The term “green technology” simply refers to ways in which we can use technology to make the world a better place. Spend a few weeks wandering around Bangladesh and you’ll quickly understand that there’s more to the problem than just bringing your own bags to the grocery store. It’s a global problem, and every country needs to address it differently. Even outside country borders in international waters there’s a problem, as giant islands of rubbish now float around in our oceans. Water is the new gold, as countries rush to secure fresh water supplies for growing populations. All those new mouths need food to eat, so we need to reduce food waste. Now that wind and solar are cheaper than coal, there’s a rush to renewable energies which should pacify even the most staunch environmentalist.
Speaking of which, you’re not going to hear us piss and moan about climate change because that term is now being used for political gain. What the donkeys and elephants don’t realize is that this a debate that’s not worth having. Regardless of where you sit on climate change, we’re all better served if we clean up the planet. This is probably best summed up by the below cartoon.
You can’t talk agtech without mentioning indoor farming, something that marijuana growers have been working on for centuries. Today, over a billion dollars have been invested in a long list of indoor farming companies that are all using technologies like efficient LED lighting, environmental sensors, and nutrient monitoring to maximize every single variable possible in a grow operation. Over time, all this data exhaust can be mined for insights.
While some indoor farms plan to operate at a massive scale, we’re not convinced that there’s much gold to be had selling over-priced leafy greens to “farm-to-table” restaurants that overcharge their clients even more. Attractive business models will provide vegetables at scale with price points at or under regular vegetable prices. Then, the business model becomes attractive as a way to feed people without having to transport so much food. Another indoor farming trend that’s being thrown around is container farming which generally means converting old shipping containers into grow rooms. A container in the grocery store parking lot churning out vegetables has to be a great idea, right? Not necessarily.
In order to study the economics of container farming, we traveled to a country where the vegetables are more expensive than anywhere else in the world – Nauru. It’s the least visited nation in the world inhabited by the world’s most obese people. Our back of the napkin math showed that a container farming operation would be a risky enterprise for anyone to undertake, not just in Nauru where there were some understandably challenging conditions. From what we’ve seen so far, container farming is not economically viable.
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