number in our minds, we can form pictures of cities, and there is no question the people of the near-future will almost all live in cities. Cities we can picture. We have some experience with them; we all have ideas about their challenges and rewards. In thinking about your business, many people have a grand idea, and they work from the grand idea down to the details that will impact and influence how that idea is brought to life. It might be a good idea to think up from the grand idea, to place it firmly into the city of the future. This sort of thinking will require us to imagine the future- to imagine supply chains, transportation, methods of payment, energy use, and a number of other variables that could, from the beginning, impact how we will do businesses.

If there is one word to describe humans, it is variety. We all need socks, but when we think about socks, some of us will fantasize about the perfect long-lasting sock fiber, a mix of silk and nylon and maybe a touch of yak, or bison down; this person may be found standing in a field, studying a herd of bison and thinking about how to get some of that fiber. Another person, faced with the idea of socks, gets out the needles and silk and begins to knit a design of spiderweb delicacy and beauty. Another person imagines a drone, flying through the air, a pair of socks clutched in a mechanical claw. Another thinks of a way to use suit-buying behavior to design a sock subscription service that automatically matches socks needed to suits purchased, and even gives a yearly pair of athletic socks, though Sunday afternoons are most often spent taking naps rather than playing ball in the park. Another person designs a hybrid sock-shoe; another a sock with an exoskeleton for fitting prosthetic feet. Someone designs a 3-D knitting printer, with franchise capabilities, so people can walk down the street, stick their foot into a booth, and have a perfectly fitting sock knitted for them at once. One sock at a time, because only one gets that first hole in the toe, right? The only thing we can know without a doubt is that sock-people somewhere are thinking about socks. Imagining the future.

And when we imagine that unique idea, we need to find our tribe. There are a multitude of handspinners across the world who are experimenting with a precious supply of bison down at this very moment, plucked from barbed-wire fences in the American West, spinning and plying to make the magical fiber that will never wear out and will also smell fresh as a daisy when you take your shoes off after work. For these folks, socks means the fiber, and they can talk about and think about fiber, make samples and send test yarn to knitter friends, and some of them are going to figure it out and they will probably share the idea with everyone, though the sheer excitement of the moment. If one of those fiber folks finds her idea, and wants to develop that yarn, she is going to have a tribe ready to crowdfund the business.

Many of us tend to be magpies, and the ideas and challenges of the future-world give us so many ideas the inside of our heads looks like the sky, full of stars. To successfully imagine the future, and then crowdfund it, it helps to focus in and find your tribe. It is difficult to follow more than one dream at a time. Perhaps the biggest challenge for those who imagine the future is to narrow the field of vision down to the one small piece of it you are going to change. But if you can, you can crowdfund the future.

For more information about crowdfunding, please contact us.