Symbiosis Centre for Zero Waste Agriculture
Power the World - Feed the People - Heal the Planet; An Outcome Driven Innovation Centre in Agriculture, Demonstrating Cascade Utilization
This image was created for my 2016 TEDxEastVan presentation, "Poop Soup and the Inevitable Global Movement". There is no such thing as "Waste" in the physical world. only resources being wasted.
This image was inspired by the excellent talk called "More Crop Per Drop" by Dr. Imad Saoud at TEDxBeirut in 2013. Smart, and funny, he has been an excellent example, providing guidance. We look forward to working with him as our collective ideas come of age.
This video was produced by the Metro Vancouver media team to be aired in the 2016 National Zero Waste Conference, demonstrating agriculture in action.
A great image from Mango materials about how they are fermenting methane to make clothing that is fully biodegradable. Mango spun out of a Stanford lab, and it was Criag Criddle that turned me on to Synthetic Biology in 2015 with his story about discovering, with colleagues, that PHB from fermenting methane can be a probiotic aiding feed conversion in shrimp!. Some GREAT 2013 history here. https://engineering.stanford.edu/magazine/article/how-methane-sourced-polymers-could-save-world
In the time of my career in food systems, many books have influenced. The Solution Revolution is a standout that has become central to our training people how to look at the opportunity/threat in front of us. The subtitle is "How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises are Teaming Up to Solve Societies Toughest Problems". Chapters 6 and 7 are tremendously useful!!
Lead Applicant Organization Name
Catalyst Agri-Innovations Society
Lead Applicant Organization Type
Small NGO (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.
The City of Abbotsford British Columbia * Point 3 Biotech Corp. - Synthetic Biology * Trident Processes Inc.- Liquid Solid Separation/Nutrient Harvesting * NISP Canada (Industrial Symbiosis) * Hallbar Consulting - Industry/government subject matter expert * PHIX Genomics * Bakerview EcoDairy - Education and Outreach Centre for advanced technology/animal agriculture interface * University of British Columbia - BioProducts Institute * Agriculture and Agri-foods Canada - addressing strategic priorities * Oranya Farms (poultry) * Trilean Pork * FREDSense * Kwantlen Polytechnic University * Seabreeze Farm (Dairy) * Irwin Macleran Enterprises * First American Scientific Corp * ECO-TEK Ecological Technologies Inc.* Progressive Planet Solutions INC.(Zeolite Innovation) * The Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C. * The Natural Gas Innovation Fund
Website of Legally Registered Entity
How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?
Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?
Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?
Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?
Abbotsford British Columbia Canada (375.55 square kilometres) The Fraser Valley Regional District covers 13,361.74 km²
What country is your selected Place located in?
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
It is my home, and the self proclaimed Agricultural Capital of Canada. Roughly 80% of the animal agriculture in this province happens in this small valley, and there is a terrible opportunity/threat from manure loading. Our natural gas utility has the best Renewable Natural Gas program on this continent, which will provide the revenue for technology development. We make RNG in a process that allows us to disassemble the manure into its building blocks. We then use the elements for new food and feed. I moved here in 2008 to launch this vision, and have been working for a decade to build the individual pieces that can now be connected for a full system solution.
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.
The physical location where the Centre will be built is at the bottom of the image. The education and outreach facility, the Bakerview EcoDairy is at the top left.
The link to the full report is included below.
Abbotsford is the third largest city in BC, and is called "The City in the Country". Our largest industry is agriculture. We are ethnically diverse, with a large Dutch and South Asian communities, and we all get along wonderfully! Dairy and poultry are our two largest Ag products. Farmland is the most expensive in Canada, and likely the world. It is also among the most productive. We are located in a coastal rainforest, and most of Abbotsford sits over the unconfined Sumas Aquifer. With the numbers of animals we have, and the small acres to spread on, the ground water is under serious pressure. Our total ag production has, I am told, the highest variety of any area in the world. We are about an hour from Vancouver, and 2 hours from Seattle.
Our location gives us two distinct advantages. We are able to leverage the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, (https://connectcascadia.com/) supporting and benefiting from the vibrant life sciences, data and AI communities of Seattle and Vancouver.
Rising another magnitude for impact, we can be lifted into the Pacific Coast Collaborative programs. (http://pacificcoastcollaborative.org/)
The Abbotsford Community Foundation has released the 2019 Abbotsford Vital Signs report that provides a deep look into who we are today.
The Symbiosis Centre will fill a gap on the Canadian Agriculture Innovation Landscape by creating a place for all stakeholders to convene in British Columbia. As a Benifits Corp, the Centre will deliver a long roster of tools to support the pathway to a future of abundance.
What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)
What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
With our 12+ years in the trenches together, more than a dozen projects built, and total valuation of component installs passing $15 million dollars, this is a ground floor opportunity.
The dominant challenge the world faces today when it comes to food is that we think about it in isolation, not in a contextualized manner. We analyse food, energy, water and health individually, without considering the dynamic interactions. We treat animals as a primary source of food, and many people and groups are strongly attached to the current way of doing things. We have arrived here over centuries of incremental advances, with farmers industrializing what they saw in nature, always tweaking the old ways. The impacts are documented in the UN FAO Water pollution from agriculture: a global review report (Summary attached below) https://www.unwater.org/water-pollution-from-agriculture-a-global-review/
We need a solutions revolution – a shift to Outcome Driven Innovation. Our vision and plan address Environment, Economics, Technology, and Policy. Our current practices of animal agriculture are fabulously wasteful, but the best bad examples are the best places to start, and based on the data, this is cows. A single dairy cow has the environmental impact of 30 people. It takes 15kg of feed to get 1kg of beef from a feedlot steer. 80% of animal agriculture in British Columbia happens in the Fraser Valley. Abbotsford is the largest municipality in the valley, and is an agri-food processing hotspot. It has massive concentrations of animals, which means massive concentrations of manure. Our farmland is among the most expensive anywhere in the world, and our labor costs are very high. $100,000 minimum per acre for land in the Fraser Valley means it is near impossible to make money from farming, but a lot of people need to eat. Abbotsford sits on an unconfined aquifer that flows into America, setting us up for future troubles, and our airshed is a funnel, framed by mountains. If we don’t develop system-based solutions for the Fraser Valley, no-one will be able to afford to farm on what is some of the best farmland in the world. With our proposed system we change the context, empowering people to make data-driven choices. By looking at food through the lens of health, we see that cheap food is in reality tragically expensive. We have worked at the nexus of food, energy, water for more than a decade, with a vision of zero waste agriculture. In 2008, with our first visioneering document, we used concepts that were alien to the established market. When we said that biogas plants needed multiple revenue streams, the concept of a biorefinery had not yet emerged. We still need to tackle deep entrenchments and cognitive bias, but by 2030 our shrinking planetary capacity to feed the people will drive more rapid change. Soil erosion, climate change, water scarcity, peak phosphorus, GHGs from fertilizer production and other harmful dynamics are all now in the public eye. Even if we eliminate the downstream food waste, the poor efficiency of our upstream practices are not sustainable. We are seeing some change, but it is incremental and linear.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
New systems must find ways to generate resources to fund development. Our Centre will create at least $7 million dollars a year for the next 20 years. Being a B-Corp, that is enough to empower every single one of the other submissions here in some way.
The industrial agricultural complex knows humans cannot continue to do things the way we are. Our vision is data-driven, using mission-focused tools and informatics at the nexus of food, energy, water and health. It applies deep analysis of the positive and negative externalities of the food systems to the agricultural realities of the Abbotsford area. It incorporates powerful tools such as The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB). (http://teebweb.org/agrifood/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/TEEBAgriFood_Synthesis_high.pdf) It switches from Idea Driven, to Outcome Driven Innovation. It understands where we are, sets aspirational moonshot goals, and builds a balanced scorecard to track all metrics. We are convinced, based on the data, that the future of food will not use animals anything like it does today. Our target is zero waste agriculture with total resource efficiency, following a path of the reliably possible, highest and best use. Our vision is not anchored in the past or the present, but in a future where there is abundant food for all. We started at the back-end of animal agriculture, with anaerobic digestion in 2010. We added nutrient harvesting in 2015 with our first installation. Our next step is the creation of an applied research facility where we will run head-to-head competitions in the quest for zero waste agriculture. We will load sensors throughout the Centre, and at every data-point we will be able to identify on partner farms - dairy, poultry and hog farmers who want to join us because they want to farm in a better way. We continue to surf the leading edge of agriculture, with a towline hooked to the rocketing advances in sensors, machine learning, life sciences and synthetic biology. Supported by a 20-year utility contract for the supply of renewable natural gas, and the sale of many co-products, we will be able to generate revenues to invest in emerging solutions. Our Symbiosis Centre, being outcome driven, will be able to embrace a new technology from the spark of an idea to technology readiness and full commercialization. By 2050, we anticipate being able to reverse the flow of our natural gas grid connections; our renewable natural gas tanks will become loop reactors, converting gasses to food and materials. Companies like Calysta are already doing this (http://calysta.com/feedkind/product/). The protein production of 3000 acres of corn could be replaced by a one cubic meter reactor. With the help of the Food System Vision Prize, we will lift the movements from local and linear, to global and exponential!
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.
The current trajectory indicates that there may soon be no animal agriculture in the Fraser Valley. Farmers are moving their operations to places that are less expensive and less confined, working on less productive land where food is grown further from their consumers. Animals may still have a place in our 2050 food systems, but ONLY if producers will embrace new systems to address the inherent inefficiencies. Disruption of these industries is inevitable, but with properly designed systems, we will minimize the tremendous wastefulness of chaos.
Our work delivers clean energy, food, water, soil and air. It allows small family farms to unite to reach economies of scale, and it helps chicken, dairy, and hog farms to cooperate, turning costs and threats into opportunities and new revenue streams. It gives crop/vegetable farmers get clean, safe, local organic fertilizer. We also provide building blocks for synthetic biology. You can see where we were in 2016 in my TEDx talk, Poop Soup and the Inevitable Global Movement. Using our systematic process we can guide today’s animal agricultural producers into high efficiency systems, offering an organized roadmap. As new solutions become reliable, we will use sensors/data to help farmers to move to the highest and best use, reducing many of the limitations that arise in animal husbandry. If animals are still used in food production, our system will take the residuals (manures) directly from the barn, and use anaerobic digestion to extract the residual energy as biogas. Other solutions will disassemble the organics to isolate the building blocks (water, NPK, etc), and synthetic biology will recombine methane and CO2 with water, nutrients and renewable energy in controlled reactors to produce new clean animal feed.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
This 2016 TEDxEastVan presentation was looking back on our past 10 years effort, and a glimpse of the future as we saw it at that point. Our focus was on a tiny aquatic grass called duckweed for the heavy lifting then. While we maintain our certainty regarding the power and importance of duckweed (the Dutch call it "Water Lentil"), we discovered Synthetic Biology later that year. We need to include all possible tools, listening to nature, and following the science!
This talk was presented in 2011, and was a strong influence for my first TEDx talk. Jason explores why food production is the most important conservation issue in the 21st century, where we stand today and with 'business as usual' projections for 2050, and what the nine food wedges are that would allow us to produce enough food for all, but still have a planet.
Jason Clay is Senior Vice President of Market Transformation at WWF-US, and runs the Markets Institute.
More crop per drop: Imad Saoud at TEDxBeirut 2013. Aquatic Scientist / Aquaculturist Imad Saoud uses salty water (sea and ocean) to produce more food, mainly protein, to feed the growing number of people on the planet. This is an excellent vision for food systems, presented quite early, at the beginning of the global mind shift to food systems. A 12 minute watch.
The 2018 TEDxChilliwack presentation that looked to the future. The message of this is, when we fix food security, IF we do it right, we fix healthcare, the environment, and the economy together. We are now convinced that microbial conversions will provide the base to take the pressure off of nature. Food production with no environmental impact. Backing off the pressure on the Earth to perform, will give her a chance to heal!
Presented in 2012 as a vision for urban centres with extreme sustainability built in. It is a fantastic visualization of what cities might look and perform like. In our vision we will be delivering perishible food in interwoven solutions like this, supported by agri-industrial regional hubs where the "dirty" work is done. (converting bulk residuals such as manure)
RethinkX predicts "By 2030, the US dairy and cattle industry will have collapsed,’ as microbial protein factories take over". (report below) We're not sure, and we will hedge the bets for everyone through true cost accounting. Systems are the answer, and we need to use ALL tools - Data driven, Mission focused!
We envision a Circular BioEconomy and abundance for all. Our vision was born in 2008, but the local agricultural community was not ready; we have had to wait for greater awareness of the climate crisis and water pollution to turn farmers’ minds in a deeply entrenched, conservative industry. In 2050, our Symbiosis Centre for Zero Waste Agriculture is fully established, with hundreds of copies around the world. Three additional Synthetic Biology centres are co-located: The Centre for Food Abundance The Centre for Microbial Mining (Biochemicals) The Centre for BioMaterials Science. The centres cooperate in informatics at the nexus of food, energy, water and health. Any remaining dairy, poultry and hog farms will send their manures through pipelines for processing. Abbotsford continues to be the food production heart of British Columbia, but no longer polluting the air, soil and waters. In the Symbiosis Centre, many subsystems are co-located for demonstration at scale with head-to-head analysis comparing the old practices. Through true cost accounting and leveraged developments in life sciences and sensors, we are helping to secure the future of food, with many healthcare, economic and environmental co-benefits. We are providing a sustainable supply chain in which problematic waste streams such as municipal waste water treatment sludge are disassembled into clean nutrients and elements. Biogas is separated into methane and CO2, and both gasses are converted by microbes into clean, healthy feed or food.
Symbiosis Centre has been designed to provide a hub for Ag innovation. There are many stakeholders in this theater, and by allowing individual actors, that address specific aspects of food systems to join core projects, we exponentially multiply the impact. A strong example of this is our partner PHIX Genomics.
PHIX Genomics uses state-of-the-art genomics, bioinformatics and digital imaging technologies to generate the highest resolution, and most comprehensive diagnostic reporting. They empower healthcare professionals to accurately diagnose and treat disease, anticipate and stop disease, and guide safer therapeutic approaches. We seek the same in food systems. Jeffrey Seitz is the founder of PHIX GENOMICS, and Vice President of D-MARK Biosciences, Canada’s premier provider of advanced solutions for genomics and molecular biology. As this technology continues to evolve, and the costs come down, more and more applications will open. As we move deeper and deeper into the microcosmos, solutions like this will insure we are safely and efficiently guided.
The long reach of our vision includes containerized food/energy/water systems, using common sea cans, designed for rapid deployment, and easy distribution. They underpin sanitation, water and nutrition for distributed family cluster or village-sized groups; miniaturized examples of the regional facilities. All of these will be linked as living labs to insure advances are shared in real time. These will be able to produce perishables with zero food miles. This component allows us to decentralize, democratize and demonetize a substantial portion of food systems around the world.
As mentioned in "Address the Challenge" above, we are betting big on gas fermentation (Synthetic Biology) because, through the lens of efficiency, it crushes the competition. We have selected the location for the Symbiosis Centre based on the large natural gas transmission line, which serves the nearly 3 million people in the BC Lower Mainland, passing directly through it. As part of our development plan, we have already began exploring the idea of using a high temperature fuel cell, eating pipeline natural gas, connected to a hydrogen reformer, such as the one from our local associate Quadrogen Power Systems. This will allow us to feed clean green electricity to a local microgrid, and use the heat and deionized water for land based fish farms and greenhouse operations. Microbial conversion processes will be used to turn the hydrogen and CO2 into new foods, chemicals and biomaterials, such as is done by Calysta (protein), Cemvita Factory (glucose) and Mango Materials (fully biodegradable biopolyester fibers) . With all of this, truly, Abundance is our future.
There is a great deal of talk about "regenerative agriculture" today. In our plan, we take the pressure off the earth by moving to closed containment food production, then step back, watch, smell and listen to what nature is telling us. Humans have a poor track record when it comes to active efforts to fix what we damaged in the environment. In our vision, we let science and nature tell us what is healthy for all, and we give the earth some bed rest...
Power the World - Feed the People - Heal the Planet!
How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?