Entrepreneurs see opportunities in unexpected places. As part of my forthcoming book, I am on a quest to uncover the most compelling areas of opportunity in, and engage with those entrepreneurs driving us to, a sustainable future.
The ones I am tracking now intend to completely change the way we grow and deliver food to our plates.
The astronomically high global food prices that have, in part, fueled uprisings in the Middle East are indeed tragic. But they also offer opportunities to innovators who are devising the solutions we need to feed the planet.
To meet these future-makers, I’m off to San Francisco on April 11th and 12th for Agriculture 2.0, the only conference devoted to the business of sustainable agriculture.
I have come to the same realization as the conference organizers who note, “the possibilities for agriculture investment are poised to explode in the coming years. With a rapidly growing global population, ominous climate changes and a rise in demand for high-value food products, sectors like ag-tech, sustainable inputs, seed technology, aquaculture, commodities and farmland are all coming onto the radar of mainstream investors.”
The opportunities not only exist for big-ticket investors and entrepreneurs, but also for those with a green thumb who are ready to expand beyond their backyards.
One example is Karen Contreras, who had always worked for other people. She was good at her job in sales for direct mail companies. It brought in a comfortable six-figure income. But, at age 53, she felt a strong urge to do something else, something more basic, namely to grow vegetables like she did as a kid in her family’s backyard farm.
In 2008, Contreras founded a home-based business called Urban Plantations. Two months after going into business, she was in the black. The following month, First Lady Michelle Obama built a vegetable garden at the White House and Contreras’ business took off.
“Soon I had a vision of Urban Plantations becoming something very large,” Contreras said. Contreras and thousands of other adherents of the global Slow Food movement are finding ways to turn their passion for locally grown food into businesses that sustain not only their bodies, but their livelihoods. Contreras’ business now supports the entire household; her husband Paul went to work with her after losing his job in the recent recession.
Now she’s sharing her knowledge with others. Next door to a LEED Platinum (the highest sustainability rating for any structure) office building in San Diego, Contreras helped to persuade the developers to carve a quarter-acre garden. That garden now provides fava beans, sugar snap peas, pomegranates, grapes and dozens of other crops to the building’s organic restaurant, Fibonacci Cafe. In the compost section of the garden, shredded paper (printed with soy-based ink) mingles with the eggshells and goes on to nourish future meals in the restaurant.
Join me in San Francisco or check back in with me after the conference and I’ll introduce you to some of the most compelling people and companies that I meet and what their businesses mean to you and the food on your plate.
For more from Christiana Wyly:
- The Creative Potential of Money (VIDEO)
- Conscious Capitalism: Are You Investing in a Better World?
- Turning Passion Into Profits (VIDEO)
- What Wakes You in the Middle of the Night? (VIDEO)
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