I didn’t mean to go to pot. But after researching urban food movements in a bid to save the world from hunger, cannabis clearly emerged as the answer.
Cannabis and what’s happening now in Canada, the United States, and Israel will be the answer to global food shortages.
Mark my words: Marijuana will feed Africa, it will save China, and it will give Americans everywhere a better quality of life. You are scratching your head, right?
Let me connect the dots.
We’ll start with a few points you can’t ignore: The world is growing beyond capacity. More people live in cities than the country. Fewer people want to be traditional farmers, and global warming and our dependence on fossil fuel is killing our planet. Add to the muck land shortages, over-fertilization, pesticides… conventional agriculture as it is, I’ve summed up, cannot be the answer.
Meanwhile activists are crying out against Monsanto and the large monopolies that put much in the hands of very few. A day doesn’t go by when you don’t read a new study about the dangers of modern pesticides. Or greenhouse gas emissions putting our planet in peril. Oh, and just last week –– why biofuels have been a big disaster in the end. Now there is not enough land to grow corn. Oops.
But if you really think about it, you know that there is something terribly wrong with growing potatoes in Canada, chopping them up in China, and then selling them as chips in America.
We need to look somewhere else to make sense of our food production madness. We need to look to the people. Don’t blame the system. Blame yourself.
Americans did it before and they will likely do it again given recent urban food trends in cities like New York.
During the Second World War, Eleanor Roosevelt compelled Americans to plant Victory Gardens, and in so doing they produced 40 percent of their fresh foods and vegetables! Isn’t that about the same number economists say that we will need from urban farmers of the future to sustain our planet? These were urban gardens in backyards, schools, patios and between high rise buildings.
While the war is long over there is a new breed of Americans, Canadians and Europeans who are planting food anywhere they can grow it: on rooftops, on patios, in skyscrapers, in basements and even inside restaurants. This food is hyper local, hyper nutritious because it’s fresh and without much pesticides, and growing it gives people a sense of meaning, connection to nature, and, in a way, a better quality of life.
So why don’t more people do it now?
Since most of us live in cities access to land isn’t simple. And this is where I circle back to pot: 15 years ago cannabis growers in the United States and Canada (when it was completely illegal) discovered a better way to grow pot. Well mainly at first it was to avoid being busted by the cops. This novel hydroponic method which used 90% less water and no heavy bags of soil, made it easier to hide underground operations in basements and closets, or in Gran’s shed, and over time a whole industry emerged from it: it’s called hydroponics and it means water farming, without soil.
If this is a world that you’re oblivious to Google “Hydro Shop + your hometown” to understand just how many pot growers are cultivating in your neighborhood. The point here is not to pay lip service to the pot industry, and I am certainly not supporting illegal activities, but to extract from my research that pot growers grow their crops like mad scientists.
Those who do it on water have developed their own tricks of the trade: seed hybrids with crazy names like Dutch Crunch, nutrient ratios and formulas that will make your head spin, and light cycles that will impress. They know how to detect disease and pests with the slight change of leaf color. They’ve hacked together technologies to automate and optimize their plants; and they work alone but somehow as a collective, in an unstructured, but supportive way to help each other grow the best plants possible.
Take out the word cannabis and change it to tomatoes, cucumbers, or strawberries and you’ve got a new kind of food production system perfect for cities.
Understanding the scope of this wisdom that cannabis growers are developing is part of the mission in my startup flux. I am developing a tool that takes the pain and hardships out of water farming, making it accessible, fun and communal.
Marijuana growers today, whether they are running small grow ops in the basement, or are running $10 million grow ops in Canada are building the wisdom that will feed our planet more sustainably from the ground, or rather, from the “water” up. Some are eager to share this wisdom.
I’ve spent more than a decade as a media entrepreneur studying and covering the urban food movement globally. I know that going to pot to feed the world sounds nuts. It’s not the typical story that traditional investors want to hear. But the winds are changing over here in Israel where I am growing my new startup.
Government funds now seem to be okay supporting technologies in the cannabis field, and people managing these funds are listening to me with very open minds. As we speak traditional agriculture companies from Israel all seem to be digging into the US and Canadian cannabis markets. This is what I am hearing at conferences. They too want a stake in what could be the next gold rush.
From my research cannabis is either a $150 billion legal and grey market combined, or a $2.6 billion legal market this year in the US depending on whether you are looking at police records or cannabis sales from legalized states.
With legislation changing quickly in the US, the numbers are bound to rise. But I am still sticking to my plan to feed the world. In the meantime I’ll ride the tailwind of cannabis to develop the best tools for the job. Want to join me?
Karin Kloosterman ~ Grenn Prophet ~ February 1, 2015

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