Keeping the new agriculture humane, resilient and ready to power up with growth
How we organize the new food economy is critical for preserving independent farmers, ethical conduct and stability through rapid change and growth. It's all about connection. This is a long read, but vitally important for the new farmer.
We recognized that this new economy needed four principles to assure stable growth—Qubo's four axioms of sustainability. 1. Reduce the footprint—cut back on our insatiable need for land and water. 2. Make it organic—stop the proliferation of toxins in our food chain. 3. Make it ethical—in the end, we become the way we treat our world. 4. And finally, make this new economy decentralized—this is what makes the other three practical realities, as you will see...
We could say that insect farming is and industry in start-up mode. There's a slow climb up the adoption curve; but as we in the West overcome our legacy aversion to insects, growth starts a steep climb up the exponential hockey stick curve. This expansion brings great prosperity, but it also brings uncertainty. This acceleration is also volatility. If demand exceeds supply, do prices rise? And defeat the purpose of a widely available source of nutrition? Does it attract speculators who replace ethical conviction with opportunism? When will initial growth start to plateau? And if I invest now, will I be caught in a bubble?
In the nascent insect industry there are further shifting patterns that create uncertainty. The mainstay of farmed crickets now are marketed to the pet food industry, primarily for reptiles. The market for human food-grade insects is small. But growing. And, as we've noted, the market for food-grade crickets could expand explosively. Humans and reptiles demand different varieties of crickets at different prices. So the farmer has a complex business decision: how many of each should be bred to balance volume and price?
Smallholdings control big risk
Cricket farming is accessible. It doesn't need acreage, expensive equipment, feed storage, haulage—the heavy expenses of conventional farming. It is ideal for an ordinary, motivated individual with a modest budget to start a profitable business. The Qubo Chirpbox is designed for just this purpose. It is the
The new food economy is organized as a distributed network of independent producers. It's a peer-to-peer system of open communication and knowledge sharing. It disperses risk, adapts rapidly to change and can scale up quickly.
Legacy systems are based on a central concentration of control. These organizations can have stores of powerful resources, but are complex structures that are slow to change. Their cultures tend to external competition and internal subordination.
Conventional farming has been transformed by consolidation. Corporate agriculture concerns supported by institutional finance have assembled vast tracts of farmland and automated production. We are not going to cast these interests as adversaries; rising global population growth is going to continue to drive demand for food beyond our present capacities. And Big Ag will be part of the supply picture.
But this business model, based on central control systems, is raising our environmental risks—monoculture crops subject to widespread collapse in the event of blight, taxing demand for water and feed (in the case of livestock,) widespread use of pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics and other chemical agents. As the scale of these industrial combines grows, so does the magnitude of the risks in the case of failure. The Cavendish banana is subject to blight that can destroy the global crop. It will bring down corporations, an industry and the livelihoods of countless agricultural workers.
A fair and orderly market
Farmers in legacy agriculture industries are faced by demand for low prices and high volume. And many farmers are finding the situation demoralizing; it undermines the appeal of the vocation—independence, self-determination, making your own decisions.
In the peer-to-peer network that Qubo supports, a continuous conversation among farmers suppliers and customers creates a dynamic negotiation of fair pricing, There is no concentration of power to fix prices.
But there is a deeper mechanism at work in the network. We call it load-balancing. It maintains a stable and reliable supply to the market, correcting for changing variables. If one farm has production problems, a peer can step in and maintain supply, The initial farmer avoids alienating a
customer. The industry then can avoid shortages that adversely affect prices.
contemporary counterpart of the traditional smallholding—a modest plot of land providing economic self-sufficiency and an independent style of life.
Competition does not advance prosperity among small independent growers; co-operation does. In traditional agrarian communities today we can still find community barn raisings, hay cutting and harvest celebration. Co-operation among smallholders is not nostalgia for a simple life with simple virtues; it is a social cohesion that creates sturdy resilience and stability.
We facilitate connection among farmers in this new economy. It creates a peer-to-peer network of open communications and knowledge share. Like most environmental sciences, insect breeding advances through incremental improvements. One farmer's tweak when shared can raise benchmark yields across the industry. This web of peer-to-peer connections creates a distributed network. And it behaves very differently from the legacy business model of central control.
In the conventional model, any number of events can threaten an organization—a financial reverse, a security breach, a competitor with a technological advantage. But in a distributed network, there is no central point of failure. An accident that could put one farm out of production does not jeopardize the system. And the co-operative fabric on the network means that farmers help each other in emergencies. The network tends to be self-healing.
The ratio of pet to human food cricket demand is changing. It's difficult for a single producer to get the mix optimal, but the network can stream the right proportion to the market by mixing output from a variety of suppliers. The great benefit that the peer-to-peer system can deliver is simultaneous stability with flexibility. In a period of high growth and volatility, spreading production across an entire network of individual farmers smooths out shortages and surpluses, avoids speculative bubbles and maintains a fair and orderly market for our farmers.
Adapt easily. Evolve quickly.
Big, central control organizations are battleships that can only change course slowly. A small producer, a Chirpbox owner, is a speedboat. New technologies (data analysis and auto-regulating systems) and new breeding techniques can be implemented in hours in a Chirpbox. And with the free flow of knowledge share through the network, the industry can be in a fluid state adapting to market opportunities.
Our network of smallholders can scale fast to meet growing demand. We don't need land, we don't need vast capital for infrastructure; we need enthusiastic, independent-minded individuals willing to make a small investment and plug into a global network of humane agriculture built on respect for our world. And now this network has a name—Qo-op.™ See how it's connecting growers and buyers to help create the new agriculture.