I know. I know. Let me read your mind for a minute – “What in the world do the future of agriculture and David Ellis have anything to do with each other?” and furthermore, “why is he starting a Blog?”.
The answer to the latter question is simply that I believe, based on my answer to the first question, that I have something worth saying. This Blog is here to allow people who have interest in business and entrepreneurship, agriculture, food, organics, sustainability in farming, etc a glimpse into some of the developments as a start-up agribusiness implements a strategic “come to market” plan. Prior to spending the serious dollars on development of our website, it’s also serving as the website for the company.
The answer to the first question takes us back over 3/4 of a year now, when I first read about a local company using an industrial space to grow plants and raise fish together in a sustainable system. Immediately, I saw the progressiveness of their concept, and already understood elements of our nation’s food system – one that has glaring holes in its fundamentals and operations. I started what ended up being over 8 months of R&D; a project that put me in touch with people from all walks of life and countries around the globe. The more I researched, the more my heart, brain (and gut – have to listen to it!) relayed that I was onto a progressive concept that is both vital to our future and should keep me quite busy and happy for many years to come. As the title suggests, my goal is to help redefine the future of agriculture; a future that right now looks rather bleak.
My number may be slightly off (please forgive!), but close to 90% of the world’s usable farm land is currently being used for production. “What’s so bleak about that, Dave?” you ask. When you combine that with the fact that our world’s population projects to go from under 7 billion people now to over 10 billion by 2050, the problem becomes transparent. How can we possibly supply enough food to support such a dramatic increase in population when we are already farming 90% of the land that is usable? (under breath…S@#%!)
As some of you may have read about a trending urban ag. topic, some believe the solution lies in using what is not considered by most usable land/space for agriculture – specifically, growing indoors in old, empty industrial spaces, commercial spaces, etc. These companies have the tough task of proving the economic viability of growing inside – not a natural growing environment. If they do, we have one great answer to help solve the problem we face.
Don’t get me wrong, I love taking risk. For better or worse, my life has been defined by and chalk-full of moments of calculated risk. In business, it’s no less important to take calculated risk. However, it’s within this world of calculated risk that sound investing must reign supreme! I personally don’t have it in me to invest my money in experimental models/methods or asking others to invest their money in them.
With that said, another potential solution is to take current land and find ways to increase its production capacity. How can we find a way to drastically increase the yield/sqft of this already existing farm land? The answer? Controlled Environment Agriculture! By building a greenhouse over that land and having total control over your environmental factors, including: air temperature, air circulation, humidity, light levels, bio-security (pest control, virus/disease control) etc, we can create a stress-free environment for plants to grow to their maximum genetic potential. Farms that have switched from conventional growing methods to controlled environment ag. have yield increases well over 400%. WOW!! If we could get 4x the production out of all the land we currently use, think about the possibilities. I’ll leave you to ponder…
Green & Gills, LLC is focused on positively impacting our food system by providing affordable, locally grown, herbicide-free and pesticide-free produce and also naturally raised fish to large urban markets across the United States.
Our solution involves the marriage of two concepts – Controlled Environment Agriculture and Aquaponics. Both have been proven viable by different research institutions in the public sector, and our intention is to capitalize on them in the private sector. Currently, we are in the planning and design stages to build a 60,000sqft. commercial production greenhouse (controlled environment facility) in the Chicago area. We will be running Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems that Nelson + Pade manufacture. One system consists of 4 x 1200 gallon fish rearing tanks, a whole filtration system that “cleans” the water of it’s toxicity (with the help of the plants as well), other fun parts, and then the main hydroponic raft tanks where all plant production takes place. At full capacity for this initial installation, we will be doing upwards of 25,000 heads of different lettuce varieties each week and over 90,000lbs of naturally raised Tilapia every year.
Please follow us, as we embark on a business that could help change the way people view agriculture and how farms interact with the end consumer. Controlled Environment Agriculture is the only long-term solution to our issue of food security!
Please check back, as I will be updating throughout the process of bringing this business to market. In the coming weeks, we will be purchasing a site, taking meetings with major Chicago grocers and also securing the funding. I will do my best to keep y’all abreast. If you are in Chicago, be on the lookout for our brands coming to a store near you – Windy City Tilapia and Windy City Greens. Cheers!