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Treasure8: Igniting A Resource Revolution For A Sustainable and Equitable Food System

Our vision is a regenerative food-system in which people have equal access to quality nutrition and opportunities.

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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Treasure8 LLC

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.

Our ecosystem of partnerships will be comprised of local stakeholders who touch or rely on our value chain from farm to table. This includes local businesses, NGOs, policymakers and government entities. We are currently in the outreach process, with a few identified already: Treasure8: Provider of systems designs, novel dehydration, and agricultural inputs technologies Hemp8 - Provider of hemp dehydration and post-extraction, waste-stream valorization BGL - Community member, connector, hemp processing, and technology partner

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.treasure8.com

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

  • 3-10 years

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

Headquarters are in San Francisco.

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

The United States of America.

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

Wisconsin Rapids and Port Edwards, both in Wood County, Wisconsin, USA. City area 14.67 square miles (38.00 km2).

What country is your selected Place located in?

The United States of America.

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We chose Wisconsin Rapids for two main reasons. First, because its largely agricultural economy with a microcosm of social, environmental and economic challenges related to the commoditization and often destructive policies, regulations, and practices in the (US) agriculture/food system. At the same time, its history in agricultural innovation provides us with an opportunity to pilot transformational practices with new value-added solutions. 

Wisconsin Rapids is a wellspring of food and agricultural innovation, but in recent years has been deeply impacted by several factors that have transformed a proud state that had more dairy farms than any other, to one that lost 1,654 farms in the last three years alone. From being “America’s Dairyland” to leading the nation in farm bankruptcies and rising suicide rates to the loss of small family farms to giant megalithic factory farms.  The factors for these shifts are trends away from animal products, Trump’s trade wars, climate change issues, and others, including the shuttering of many manufacturing plants, such as the Port Edwards paper mill in 2008. Wisconsin historically was the 2nd largest producer of hemp in the US and operated 70% of the nation’s hemp mills.  The local and state governments are interested and aligned to help revitalize the state’s hemp industry.

Secondly, it is a home and workplace for our extended Treasure8 team. Recently, Treasure8 acquired a Wisconsin Rapids-based company with a unique portfolio of drying technologies and patents. Through years of research and innovation, our team in Wisconsin Rapids has earned global recognition for technological advancements in food dehydration and science that have improved food manufacturing practices, increased distribution efficiency, and raised safety and nutritional standards worldwide. This team has more than 30 years of experience in drying food and designing and implementing dehydration and extraction equipment.

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.

Wisconsin Rapids is a town in Wisconsin with a population of 17,696. Wisconsin Rapids is in Wood County. This county is more rural than the state overall: 37% live in rural areas and 63% in cities like Wisconsin Rapids. The majority of the population is white (not Hispanic or Latino) - 93 percent. It’s also a home for The Ho-Chunk Nation, the “People of the Big Voice” and other tribes including the Ojibwe, and Menominee Nations. Much of the land was taken through federal government treaties. Agriculture is connected to Wisconsin Rapid’s culture and heritage. Barns, cows, fields, and silos paint the scene that so many define as Wisconsin’s rural character. Farm families include some of the earliest settlers of many areas and provide a sense of continuity to the people that call Wisconsin home. Agriculture has many considerations relative to the natural environment, both positive and negative. Farms provide green space, wildlife habitat, enhanced groundwater recharge, and nutrient recycling. Farms can also be sources of soil erosion, polluted runoff, odors, and damage to riparian areas. Agriculture is connected to other land uses. The distance from farm-related services, markets for farm commodities, processing industries, and other critical land uses can determine the long-term success of an agricultural area. Agriculture not only produces food and fiber but is also linked to many other components of the economy. Agriculture supports equipment and implements manufacturers and dealers, the vegetable and meat processing industries, the construction trade, trucking, veterinary services, genetic research, and many others. Many growers in the area have excess crops after they meet their production contracts, so they walk by the field rather than harvest and in some cases, it may not be financially worthwhile to harvest everything that was planted - imperfect color or oddly shaped produce that grocery stores would turn away. There’s also an excessive amount of produce left on the fields that never reaches the supply chain (gluts). At the same time, 11% of the population is dealing with food insecurities.

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

38

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

18030

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

Soil depletion is a critical challenge. Commodity crops like corn have depleted the soil over centuries, with a focus on yield and volume going at the expense of regeneration and quality. Additionally, much of the residual value of agricultural output is not captured and is wasted, contributing to ~30% of greenhouse gas emissions. Recent studies by Santa Clara University suggests farm-level food waste could actually be even worse than previously thought. 

Many critical food components and nutrients are significantly under-represented in the American diet and Wisconsin is no exception. Obesity and diabetes are high and on the rise due to diets rich in starches, fats, and sugars. Meanwhile, proteins, fibers, omega3’s and other nutrients that are critical to the human microbiome are under-consumed. Obesity is highest among the lowest income populations and is common in Wood County (43 percent in 2014 according to Body Mass Index (BMI).

In 2015, 11.3 percent of the population was living in poverty in Wood County, compared to 8.0 percent in 2006. The percent of children in poverty in 2015 was 14%. Hunger and homelessness are pervasive issues, but fighting poverty becomes even more crucial when children are involved. Statewide, more than 18,500 students are homeless. 14.6% of the population struggled to cover food expenses during one or more months of the past year. Since the recession, hunger is still a significant issue based on the number of requests for food assistance seen at local food pantries. In both Wood County and Wisconsin, more than 10 percent of the population was food insecure in 2014 (11.2 percent and 11.9 percent respectively).

An even greater percentage of children were food insecure that same year (20.1 percent in Wood County and 19.1 percent in Wisconsin).  In 2014, there were 3,320 food-insecure children. Area schools and organizations report an increase in youth with limited or no access to food outside of school, which is leading to new school-based food pantries and weekend food backpack programs. With the anticipated increase in the senior population growth over the next 10-20 years, this community needs to continue discussions around reducing hunger amongst the youth and aging populations.

When it comes to farming and food processing, much of the current technology-base is aging. The industry at large is ready for an overhaul but given the massive stakes, there is a reluctance to adopt transformational technology in the absence of proven cost benefits and scalability.

There is a robust and concentrated collaborative effort underway with multiple stakeholders (investors, policymakers, farmers, processors, etc) to reactivate hemp as a major crop in Wisconsin.

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

With the strong growth of the hemp market in the US, many farmers see an opportunity to grow higher value crops such as hemp. However, hemp processing and valorization (pulling out valuable parts of waste streams: such as nutraceuticals, flavors, etc) capacity as lagged significantly behind crop size. This leaves money on the table and creates significant economic and environmental waste challenges. With Treasure8’s and HEMP8’s drying and processing technology, we aim to fill this gap, but our vision and goals go well beyond that. By systemically and regeneratively addressing the entire value chain of the emerging Wisconsin hemp industry in its epicenter of Port Edward, we aim to improve farmer’s livelihoods, improve soil health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, make nutrition affordable and available, and inspire next-generations to a career in regenerative farming. There are legacy infrastructures like empty paper mills that are currently being partially  repurposed for hemp drying and processing. 

In those efforts, undereducated and/or underemployed community members can be trained and taught new skills, hemp biomass can be upcycled to protein, fibers, cellulose (for bioplastics), nutraceuticals, biofuels, and biochar, just to name a few. This, in turn, will help to improve anything from nutrition, to soil health, to air quality to bioplastics, and establish hemp as America’s most sustainable and versatile ‘comeback’ crop that ignited the return to regenerative farming practices, including the use of our self-created biofuel to power the processing equipment and more, and microbial-enriched biochar to improve soil health and grow even better quality hemp for the next season.

Through Treasure8’s recent company acquisition in Wisconsin Rapids and its partnership with local advanced hemp processor, thinkers and technologies, we aim to help them accelerate the transition into higher-value crop production, followed by novel and energy and environmentally responsible dehydration and processing techniques, (including  those which produce turbocharged agricultural inputs (biochar+beneficial microbes) back to the farmers to not only increase yields, reduce the needs for chemical fertilizers, help rebuild soils, save 30-40% of water usage but to also sequester carbon back into the soil.

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.

In our Place, we will not only have created jobs, but we’ll be able to help nearby growers and processors to not only dry hemp efficiently but also to valorize waste-streams (from post-cbd extraction process) into valuable ingredients, products, and regenerative agricultural inputs (biochar).  As a result, we will have helped improve stakeholders incomes, contribute to improved nutrition quality, quantity, and affordability, hopefully help strengthen the social fabric and cohesion of the town and instill a source of pride, improve soil health, and reduce GHG emission. The goal is help create this to be help up as a model for the Resource Revolution we aim to help create in other communities worldwide. Its practices to be replicable to other crops and waste-streams.

Bottom line, we see the work here in Wisconsin AS A MODEL and example that many other municipalities and states around the world can learn from, appropriate and run on their own in order to improve the livelihoods of all stakeholders along the supply chain (loop) by: 1) provide access to higher value crop genetics, more earth / soil friendly soil enhancers (biochar+beneficial microbes); 2) shared better value-added drying and processing; 3) long term contacts to; 4) people making healthier products in ingredients vs crops that do not promote healthy, modern  lifestyles.  When done right, this “premiumization” where there were just race-to-the-bottom priced commodities, will help make farming more attractive and lucrative (both financially but also personally fulfilling) to the next generation of younger farmers (and their eventual children). We want to help make smallholder farming “cool” again.

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

"We’re positioned squarely within the biggest triple-bottom-line opportunity in history, with a tech-centric, systemic, and vertically-integrated model, that harnesses major food waste streams, and scales the solutions around the world, along with our global partners,” says Founder and Co-Ceo, Timothy Childs. Our job is to lead this “Resource Revolution” and through it make more nutrition available, especially to those in need, so that globally, diets improve. In addition, through regenerative and inclusive practices communities will be revitalized and outdated farming practices will be transformed into more sustainable ones. These are some of the key qualities we believe a Modern Food-Tech Company should possess so that both people and the planet become healthier.

Specifically, we envision to not only reduce food waste, but provide better nutrient options, more sustainable and affordable processing solutions, and change the culture around waste in general by looking at it as a valuable resource that turns wasted produce into energy and nutrition for people, machines, and the soil. In doing so, people can become healthier, farmers with better livelihoods, the soil can be regenerated, and overtime, the quality of produce can improve in sustainable ways.  This is all part of a systemic solution, one we refer to as a Resource Revolution, to not only valorize waste streams of all sorts but create change at all levels of the food system. And while helping out first in Wisconsin, it is an approach and platform that can be replicated globally.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Prize partners

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