Exploring the Vast Potential of a Strange New Industry

synopsis — Our pressing need to develop a more sustainable society also provides the opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop niche markets which may someday leave the corporate giants of today in the dust, where they belong.

What does our food supply have to do with cannabis?

The simple answer to this question is that they both involve plants, but in reality there is much more to it than that.  For starters, according to the following article, hemp (a type of cannabis) is one of nature’s most complete superfoods:

Nutritional Profile and Benefits of Hemp Seed, Nut and Oil

“..National Institute of Health (see http://ods.od.nih.gov/news/conferences/w6w3_abstracts.html) demonstrated the
impressive benefits of a balanced omega-6/omega-3 ratio in our diet: reduced risk of atherosclerosis, sudden cardiac death and certain types of cancers, decrease in the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, mood improvement in bipolar disorders and optimized development in infants.

In clinical studies, these benefits are often achieved using omega-3-rich fish and flax oil supplements.  A more “holistic” approach consists of shifting our general dietary fat intake towards nuts and oils offering a better omega-6/omega-3 ratio. Hemp nut and oil offer an omega-6/omega-3 ratio of 3:1 or less, depending on plant variety.  This exceeds the target ratio of 4:1 and compensates in part for omega-3 deficiencies in the rest of our diet. No other vegetable oil offers EFAs at such high concentrations and, more importantly, in such a desirable omega-6/omega-3 ratio…”

“..Hemp’s nutritional advantage over other sources of fats and protein thus lies in its highly desirable balance of basic nutrients.  Simply put, when eating hemp seed, nut and/or oil, our body obtains much of what it needs without the caloric ballast of non-essential nutrients. Yet, unlike fish and flax oil supplements and assorted protein powders, properly processed hemp seed offers these benefits with the additional bonus of a nice flavor profile – hemp tastes good. Fresh coldpressed hemp oil and hemp nut, particularly when toasted, add a nice nutty flavor to many dishes and packaged food products. Hemp nut and oil therefore are attractive both nutritionally and culinarily, rendering them truly modern food sources.”

But the connection between cannabis and our food supply doesn’t end there.  Oddly enough, our misguided prohibition of cannabis has led to massive development of advanced growing technologies–which now have the potential to help our entire society become healthier and more sustainable.

By making it illegal to grow a plant, our government inadvertently gave great incentive to develop the art of indoor cultivation.  And now that the plant is semi-legal in fourteen states plus the District of Columbia, business is booming like never before.

NASA was undoubtedly the pioneer of aeroponic technology, which is far and away the most efficient way to produce huge, healthy crops; but it is mainly cannabis growers who have funded the multi-billion dollar industries which now exist for all those interested in superior, soil-less growing technology.

Much the same could also be said about LEDs and other advanced lighting technologies, however there are many other driving factors throughout society which have also played a large part in their continuing evolution (televisions, street lights, billboards, headlights, police sirens, emergency lighting…), but I digress.

As our state legislators here in Montana struggle with regulating a medicine the federal government still claims is a deadly menace to society, Senator Jon Tester is working to protect small food suppliers from crippling government regulations.

The regulations come about due to ongoing food safety issues, which continue to result in E. Coli outbreaks and other public health threats.  As the recent award-winning film Food, Inc. displayed so vividly, this is the direct result of current corporate food production methods.

Soil-less producers are clearly not the problem.  They are actually a large part of the solution; one that our government should be supporting as much as possible.  Not only do these methods eliminate the need to use chemical pesticides and fertilizers, they also eliminate the need to ship food up from Mexico, Argentina, Chile and who knows where else.  Aeroponic methods also use 90% less water than traditional farming, making them the obvious solution for the farms of the future.

Eventually they will save us massive amounts of energy while giving us a far healthier food supply, however it will require the further development of cutting-edge technologies combined with a lot of ingenuity and capital to build the vertical farms proposed by various engineers, architects and designers throughout the world.

Dr. Dickson Despommier, of Columbia University in New York City, is head of the Vertical Farm Project and has written numerous widely-published articles discussing the benefits of vertical farming.  Recently, he was selected by New Jersey engineering firm Weber Thomas to help design and build the Newark Vertical Farm (NVF) :

“..NVF is envisioned to be a flexible armature for uses relating to vertical farming, urban agriculture, sustainable design and energy efficiency. The main building contains the vertical greenhouse, and research labs separated by a full height atrium for light and ventilation. The greenhouse space contains high intensity soil-less growing systems and is designed to be flexible and adaptable. The ground floor showcases a demonstration green house for public interaction while the upper floors serve as an agricultural laboratory. The purpose of the building is to develop, test, and educate with the ultimate goal of a commercially viable building type.

The site is also designed to showcase sustainable site strategies in an urban environment. The buildings and the site are oriented to maximize solar exposure, with the Vertical Farm green house section facing due south and the more conventional urban agriculture plot with south to north rows. The parcel is directly adjacent to a community center. The spaces are arranged in a series of overlapping rooms that allow both observation and function to coexist. The structure is organized to create numerous opportunities for both demonstration and research platforms relating to the study of vertical farming, urban agriculture, urban gardens, water conservation, constructed wetlands, on-site power generation, and more…”

While this is very good news for those of us interested in developing a truly sustainable society, it is important to keep ourselves grounded in the reality that hugely expensive skyscrapers are not the only way to utilize advanced farming techniques in urban areas.

Rooftop greenhouses, sunrooms and other various types of indoor (soil-less) gardens are becoming inexpensive enough for most Americans to afford.  The thought of tending an aeroponic garden; however, may sound unappealing for any number of reasons.

Even among those with the most incentive to grow their own crops–“medical marijuana” patients, many simply do not have the time or necessary expertise to build and/or maintain a garden of any sort.  The large majority of patients who do choose to grow their own medicine are reportedly still using soil to grow the crops, just as their caregivers are apt to suggest for beginning growers.

What this all boils down to is there appears to be a new service industry which is still in its inception, yet has the capacity to drastically improve our society in the long run.  And this is happening just as the world’s most highly coveted plant becomes legal for more and more U.S. citizens to cultivate..

A new breed of home marijuana grower

Join the best growing minds at North America’s biggest indoor gardening event

Small growing business is growing quickly

In The Margins: Legal business fills niche, but medical marijuana growers need to take care not to stretch the law

“..Medical marijuana is going to help every aspect of the economy,” Beyerlein said. “Money’s going to start flowing. Electricians (who wire growing operations) are going to go to work, it’s going to create a lot of jobs, not just the growers but the people to sustain the growers.”

“During the Gold Rush, people made their money selling pick-axes and jeans,” Beyerlein said. “This is it right now. This is the market to be in.

Personally, I agree with this entrepreneur’s sentiment so much that my current goal is to create a company of my own to fill the growing niches which have suddenly appeared in my hometown of Missoula, MT.

More details on this business venture coming soon.


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