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Climate Streaming: Growing tasty, nutritious, diverse food easily and at low costs

Make indoor vertical farming accessible by streaming climate datasets to remote farms, thus eliminating climate R&D and offer greater choice

Photo of Suvrajit Saha
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

klimazone Labs

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

SmartCloudFarming GmbH

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.klimazone.io www.smartcloudfarming.com

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Berlin

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Germany

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Our selected place is the region of Tuscany in Italy having an area of approx. 23,000 km^2.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Italy

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Tuscany is well known for great weather and also having fertile lands for farming. Vineyards and olive plantations dot the landscape and is a defining characteristic of this region. This is the reason why we decided to focus on this region, as such regions are more threatened by climate change: existing economies face collapse and that affects people and with them also the culture associated with such places.

This makes it a great place to develop and test our vision and show the local populace how they stand to benefit from it. We expect indifference or even resistance to start with, however, we believe this would only help us adapt our offering to people's needs. It would help us understand the job to be done only better.

Michele Bandecchi, co-founder at klimazone Labs, comes from this region. He not only has his roots there, but has a deep understanding of the people and the place. With plenty of open space available and also young people, this makes Tuscany a living laboratory for such a vision.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Tuscany, in the north-west of Italy has a population of approx. 3.8 million. Its capital is the famous city of Florence. It is the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and is rich in culture, landscapes, and cuisine. The famous Chianti wine come from this region and its people are very proud of their heritage and culture. The famous Medici family has its origins in Tuscany. With important cities such as Florence, Pisa, Siena in Tuscany, it is the most visited region in Italy after Rome and Venice.

Tuscany's climate is fairly mild in the coastal areas, and somewhat harsher and rainy as one moves away from the coast. Temperature fluctuations between winter and summer can be considerable. This gives the region a soil-building active freeze-thaw cycle. In fact, this region used to be the bread-basket of ancient Rome. (Wikipedia)

Tuscany has an undulating landscape with rolling hills and numerous valleys. It has a fairly rich subsoil rich in mineral resources. Agriculture still contributes substantially to the region's economy though its share has been falling. Among other crops, cereals, potatoes, olives, and grapes are grown. The swamp lands are now used for farming where vegetables, rice, tobacco, beets, and sunflowers are grown.

People in Tuscany place great value on good food. Like in the rest of Italy, the cuisine is marked by its simplicity and a lot of fresh produce, cured and fresh meats, pasta, and baked delights such as cavallucci, ricciarelli, cantuccini are eaten.

Oranges from Tuscany have a special taste and that led a team of Dutch researchers from Wageningen to carry orange trees from Tuscany to Netherlands for research.

While the region is industrially pretty strong - dominant industries are mining, textiles, chemicals - unemployment is high too varying between 7-10% in the past five years. Young people are the most visible victims of this as they lack options, opportunities, and perspectives. People are also tired of political fights, lack of economic and political reforms and a constantly downward economy. This has led to the growth of right-wing politics that exploit people's insecurities and manipulate them. 

People, especially young people, feel they have no outlet for their voices and opinions. While they wish to start families, the poor economy and the lack of money prevents them from doing to and they are forced to migrate to neighbouring countries. People, both young and old, want their region to prosper and offer future generations perspectives. Sustainability is especially important to younger generations as they realise the perils of environmental damage to their lives.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

80

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

5000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Environment: Current environmental challenges are primarily phases of drought, short or too long and severe summers that damage crops. Even unseasonal cold weather is a challenge as that damages olives and grapes. Especially for olives, the bigger challenge is that of fungal infections that are decimating plantations and making them unfit for farming.

Future challenges would centre not just around extreme climates, but more so around soil. Soils are rapidly losing their fertility and the over-use of fertilisers is making this only worse. This would make the region unfit for agriculture and current cash crops would not be produced in quantities as today.  

Diets: People in this region have a diet centring around meat. Although legumes and vegetables are eaten, they comprise a small percentage of people's diets thus resulting in a diet that is unbalanced and often favourable for cancer (consumption of too much red meat). Besides, there are just a few varieties of grains and vegetables dominating diets. This is bad for our guts. With an increasing number of people eschewing an over-consumption of red meats, more vegetables and legumes would need to be produced. Also, recent trends show people favouring multiple varieties over a few (1-2) dominant varieties. This would need to be factored in when considering future diets and how to supply food for such.

Economics: With respect to agriculture, the current system benefits primarily plantation owners with farm workers being left out. Also, exploitation of farm workers is not uncommon. The future challenge would be finding farm workers in sufficient numbers and also providing them sufficient wages, as plantation owners themselves would be facing economic challenges themselves.

Culture: The region's strong culinary culture, though not particularly threatened currently, does stand to erode if its agriculture is affected in the coming decades and there is continued economic decline. This would lead to younger people migrating and an overall population decline, which would erase and not just erode the region's culinary culture.

Technology: The current challenge on the technology front is that of farmers and growers being unable to figure out what is best for them and how best they can use it. Precision agriculture is highly fragmented and farmers' willingness to pay for services is very low. In the future, when technology services and products would be core to farming, the challenge would be something very similar, yet different: how to make technology accessible and from an economic perspective sensible to deploy.

Policy: Agricultural policy in Europe is currently decided by the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). At a regional level there is yet little room to experiment. However, starting 2021 when member states would have greater autonomy in such matters, the challenge would be 1. to navigate through the numerous options and orient oneself quickly 2. formulate and implement a policy that is future ready for the next few decades and not just the coming few years.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Environment: Our controlled environment farming with extremely low resource consumption would make it possible insulate farming from the negative effects of climate change. Moreover, we would be reducing the use of fertilisers and plant nutrients substantially through targeted dosages. This would also help regenerate soils and not pollute groundwater.

Diets: A controlled environment farming would allow a greater diversity of nutritious crops and food to be grown. Even long-lost varieties or rare varieties of food crops can be grown relatively easily as compared to conventional farming. This would lead to a diversified diet of the populace and would better balance the current meat-heavy diet. Moreover, because of easy and direct access to nutritious crops, the health of both young and old people would stand to gain.

Economics: Economics is a strong focal point of our vision. Our vision is to enable individuals or collectives start their own indoor vertical farming initiatives without having to invest at all in climate R&D and thereby reduce their risks enormously. With people being able to setup their own farming businesses that would also guarantee quality output, they stand to profit economically and improve their lives. Our service would allow them to target different customer segments (industrial, private) and different geographical markets.

Culture: By making it possible to grow long-lost varieties and even rare varieties of food crops, we would be directly enhancing the culinary culture of the region. Besides, with younger people being offered an economic perspective that also has a good social standing, the community in the region too would grow and prosper thus ensuring that its culture is not threatened by negative demographic development.

Technology: Our climate streaming service would offer specialised knowledge in a distilled format that is easy to use. Think of it as a Spotify for indoor climates where a grower selects the plants they want to grow and the climate dataset is provided to the farm for the growing period. This would make a very complex technology accessible to farmers from which they profit directly. This would therefore make them receptive to the offering.

Policy: With agricultural policy expected to focus strongly on sustainability, we are well-placed to address socio-economic and socio-cultural issues that are directly affected by agriculture. Besides, because of a controlled environment system in which food is grown, we would also be addressing food security and nutritional policy matters convincingly.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Currently, people are working in traditional industries of the region that provide them with a sense of faux-security. This is because of a general decline of the economy in Italy, something that threatens jobs of many people. Younger people are forced to take low-paying jobs or move to other cities or countries for the lack of better options.

Our climate streaming service for controlled environment farming would enable people to start their own farms and produce high-quality, high-value crops that would help the lead prosperous lives. The lives of people would be financially more secure and there would be greater certainty in the planning aspects of life.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The way we do agriculture nowadays is not just environmentally unsustainable, it is economically unattractive. This has multiple consequences: degradation of soil and groundwater, decline in the number of farmers, reduced varieties of food crops and plants. All these threaten our ecology and the food security of our global and local societies even beyond 2050.

This is the motivation behind the development of our vision: how can we redesign and redo agriculture, so that it is environmentally sustainable and economically attractive as a profession? We figured out that conventional agriculture is not the answer. We need to meet similar or even more ambitious goals using a different approach.

Controlled environment agriculture or indoor vertical farming offers a convincing solution. At least in theory. The problem here is that of very high barriers to entry: specialised knowledge and access to large amounts of money for R&D, especially for climate design for plants that are to be grown.

Our vision is to combine the technological solution with a core social component, so that people can profit from a technological advancement. We want to achieve this by coding the growing conditions for plants in a digital dataset - a climate dataset. This dataset would control farm equipment and recreate the growth-stage-specific climate for the chosen plant. The benefits for the grower: zero investment in specialised knowhow and technical development; zero commercial risks thanks to tested climate datasets.

This would not just make a growing sector (vertical farming) accessible to a greater number of people, it would also offer them greater choice about what to grow. This would make growing low-yield, rare varieties of crops and plants economically feasible and result in greater foodcrop diversity. Something we do not have currently.

Our vision is to offer individual entrepreneurs access to capital to start their physical farms and our expertise free of cost to commission their farm businesses. We then provide them 1. climate data to grow their crops 2. connect businesses with them where necessary 3. provide them market insights so they know what to grow and where to sell. This would help the benefits of a technology percolate to a low level and help improve lives of people in not just in Tuscany, but later on in many other regions too.

Especially young people would be offered a viable perspective that is both economically attractive and socially modern, thanks to its technology component. In the long run we intend to enable farms to communicate with each other, so that capacities can be optimally utilised. This would lead to new levels of cooperation between growers and foster greater levels of trust and cooperation at a societal level.

Our vision is to make impact how we do agriculture in the future and make it an attractive professional option for younger people and in turn help people and societies rebuild themselves in a future-secure manner. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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Photo of Constanza Castano
Team

Hi, Suvrajit Saha ! Welcome to the Food System Vision Prize Community!

Thank you for sharing this 2050 Vision for Tuscany. Please make sure you have reviewed your final submission through the Pocket Guide to support you through the final hours of wrapping up your submission. This will give you the most important bullet points to keep in mind to successfully submit your Vision.

Here is the link to the pocket guide: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1o8WGMus6-V8GywWdlNwmCpk7I1fMVzcQ/view

All the very best for the Prize!

Warm regards,

Constanza