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How much energy goes into producing your food, and how much of it is produced locally?

By the end of WWII there were 20 million victory gardens in the US, one for every 7 people in the country, providing 40% of our vegetables, fruits and herbs. In

How much energy goes into producing your food, and how much of it is produced locally? By the end of WWII there were 20 million victory gardens in the US, one for every 7 people in the country, providing 40% of our vegetables, fruits and herbs. In

Photo of Steve Kube
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Many animal species cooperate with each other in mutual symbiosis. One example is the Ocellaris clownfish, which dwells among the tentacles of Ritteri sea anemones. The anemones provide the clownfish with protection from their predators (which cannot

Many animal species cooperate with each other in mutual symbiosis. One example is the Ocellaris clownfish, which dwells among the tentacles of Ritteri sea anemones. The anemones provide the clownfish with protection from their predators (which cannot

Photo of Steve Kube
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Steve commented on Water and Sanitation Challenge

A grant of $250,000 may only cover the cost of engineering, prototyping, and demonstrating a working model of a potential solution that uses advanced technology such as new types of energy efficient low voltage DC pumps suitable for solar powering.  Going into production could cost ten times that or more.  Reasonably high volume production could drive costs below $100 per unit (scale) and a unit costing $100 could run during sunlight hours for 10-20 years.  Add batteries and it could run non-stop.  

There are many applications for such technology beyond this challenge, which increases the economies of scale and yields further advantages.  Pumping low volumes of water efficiently and reliably is a critical aspect to many of the growing challenges presently facing humanity, not just in India.  

~ S

http://www.slideshare.net/SteveK8

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Steve commented on Navigating Food Deserts

I appreciate the feedback, Erica.

I get the sense something disruptive and transformative could happen here soon. Our food supply chain has become horribly corrupt. Big Ag is going after bigger tractors, bigger harvesters, proprietary GMO seeds, herbicides, insecticides, and who knows what they have in their labs that remains secret?

The grocery marketing association aims to increase sales of processed foods while ignoring human health. Do you think there’s any chance they’d voluntarily remove food additives in the US that have been banned in other countries? Any chance MSG will be taken out of our food supply without a legal battle? They don’t even want us to know if our food is GMO, or where it comes from.

The fast food industry relies on factory farmed animals, including grain-fed cattle (grain is not a natural diet for cows). I read one statistic that said 71% of water in California goes to the cattle industry. Imagine that! Also, animal agriculture is the largest contributor to climate change! It’s worse than all forms of transportation combined, including cars, trucks, busses, airplanes, boats, trains… See the film Cowspiracy for more: http://www.cowspiracy.com I also read that pigs produce more feces in North Carolina than humans do, and the reality is we can live just fine without eating any of those critters.

Lest we forget, big government is dominated by big business, and politicians aren’t likely to advocate for small urban farms, much less backyard veggie gardens that will compete with their financial contributors. We have to advocate for ourselves (which is much easier when there are huge numbers of us advocating together)!

This may all sound pessimistic or depressing, but the saying goes: “It’s always darkest before dawn”, so I’m anticipating the dawning of good things.

Let’s look at disruptive technology of the past. Photography once was relegated to the hands of the professional and the dedicated hobbyist. When Kodak introduced the Brownie, taking pictures suddenly became cheap and easy. Today cell phones have better cameras and they don’t use film. Photocopiers, or Xerox machines used to be big, expensive, and not very good. Progressive advances made them smaller, and smaller and more affordable, and better. Today personal printers have scanning capabilities built in! Back in the day, computers were huge. Hard drives were as big as washing machines, 68k of RAM took up as much space as big as a refrigerator… and they required special air conditioned rooms and trained technicians to run them. In the mid 70’s computer geeks were experimenting in their garages when Apple kicked off a revolution that was inevitable and it continues today.

There are commercial hydroponic installations around the world. Eurofresh Farms in Wilcox, Arizona has over 300 acres under glass and there are over 600 retail stores in the US catering to hydroponic hobbyists. The disruption I anticipate will bring this technology to mass markets, making it as readily available and useful to the average person as cameras, copiers, computers, cell phones, televisions, refrigerators, and the rest of the technology we are accustomed to. We won’t all become farmers, or gardeners but we could jump in anytime we wanted to, and we could produce meaningful amounts of high quality, nutritious food in a typical backyard with very little effort.

We can expect the cost of disruptive “High Performance Gardening” systems will drop as production techniques improve and performance, demand, and competition increases. We can also expect an ecosystem of supporting products and services to grow up around any truly disruptive technology here. The first truly disruptive step will be to create that first system that mass markets will cotton to. It could be a bit buggy at first, but like buggy personal computer technology, the rewards will be worth working out the bugs and it will all get better and better over time.

I believe we are on the cusp of some really exciting developments that will impact our lives in profoundly positive ways.

~ S

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Steve commented on Navigating Food Deserts

Hello Juliane,

Thanks for the great links! I’m convinced this is an area where we will see a lot of growth! ;-)

I really liked the photos of the rooftop gardens. Those gardens just look like they belong there! Unfortunately, a lot of buildings aren’t engineered to carry the heavy loads that gardening soil can place on them. This is an area ripe for innovation. Questions we might ask are; How might we reduce the weight, or the amount of soil needed, or can we eliminate it altogether? How can we reduce the amount of water (and the weight of the water) in the gardens? Improvements in rooftop gardens will likely apply to other gardens as well.

Here’s another area to examine: Can we increase rooftop garden output by including vertical growing techniques? Systems like Tower Gardens http://www.towergarden.com can be amazingly productive, though quite expensive, and the weight of the water in their reservoirs is considerable. Nevertheless, they do illustrate increasing yields by going vertical, and some of the convenience of hydroponics. Google “vertical growing” and check the images for more examples of how going vertical can increase yields from a given area. Many of the systems shown are too expensive for the general public, but they do show on way toward bigger harvests.

~ S