We are researching Blockchain
applications for Urban Agriculture.
“Food is key to nearly everything,” solutions for food production will actually come from cities, and blockchain technology will be critical in developing those solutions.
[T]he issues that confront most Americans directly are income, food (thereby, agriculture), health and climate change. (And, of course, war, but let’s leave that aside for now.)
These are all related: You can’t address climate change without fixing agriculture, you can’t fix health without improving diet, you can’t improve diet without addressing income, and so on. The production, marketing and consumption of food is key to nearly everything. (It’s one of the keys to war, too, because large-scale agriculture is dependent on control of global land, oil, minerals and water.)
“Food is key to nearly everything” and the solutions for food production will actually come from cities. As Jane Jacobs wrote in The Economy of Cities:
Current theory in many fields—economics, history, anthropology—assumes that cities are built upon a rural economic base. If my observations and reasoning are correct, the reverse is true: that is, rural economics, including agricultural work, are directly built upon city economics and city work.
Jacobs theorized that cities predated agriculture. She is probably wrong on that particular premise, but she was pointing to a deeper truth, as a Planetizen article
[D]espite the “total fallacy” of Jacobs’s statement that cities came first, she had a valid point when she stated that agricultural development benefited from urban stimuli. Monica Smith also notes that the Cities First model “requires modifications but still contains an element of truth in that cities provide significant boosts to rural productivity” by promoting certain efficiencies of cultivation….
I support… the archaeological consensus on the relationship between agriculture and urban origins. At best, agriculture and cities evolved hand-in-hand in what Soja describes as a “mutually causal and symbiotic relationship.” But perhaps there’s still something to the idea of Cities First if we focus on cities not as things (or, products) but as processes.
Solutions for food production will come from cities, and blockchain technology will be critical in developing those solutions.
Blockchain technology came to popular notice with the rise of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The technology allows for highly secure digital transactions and recordkeeping. Even though blockchain found its first use in cryptocurrencies, the concept can be applied to all sorts of transactions, including agricultural ones.
Blockchain can reduce inefficiencies and fraud while improving food safety, farmer pay, and transaction times. A report by the Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association found that an average food recall costs $10 million, exclusive of brand damage and lost potential sales. Other more high profile recalls have had costs as high as $1 billion, such as the peanut salmonella outbreak in 2009. While UPC codes provide some tracking capabilities, much of this information is recorded in siloed databases and undigitized archives. A tracking system that is more accessible and easier to query can be built with blockchain technology, driving down the time it takes organizations and authorities to identify food contamination origins.
More than a third of all food farmed is wasted, and food waste costs the food industry nearly one trillion dollars annually. Since blockchain transactions can be completed faster and are less likely to be disputed, spoilage along the supply chain can also be reduced. They can also help identify bottlenecks that are contributing to spoilage.
Forty percent of Americans born from 2000 to 2011 will develop diabetes, double the risk of those born a decade earlier….
More than half of all Hispanics and non-Hispanic black women born from 2000 to 2011 will develop diabetes in their lifetime.
Diabetes can be reversed with diet
At the northern outskirts of Milwaukee, stand 14 greenhouses on two acres of land. This is Growing Power
, the only land within the Milwaukee city limits zoned as farmland. Founded by MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellow Will Allen, Growing Power is an active farm producing tons of food each year, a food distribution hub, and a training center. Will Allen is the author of The Good Food Revolution
Will Allen of Growing Power
According to Will Allen’s The Good Food Revolution:
The history of agriculture in the United States is largely a history of racial exploitation. From the slavery that formed the rural economy of the South to the mistreatment of migrant farm workers that continues to this day, our food has too often been made possible by someone else’s suffering. And that someone else tends not to be white….
The great tragedy for many African Americans…is that in losing touch with the land and with traditions handed down for generations, they also lost an important set of skills: how to grow and prepare healthy food….
It’s no coincidence that the epidemic of diet-related illnesses now sweeping the country—obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes—are harming blacks the most….
America’s current agricultural system was hardly created by free market forces. Between 1995 and 2010, American farmers received about $262 billion in federal subsidies. And the wealthiest 10 percent of farmers received 74 percent of those subsidies. Almost two-thirds of American farmers didn’t receive any subsidies at all….
One in two African Americans born in the year 2000 is expected to develop type II diabetes. Four out of every ten African American men and women over the age of twenty have high blood pressure….
The farmer became less important than the food scientist, the distributor, the marketer, and the corporation. In 1974, farmers took home 32 cents of every dollar spent on food in the United States. Today, they get only 16 cents.
President Barack Obama greets guest Will Allen in a receiving line in the Blue Room of the White House, May 19, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
In losing touch with the land and with traditions handed down for generations, we also lost an important set of skills: how to grow and prepare healthy food.
Snapshot of Will Allen and first lady Michelle Obama during his visit to the White House. (White House Photo)
Former First Lady Michelle Obama agrees about the importance of growing food:
Getting in touch with the land can also help us fight climate change. Consider that compared to large-scale industrial farms, small-scale agroecological farms not only use fewer fossil fuel-based fertilizer inputs and emit less Greenhouse gases (GHGs), including methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide (CO2
), but they also have the potential to actually reverse climate change by sequestering CO2
from the air into the soil year after year. According to the Rodale Institute
, small-scale farmers and pastoralists could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2
emissions with a switch to widely available, safe and inexpensive agroecological management practices that emphasize diversity, traditional knowledge, agroforestry, landscape complexity, and water and soil management techniques, including cover cropping, composting and water harvesting.
Importantly, agroecology can not only sequester upwards of 7,000 pounds of CO2
per acre per year, but it can actually boosts crop yields. In fact, recent studies by GRAIN (www.grain.org
) demonstrate that small-scale farmers already feed the majority of the world with less than a quarter of all farmland. Addressing climate change on the farm can not only tackle the challenging task of agriculture-generated GHGs, but it can also produce more food with fewer fossil fuels. In other words, as the ETC Group (www.etcgroup.org
) has highlighted, industrial agriculture uses 70% of the world’s agricultural resources to produce just 30% of the global food supply, while small-scale farmers provide 70% of the global food supply while using only 30% of agricultural resources.
Extreme weather, made worse by climate change, along with the health impacts of burning fossil fuels, has cost the U.S. economy at least $240 billion a year over the past ten years, a new report has found.
And yet this does not include this past month’s three major hurricanes or 76 wildfires in nine Western states. Those economic losses alone are estimated to top $300 billion, the report notes. Putting it in perspective, $300 billion is enough money to provide free tuition for the 13.5 million U.S. students enrolled in public colleges and universities for four years.
In the coming decade, economic losses from extreme weather combined with the health costs of air pollution spiral upward to at least $360 billion annually, potentially crippling U.S. economic growth, according to this new report, The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States
, published online Thursday by the Universal Ecological Fund.
Most of us believe that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is with external rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, Daniel H. Pink says in, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, his provocative and persuasive new book. The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.
[Y]ou [cannot] understand why someone [is] healthy [or wealthy] if all you [do is] think about their individual choices or actions in isolation. You [have] to look beyond the individual. You [have] to understand what culture they were a part of, and who their friends and families were, and what town… their family came from. You [have] to appreciate the idea that community — the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with — has a profound effect on who we are. ~ Malcolm Gladwell
When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery— the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. ~ Daniel Pink
According to Chris Dixon at Startup School 2013
, there are two ways to develop startup ideas: through direct experience with tools/technologies, problems, perspectives; or through abstract things like analyst reports, trends, analogies (Airbnb for X, Uber for Y). The best ideas come through direct experience. The abstract things tend to be an encapsulation of conventional wisdom. When you diff your direct experience with conventional wisdom, that’s where the best startup ideas come from.
To enable our young people to build the next set of great companies and to solve the critical crises of our time it is important to give them the direct experience of building the digital and organic infrastructure necessary for the urban agriculture revolution.
We need to help young people become a part of the digital revolution in urban agriculture and bridge both the digital and health divide.
Students throughout Boston grew vegetables in controlled-environment boxes for Thanksgiving last year.
According to an IEEE Spectrum article
, urban agriculture is on the verge of an Internet-enabled revolution. This revolution will emerge from a series of recent technological breakthroughs that include the development of high-efficiency blue LED lighting, whose inventors received the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics
MIT researchers say that as technology enables new farming opportunities in indoor, warehouse-based settings, food production can be retooled to accommodate high-density urban living and maintain food security despite a future of increasing climate instabilities and vulnerabilities. The visionaries behind this new farming tech are working toward a networked agricultural system that looks to the open-source software movement for inspiration.
The Open Agriculture Initiative (OpenAG) is on a mission to create more farmers for the future of food production. They are developing the open source hardware and software platforms for sensor-controlled hydroponic and aeroponic agriculture systems.
serve as tools for users to experiment, innovate, hack, and grow. Every time users grow and harvest, they will contribute to a library of climate recipes that can be borrowed and scaled so that users around the world can gain access to the best and freshest foods.
OpenAG is developing an open-source ecosystem that enables and promotes transparency, networked experimentation, education, and local production. They hope to create sustainable, shared systems that will break down the barrier of entry and spark interest, conversation, and maybe even a revolution about the way we view food.