Waste Not!

Something to consider when it comes to global hunger is food waste.  One of the reasons I was able to become part of the UNFAO Private Sector Mechanism is because of my involvement in SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction: http://www.fao.org/save-food/en/

Food Waste happens all along the agricultural value chain, but my focal point is to help reduce the loss aspect from the very beginning (production), which is why we at CFS are focused on decentralized distributed growing systems.  In other words, enabling high yield local/regional farming with many CFS facilities, giving opportunities so that regions can be more locally productive and self sufficient, reducing the need for massive shipping and logistic requirements.  This is pretty self evident in our animated video.  If neighborhoods and villages had a series of CFS facilities providing a reasonable amount of local use produce (local grow/local eat), that not only reduces transportation pollution, but reduces waste.  And with composting systems built into the greenhouses, any leftovers don’t go to waste, but are turned into something that can be used.

But to give some numbers to the issue, check out the following infographic on food waste:  http://insinkerator.co.uk/uk/page/global-food-waste-statshttp://insinkerator.co.uk/uk/page/global-food-waste-stats

So when it comes to sustainable agriculture, making sure that we actually eat what we grow is most certainly the most important place to start.



Pasta Hangover

It’s seems to always be the case, when returning from a trip related to CFS, that real life jumps up and decides to add a flurry of complications, hence the delay in writing this post about my trip to Italy.  With that said, I’m going to focus on the UNFAO aspect, as that was by far the highlight of the trip.

I can say without reservation that this was an amazing experience, being within the belly of the beast, the UNFAO, in attendance and in participation of the CFS (Committee on World Food Security) conference.  But I do think they’re cheating and should be called CWFS.  ;)  My involvement was with regards to a sub-committee called PSM, or the Private Sector Mechanism.  This was developed to work in partnership with the CSM, Civil Society Mechanism.

For a while the UNFAO recognized and involved civil groups, NGO’s, Humanitarian groups, etc. into the discussion on how to combat world hunger, from policy debates to trade and more.  Recently it occurred to them to more directly involve the private sector, so the PSM was established for that purpose.  The levels of involvement are global and dynamic, from small farming operations in Nigeria to multinational agro companies like Mars Inc., who source over 80% of their raw product from small farming operations around the world.  It was kind of surreal, me (a new agro tech startup) sitting next to the VP of Mars Inc. all discussing solutions and options to improve food security.

For the entire conference I was a sponge.  You have two eyes, two ears and one mouth, and when in a new environment, it’s wise to be silent and observe.  However, I wasn’t silent all the time.  After all, I didn’t go there to just be a fly on the wall.  From Food Waste and Loss debates to Food Safety and Quality meetings, I made it a point to remind everyone that New Agro is coming, we can do better, we can be cleaner, and the “old guard” should take advantage of what Agro2.0 can do.

It was rather disappointing that so many people didn’t know what Aquaponics was, and  I’m glad I am now involved, because I also opened a few eyes to the potential, especially with regards to what CFS is working to provide.  I also made it clear many times over that the investment in Agro2.0 needs to be ramped up, and to stop throwing money into old failed options.  Fortunately I witnessed a lot of positive nods towards that line of thinking.  All in due time.  Patience is a much needed requirement for things at this level.

The take away from this was two fold, the fact that CFS is now part of a much higher level discussion, and that many contacts were made, some with potential funding options for CFS, and some whom we may be able to work with after CFS finishes Proto.  All in all, it was definitely worth the effort, and I cannot thank our supporters enough for the financial help in making it happen.



Feeling Happy About Blue

It’s that time again, Nobel Prize time, and several Nobel prizes were awarded today.  A lot of focus has been on the Nobel Peace Prize, rightly awarded to India’s Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai.  01_Kailash-Satyarthi-and-Malala-Yousafzay

If you don’t know who they are, please learn about them.  Despite the barrage of negativity we get about humanity in our seemingly ritualistic media dosage, there are amazingly beautiful and inspiring people out there doing great things.  I wish they had a news channel dedicated just to that, HNN…the Happy News Network.  ;)

But for this post, I want to shed light on the Nobel Prize for Physics, something which has significant impact on Agro2.0.  This year the prize went to what may seem like a quaint concept, making blue LED’s.  However, this wasn’t such an easy task, which you can read about here.  The applications from developing blue LED’s are noted in the article, but there is something amiss…what this development means to alternative methods for agriculture.  If you go to any hydroponic store you’ll know what I mean.  LED grow lights are one of the main lighting options for hydroponic operations, and the advancement in their capabilities is growing rapidly.  What’s more significant is that the lighting is made of red and…you guessed it…blue LED lights, falling into the light spectrum that plants relish the most.  That purple glow is a plant’s spectrum dream come true.LED_hoticulture

Highly efficient, low energy demand, low heat lighting that is fine tuned for growing plants would not be possible were it not for the development of the blue LED.  So yes, this development has a host of other significant applications, but I felt it worth noting the agricultural component that was overlooked.  :)



Smelling the Vineyards

With 9 days to go until the Committee on World Food Security Conference (CFS 41), I can almost smell the Vineyards of Rome.  Okay, maybe not so much, but this promises to be an exciting event for CFS nonetheless.  UN bodies, International Agricultural Research Systems, International and Regional Financial Institutions, Private Sector Associations and Private Philanthropic Foundations from around the world are descending upon the United Nations FAO headquarters with one goal, finding and implementing ways to improve global Food Security.

This particular conference is focused on, but not limited to, Food Waste, and we at CFS are happy to contribute to the discussion (and yes, the irony of us being CFS and the conference being CFS has not escaped me).  Food Waste is a topic we are greatly concerned about, and as far as the supply line goes, we’re starting right at the source, where and how the food is grown.  Local production and local distribution is what we’re all about, and this alone is a large reason why our systems will drastically reduce Food Waste.

If you grow where you live, then you’ve already eliminated the losses due to transport.  If the growing option is protected and controlled (like in a greenhouse), then you’ve already eliminated the losses due to bad weather and pests.  If you include ways to utilize leftover biomass (I don’t know…like a composting system?), then you end up not even wasting the parts you don’t eat.  All in all, the way we’ve designed the CFS facility, with all of its self regulating, recycling, reusing and SUS+ characteristics, we think we’ve done a pretty good job of engineering a system that kicks Food Waste, well, to the waste pile.  As always, the intent is to be the social butterfly I always am, engaging people and fostering relationships that help move CFS forward.

But of course this isn’t all that’s going on in Italy, because right after the conference in Rome I zip up to Prato, Italy (near Florence) to present about CFS at the 4th International Conference on Food Studies, another event where we hope to gather more support, network with more people, and hopefully find the ever elusive funding we need to build our Demo Model in Orlando.

And who knows, as I think about this upcoming trip to Italy, maybe eventually CFS will get into growing grapes, setting the climate inside the buildings to reflect different regions of the world to produce different wines.  Can you smell the vineyards?  ;)



Rockefeller’s Divesting from Fossil Fuels

The Rockefeller’s are pulling out from Big Oil.  Yes, the people who basically created Big Oil in America in the first place are shifting their focus towards renewable energy platforms and investments towards greener solutions, as are many other groups.  It’s nice to know that some of the biggest players in the game of energy are making real and serious moves to show what their future goals are.

Here’s the NYT article

Now of course this doesn’t solve everything, and it’s always easy to channel our inner cynic who sees everything through a jaded and tainted lens, but for a moment it would be nice to smile just a little at developments like this, and continue to urge them on.  We can only hope more and more decisions like this happen, to speed up the process of moving civilization forward.

And as the dominoes fall towards greater and greater support of projects and issues related to cleaning up our global mess, moving away from the old and improper ways of doing things, CFS will be here doing what we can to make a difference.



Climate Change and CFS

On September 21, NYC was marched upon under the umbrella of Climate Change.  Everyone from hard core climate activists, to run of the mill people who simply want to make sure we don’t ruin the only planet we have, gathered by the thousands to show a force of solidarity, and maybe to wake up leaders who will also be descending on New York for the United Nations Climate Summit.

You can get the details from major news sources like the Huffington Post or New York Times.

Now I’m not going to get into the politics and posturing of nations, pundits or media with regards to Climate Change.  Whether or not you think Climate Change is real, man made or not, over-hyped, of the highest priority, the end of human existence…whatever…it’s always a good idea to try and make sure everything you do is as clean and healthy as possible.  We make our kids clean their rooms for a reason, no?  If Climate Change is bogus and we still try to be clean, then at least we’re still clean.  If Climate Change is real and we try to be clean, then we’ve likely saved the human race and many other species at the same time.  Either way, it behooves us to make sure we keep our room clean.

So what I want to address is how what were doing at CFS relates to Climate Change, and bullet points are a pretty easy tool for everyone to grasp the basic idea, so here goes:

–  Fresh Water Conservation.  70% of the fresh water on the planet is actually used in agriculture.  And when it comes to growing food, most of the water used doesn’t even go to the plants, because of things like run off, evaporation, etc.  Aquaponics uses 90% less water than traditional agriculture.  The water is reused, recycled, and when placed in a Greenhouse, it’s also protected from evaporation and can be recollected and driven back to the fish tanks.

–  Small Footprint.  Gigantic swaths of land for mono-cropping is so last century.  We can do better, and between vertical farming and intelligent use of technology and know-how, we can grow a lot more food with a much smaller footprint, enabling a more local production operation.  And this leads us too…

–  Carbon Footprint Drop (transport).  Local production and local distribution is a term CFS uses often and with reason.  Globalization is nice, for knowledge, but when it comes to things like food and textiles, local production and distribution will drastically reduce the carbon footprint associated with growing/building something and shipping it halfway around the planet.  3D-Printing is coming along for textiles, so for CFS, our design is a specific size and scale for a reason, to help make local production and distribution easier and more efficient.  Go too big and it becomes too cumbersome.  As far as we’re concerned, it’s better to have a lot of systems peppered through a region (local service), than have one central hub fanning food out with polluting trucks or planes.  Plus, with local production people can see where their food is coming from and rebuild that connection.  As we say in our animated short, knowing your food is kind of a big deal.

–  Clean Energy.  CFS facilities are powered by clean energy, a long term positive solution to the serious concern with burning fossil fuels for power.  Not only have we designed a CFS facility to be mostly passive, but for the energy it does need, we’re using solar/wind hybrid systems with long duration batteries.  And when the building is generating more power than it needs, the people being served can plug in and use the leftovers, which is a big deal in rural regions where power is intermittent or non-existent.  This is a problem when, for the most part, their only means of communication are cell phones, which of course need charging.  Now they use diesel generators, but if they have a CFS facility, they’ll be covered.

–  Cleaning Water Pollution.  CFS is proud to be partnered with Lake Savers, a company with decades of experience in cleaning polluted water bodies.  It just so happens that when we banged heads together, we figured out that we can use CFS facilities to clean polluted water bodies, fixing problems caused by irresponsible industry “up stream” and enabling communities to have a healthy water system in their area.

So as you can see, there are quite a few topics CFS addresses that are climate positive.  We do a lot more than just grow food.  We provide plants, fish, energy, water treatment options, carbon footprint reduction via reduced transport needs, less use of land but with higher productivity, and that’s not even accounting for the vermiculture composting potential, enabling chicken farming, egg production, etc.  Whew.

We’re happy to see marches like what occurred this past Sunday, and look forward to when leaders actually step up and start demanding we take care of the only planet we have.  This pale blue dot will only take so much abuse from mankind before, as the late George Carlin said, it shakes us off like a bad case of fleas.  We’re doing our part at CFS to make sure that what we do is as clean and climate positive as possible.  We hope you do too.  :)



CFS Traction

Traction is very important for a new company, especially when seeking investments.  It’s one thing to have an idea.  It’s something else to move that idea forward and garner serious interest and support.

Sometimes traction is counted via revenue, which is great for a company with an existing product that’s looking to expand.  But in the case of CFS, we’re moving towards Prototype Development, building our product for testing and refinement, and as a Demo Model to showcase to people who are currently interested and future customers.  So for us, Traction is about building interest and becoming a relevant player.

To that end, we’ve been active in getting out there to show people who we are and what we’re all about, and the interest is mounting.  Here is a list of notable events and interest for CFS:

February 2013:  Article on CFS by Seedstock.com.  Although reflecting the older initial design, many of the points addressed in this article still reflect our goals and mission.


July 2013:  Initiatives of Change, Trust and Integrity in a Global Economy (TIGE) Conference, Caux, Switzerland.  Invited to speak about CFS and our Sustainable Agriculture vision.  We found our African Affairs Advisors at this conference and are happy to work with them to develop relationships in Uganda and Nigeria.

December 2013:  SecondSight “2014 Future and Beyond” event, Amsterdam, Netherlands.  Invited to speak about CFS and our Sustainable Agriculture vision, including being interviewed and published in their post-conference book.  Developed contacts to get CFS facilities in and around Amsterdam when we’re in production.  This trip also included a meeting with Rabobank at their headquarters in Rotterdam, who expressed interest when we’re in production.

January 2014:  10th International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic & Social Sustainability, Split, Croatia.  This was an academic conference where we submitted a paper and were accepted to present about CFS and our work.  This led to meeting Dr. Uday Chipalkatty of Ira Sustainable Water Solutions, where interest in a partnership developed to utilize CFS facilities with their water projects throughout India.

February 2014:  Meetings in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  This business trip was to meet with His Excellency Soubert Son and some of his contacts.  Mr. Son is the Advisor to the Khmer Foundation for Justice, Peace and Development and High Privy Councilor to His Majesty the King of Cambodia.  Our CEO met Mr. Son at a previous Initiatives of Change conference in Caux, Switzerland in 2010, where the initial discussion and interest in CFS was developed.  This week long trip resulted in three formal Letters of Interest (included in the CFS Business Plan).

–  The first Letter of Interest is from Mr. Soubert Son, with interest to get CFS facilities into the orphanages he oversees and to help revolutionize agriculture throughout Cambodia.

–  The second Letter of Interest comes from Mr. Sophat Yun, Director of Huy Yun Agriculture, to utilize CFS facilities with their operations.

–  The third Letter of Interest is from Kassie Neou, Owner and Managing Director of EcoFarm and Executive Director of the Cambodian Institute of Human Rights, to utilize CFS facilities in their operations.

September/October 2014:  Invited by the United Nations FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva to participate in the 3rd FAO Private Partnerships Meeting in Rome, Italy on October 15th, 2014.  Discussions will be on partnerships with the FAO with regards to ending hunger, improving food security, and reducing food waste and loss.

October 2014:  Fourth International Conference on Food Studies, Prato, Italy on October 20-21, 2014.  Another academic conference where we’ll be presenting about CFS and our work.