Food & Agriculture News: 6/15/23

Food & Agriculture News: 6/15/23

MARTA rail cars bound for the bottom of the sea - WSB-TV

At first glance, this headline is rather alarming. What a waste! How dare we pollute the environment like that! 

As it turns out, the exact opposite reaction would be more appropriate.  

“Once submerged at the bottom of the ocean, the cars will provide a stable habitat for marine life. Artificial reefs mimic some of the characteristics of a natural reef and attract fish and other marine life.”

‘Everything is natural and tastes so good’: microfarms push back against ‘food apartheid’ - The Guardian

Really inspiring. Hyper local farms using organic methods, solar panels, and on-site composting to grow and deliver fresh, healthy produce to families in need. The article mostly focuses on an operation in Southern California but also highlights similar models in South Carolina and New York. 

This concept further solidifies my view one two points about our food system:

1. We are moving to a model of gigantic farms (10,000+ acres) and micro farms (less than 1 acre). Gigantic farms will primarily grow grain and seed crops (like corn and soybeans) and micro farms will focus on fruits and vegetables. 

2. Food and energy go hand in hand. Micro farms will depend on renewable and human energy – think solar panels and hand weeding. Gigantic farms will continue dependency on oil based systems to power tractors and distribute food across the country and world. The electrification of machines could help mitigate this somewhat, but my guess is those batteries will ultimately be powered by oil or gas. (For another example of this dynamic, see the article below).

Also, quick clarification on the term “food apartheid”. It’s meant to replace “food deserts” by indicating that places without fresh food options is an intentional policy choice compared to an area made barren by environmental factors. 

The Climate Solution That’s Horrible for the Climate - New York Times 

The real point of this article is that many things billed as a “climate solutions” are just straight up greenwashing (case in point: Tennessee thinks we should refer to natural gas as “clean energy”

Long story short, we use a *massive* amount of space in America to grow corn that humans can’t eat. A lot of it goes to animal feed, so it’s consumed a bit further down the food chain, but a significant amount is used to make ethanol, which is used to dilute gasoline for our vehicles. 

Some alarming statements in this op-ed:

- It takes about 100 acres worth of biofuels to generate as much energy as a single acre of solar panels
- Farm-grown fuels like corn ethanol and soy biodiesel accelerate food inflation
- A land mass larger than California was used to grow under 4 percent of transportation fuel in 2020

And this one blew my mind: Between the oil it takes to power tractors and make fertilizer used to grow corn for ethanol, the net benefit of ethanol is close to zero! 

AeroFarms files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection - Produce Blue Book 

As long time readers of the newsletter know, I’m a big skeptic of the massive investments made in “fake” meat and indoor farming. It’s not that they don’t have merit, it’s more that the sheer scale of investment seems to be much bigger than the demand or potential for growth. 

In this case, founder and CEO David Rosenberg is stepping down and people with major industry experience at DuPont and Accenture are stepping in. That reads to me like there is no more pie in the sky evaluation, and the new leadership will boil this thing down to the most efficient way to get their money back. Somehow, I doubt that will be microgreens.

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