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This blog is defunct and will not likely be updated anymore. For anyone finding their way to this website through doing similar research, please feel free to contact me by email if you have any questions.

What will I be doing?

1) I’ll be working as a consultant to a commercial greenhouse in BC. I’m doing research to find  nutraceutical and or pharmaceutical uses for unsellable product. I signed a non-disclosure agreement so I can’t say too much about what the work is.

2) Passion project. Researching and writing about the broad aspects of global food insecurity, mostly from the perspective of how science and technology can be used to improve agriculture. This topic can be broken down to two main research areas;  the current and predicted future problems with food production and why food insecurity is an issue that needs to be addressed, and the potential ways to address these problems. The largest section will be on vertical farming.

The problems with modern agriculture

– Current environmental issues: Irrigation, pesticides, runoff, deforestation this is an exhaustive issue. I plan on only introducing the main problems and focus on specifics aspects if they can be alleviated by vertical farming or some other new technology

– Future environmental issues: Desertification, Climate change. How can climate change increase food production, both positively and negatively.

Vertical Farming

– Benefits and criticisms, current state of industry

– Technology overview and future projections: cost of LED’s, etc

– How the properties of a high density, well controlled artificially lit hydroponic environment can be used to get novel benefits over traditionally grown crops. This will be discovery and the section where maybe I can contribute some original ideas and novel arguments for vertical farms and the main reason I want to learn about all these comprehensive issues. Most of the people I’ve talked to are architects with a great love for design but little knowledge of plants or greenhouses.  Consider plant breeding – under know and optimized growing conditions plants themselves can be designed to grow optimally. Currently plants are bred so fruits look perfect on grocery shelves after a long shipment, consumers won’t buy fruit that doesn’t look good so this means selecting for traits like resistance to bruising during shipping and longevity. Those shipment traits wouldn’t be important for locally grown, quickly and predictably sold produce.

Business and logistical issues like predictable yield forecast are anouther area where a well controlled environment has advantage over traditional farms. Yields and fruit maturation times are affected in chaotic in ways by the environment, and this can cause farmers to have either too much yield with not enough buyers lined up, or less product than they promised their customers. This causes the farm to lose money directly from lost sales, as well as indirectly from missed business opportunities such as pairing with retailers to organize sales when big yields are expected. Even better than predicting when fruit maturation spikes will occurs, crops can be staggered so surpluses/shortages are evened out. Reducing or reusing food waste is as important as increasing production, even in places like India where food shortages are occurring as much as 40% of food is wasted and never makes it to store shelves.

Since vertical farming hasn’t been invented yet, many thousands of little innovations and benefits, as well as problems, are waiting to be discovered. I imagine a smartly designed vertical farm to be a very intricate and sophisticated thing

Genetic Engineering

– Benefits, highlights, how GMOs are made, and current projects

– Is there any reason to be anti-GMO?

Lab grown meat

– Also called synthetic meat, artificially meat, and in-vitro meat. The technology is far away. By far the worst aspects of food production are found in livestock. What is it?

Economics and Business of Agriculture
– What factors influence food prices? Is there such a thing as Peak Wheat?
– What’s the impact of large corporations like Monsanto?
– The role of government and subsitities
– Long term societal aspects of a change in agriculture, will farmlands be reclaimed as more people move to cities where everything is high density?
Although I’m planning on focusing on those issues listed above I want to take a holistic look at food security. While there’s no immediate danger of food scarcity and few reading this are likely to have ever thought as food as something limiting imagine what your world would be if suddenly that was no longer true and for any number of reasons food became scarce. How would panic spread, how would you and your friends react and behave in such a situation, what measures governments would have to enact on their populace, what would desperate countries have to turn to. Looking to history numerous great and civilized societies collapsed or suffered greatly due to food shortages. In our modern world are those days of truly past us forever?

So far I’ve only mentioned how issues of food security could affect myself and people like myself, people for who food security has never been an issue. Food scarcity for us is far less likely than a steady increase in food prices until the market makes projects like vertical farms economically viable. Millions are starving and malnourished, in many parts of world, for them food insecurity is a very real problem. Malnutrition is preventable, without proper nutrition people stand no chance to live their lives to the fullest and reaching their potential and simple supplements of  Iodine and vitamin A would do great benefits. Along these lines there are many projects for improving nutrition in food insecure places, like golden rice and perennial rice.

3) I’ll be going to SE Asia sometime in late September. I’d like to go for a long time, as long as money allows, but I’m not sure if I can be out of the country for my Remicade transfusions.

 

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