Let thy food be thy medicine.
When we didn't have enough money to buy food, we grew it. At ten years old I ripped up our pretty lawn and planted a garden. The harvest that year changed my life forever, from seeing myself as a disadvantaged youth to someone who could change his life. Growing up under circumstances that should have left me impoverished, incarcerated or insane, I beat the odds by learning sustainable principles of adaptability, resourcefulness, and resilience.
This led me down a path to explore and apply solutions to every situation in my life and within my work and greater community. Sustainability is about energy input, output and now using that towards investing in human, social and natural wellbeing and health through the lens of agriculture and technology. What I learned is that agriculture and food must be integrated into our idea of healthcare, and our approach to making sure everyone has enough to eat so we can have healthier, happier, holistic communities that are disaster prepared and provide relief in times of crisis.
What it does:
A global digital network connects users to local open-source resources such as space to farm, farmers, agtech product and service solutions, consulting, leading edge experts, education, volunteers, coders, and agripreneurs. Allows members to open their own HUB chapter, or node to scale the network.
How I built it:
In 2015 the Sustainable Development Goals arrived, and the notion we had enough technology and resources to feed everyone was a catalyst to dedicate my life to sustainability. Five years ago I became immersed in NASA vision for growing food anytime, anywhere, and began to map out the entire "AgSphere"- the flooded and fragmented market of emerging AgTech opportunities and solutions. I also began to see that a lack of understanding, incentives and perspective about farmers was one of our greatest challenges to creating more wellbeing in our local communities.
Challenges I ran into:
The biggest challenge was after incubation and acceleration and Wageningen University start up program, that it was very hard to communicate this vision to consumers, and/or investors. Our resources were very limited, so we had to really practice sustainability: Doing more with less. We also lacked talent, and manpower to achieve the vision as quickly as desired. Many times we looked unprofessionally, or were misunderstood. However, determination and creativity won the day and we are thankful to have gone through a lot of "failures" to focus on finding what now works.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of:
Mostly its the personal effect this message and project has on people's lives. We have had people switch jobs to become farmers, and their health and wellbeing has skyrocketed. When people can provide for themselves, this is one of the biggest rewards that keeps us in the game, even when the tireless hours on not paid and endless. I am also proud of our SMART methodology (pertaining to smart cities and 12 emergent technologies) that helps YOUTH and under served communities interact with sustainability and find their place in the agriculture and health conversation. We want to empower a new generation of sustainable solvers and get out of their way.
Very proud we were accepted by both WSIS and EIT as finalists and that people at larger institutions are getting involved with our grassroots network. We are also proud to be part of UN Project Breakthrough as a way of using business as a tool to achieve the Global Sustainable Development Goals (particularly #2 Zero Hunger), and supporting the Lancet-Eat commissions role in elevating work making the connection between health, farming and food.
What I learned:
How to communicate more effectively, inspire and manage a team. Mitigate disruption and breakdowns. How to keep going when everything looks like it was falling apart. Discovering who our user profiles really are, and what people really needed through the hours of in the trenches, brick and mortar work. To never stop taking one step a day toward the vision. To be okay with being misunderstood, and willing to change and grow. Leading projects and managing work that is cooperative, collaborative, valuable and purposeful.
What's next for SkyFarms.io: Smart Agriculture Hub
Currently we are about to release our consulting tool which will guide users automatically through machine learning to the best options for their agriculture journey. Opening up new HUB chapters and nodes in 5 other EU cities to continue to recruit citizens to become agripreneurs, start or support local farming projects, and continue to make available sustainable training for the regular public to begin to support better design solutions and a community that cares for its people, planet and access to shared prosperity.