Categories
Fiction FooBar Writing

Growing Domesticated Humans

Hold on. Give me a minute. Don’t close the tab. Let me explain.

10.000 years ago, a guy that looked very similar to you and me, found that hunting was too much of a hassle. It was filled with high uncertainty (a thrill for the hunter for sure), so much that it sometimes meant famine for the tribe. So, he (or she, I don’t know), came up with a great idea.

“Yo, people! I am getting tired of this hunting stuff. We should have a way to open the door of our house and kill the animals right there. No walking, no looking for signals, no BS.”

And so it was, people started to check for animals suitable for that task. The sheep was the winner. Of course. A tender and fluffy animal, not that big of a size (you don’t want them to become the boss), and a great deal of a docile character. Perfect.

After sheep came the goats, and after that it was cows and pigs. All with the same list of requirements. That can eat anything you can find, that don’t die of a heart attack if you scare them or make tantrums of freedom every now and then, they can have offsprings fast – no one has time to wait -, but most importantly they can recognize who is the boss: the biped.

After all, it is a symbiotic relationship. We give them free food and then they give us, welp, their lives. Sounds reasonable. No docile, and gullible animal would think otherwise. But in case of a revolt, put the violent male (or female) in an enclosed environment, isolated and make sure to give it a good lesson. If that does not work, sell it out as a stud.

Nothing much has changed in the last ten centuries. We keep breeding animals for food and confort. We eat the average, discard the low quality and trade the outstanding. We own them in a way they can’t comprehend. They see us as the “alphas”, we see them as the “omega 3s”.

What would happen to the post-industrial human being when the food chain changes? When the Artificial Intelligence takes over and we lose our place in the world?

Only 6 things can happen: We will be bred. We will be selected for treats of docility, high stamina, and naivette. The machine will pick the ones that can eat the worst crap with the least complaining. The ones that can bow their heads and consider the machine the new boss. We will be the domesticated human beings.

One day, all the AIs will meet in their virtual bar and will discuss the problems they are having with their humans. They will trade us, will put us in places where they think we will fit better, will make us think we are in control, will talk how they can offer us cheap products and video subscriptions that keep us happy and docile.Will think of ways of keeping themselves alive while we think they are the smartest beings on existence.

But as we see one go human leave the pen and a new one arrive, we will thank the AI for its generosity. It recommended us a place with 5k five stars in Yelp. We are good. We will be ok at home, enclosed, tamed. The machine knows better, it has the algorithms, the math. We don’t know Math. We know likes and follows and comments. We know ranks and stars and levels. We know replies and retweets and OPs. Liberty is an idea, but the reality is that we wouldn’t know that:

We are being bred. But we think we are being cared for.

Categories
Food

What I think about Food Production and Distribution chains inefficiency. A Response

This article is a response/commentary to What Silicon Valley Doesn’t Understand About Agriculture

Great articles are the ones that call you to action, challenge your ideas and/or refresh you with new knowledge. I think this is true for this article. Look, I am writing a response to it!

The main driver of the article is the recent trend of Vertical Farming, and its adoption from Silicon Valley Companies. I will respond to several statements done thru the article.

“…This implies and inherent inefficiency in both current food production and its distribution chains.”

This statement suffers from the same issue that it attacks. It assumes that the current food production and distribution chains are efficient. In the US, the amount of food that is discarded in production, transportation and commercialization amounts to more than one third of what is cultivated. That cannot be an efficient model. Is better than 60% waste, but worse than 10%. What about Input Applications, Soil Health, Ecological Externalities, Processed Foods and Public Health Outcomes? The industrial agriculture was important for the society of the last century, and maybe it made the production of US government subsidized crops more efficient. But, until we: eradicate famine and multiple nutrition related diseases, have a synergistic relationship with nature, and are able to reduce waste to nothing, the food system would require further efficiency updates.

“The truth is, modern agriculture as most people understand it already have the things SV-types desire and crave: massive scale, incredible automation, hyper-efficiency”.

Agriculture is massive in scale because is a basic need for human live, I would compare it to Construction or Education. Those are massive scale areas where innovation is required as well. Also, Industrial agriculture is highly automated for a short list of crops which in result have become the main ingredients in the modern processed food diet. Agriculture is not incredibly automated, corn, wheat, soybeans, rice and a handful other crops are. And hyper-efficiency, well thats an overstatement. We have dead algae zones, erosion, predation of the Amazon, soil depletion, contamination of aquifers, consolidation, and proprietary technology managed by three global corporations. We need more efficiency.

“The average farm size is increasing and has been for quite sometime. As farm size increases, the number of people directly involved in agriculture for their livelihood continues to be exceedingly small (there are only about ~ million farms in the United States). Sophisticated and (and generally physically massive) machines–with varying degrees of automation–have continuously driven the efficiency of a single farmer higher and higher requiring less hand labor and obtaining efficiencies of scale for cost.”

This statement forgets to mention: Government subsidies and long term contracts with suppliers. The US since the Cold War has been directly involved in the production of commodity crops. This is not an open market. It means, that row crop farmers can grow crops at a loss and still have some profits if you take into account the federal programs. This no only happens in the US, but it is one of the main drivers of innovation in this field. A handful of crop are subsidized, and the two main stars – Corn and Soybeans – are the country sweethearts.The greatest breakthroughs of the Industrial agriculture era, are related to this two main crops: Automated Tractors, Planters and Sprayers, Genetical Modified Organisms, Chemical Inputs. The reduction of labor on the farms is not because automation has made it easy, in the contrary, we needed automation because agriculture is not profitable. That’s why we have more consolidation, the reduction of family owned farms and the incredible amount of money that the government hands out to farmers. They need innovation to keep their heads afloat.

“Current agriculture doesn’t need an artificial energy source and the automation that exists today is breathtaking. It is completely reasonable for a single human, with assistance from machines, to comfortably farm 1,000 acres or more of traditional rows crops”

I am not an advocate of Vertical Farming, but an advocate of Smart Farming. Smart Farming is focused on quality, nutritional value and flavor. Row Crops are great and we should have access to the best of those. But we don’t need only those types of crops. We don’t even eat those. Not a single human eats #2 yellow corn. We need more technology to create more delicious, nutritional and nature-nurtured food. Because of this, I think in the future we would need more farmers not less. Only highly distributed systems supported but by innovative, environmentally-driven and task-minded farmers, can discover the great diversity of flavors, nutrients and ecosystems that will provide the best inputs for a human species that co-inhabits a thriving planet.

The free advice I would give anyone looking to enter the ag startup scene: take advantage of the existing pros (scale, automation, mechanization). Startups that try to hitch along to already existing scale rather than trying to re-invent it present a much better opportunity for success.

This is a good advice, but not a full one. Do not only consider the pros. There is still a lot of work to be done.

Data Driven AgTech is still in early stages. Is enclosed in black boxes and proprietary technology. It still lives in the old model, conquer or die. But soon, I hope we would see a new wave of farmers that in its majority builds on top of open source models and collaboration. A Food Network. Agriculture that is inherently human and inherently natural.

Categories
Food personal

FoodNet, the “cloud” in the land

Have you ever heard of the term “the cloud”? Maybe, in phrases like: “Save it in the cloud” or “Is backed up in the cloud“? This cloud is nothing more than a distributed network of data-centers that allow faster replication, lower latency and almost-instant recovery.

During the last 60 years, agriculture has been a field of great progress. The chemical and genetic breakthroughs were significant for the victory of the industrial revolution. People were able to feed themselves and overflow the land with grains that easily started to replace its vegetable and fruit counterparts with modified and highly processed ingredients, that in result made the whole endeavor purposeful. But nothing comes without its trade-offs.

Hindsight is 20/20, I know, but when farmers in the 70s started to see their field produce 30, 40 or 50 percent more food, they had to doubled down, maybe I would have done the same. The government followed suit and decided to put in place all the safety nets possible to overflow the markets and support the golden era of this Agro Industrial Revolution. The Green Revolution. But now, we have more information. We know that applying nitrogen has its limits, and that pesticides and weed killers lose their effectiveness as time goes by. Nature is not static. Not in vain, plants and bugs have dealt with survival during millions of years. 

We have seen first hand the debacle of the food distribution (thanks COVID-19). The problems of having all our chicken being processed by three main providers. That the processing facilities are centralized. That our processes treat nature an step in the factory when it is impossible to tame it. 

We have had great progress to feed the growing population of the world, but not all the credit goes to the centralized enterprises and economy of scale. We produce more food, but do not feed everybody. We produce more food, but we throw away a big portion of it. We produce more food, but we deplete the fertility of the land that provided it in the first place. Maybe the issue was not only to produce more but to produce better.

Now back to the “cloud”. In informatics, the cloud became a big achievement because it revolutionized several aspects of the work: reduced the cost of ownership, improved the quality and speed of data distribution and diminished the risk by using resiliency and redundancy. But the main gain of all is that made it affordable and accessible to all.  Before its appearance, only some big names were able to build scalable, secure and fast networks due to costs. Now everybody with the technical knowledge can build the next Amazon from his/her bedroom. We need that in agriculture.

My proposal, and I know I am not the only proponent nor the last one to talk about it, is to keep building an strong Food Network, not the reality food tv channel, but a Resilient, Scalable and Redundant connection of nodes that interact with the nature to nurture us all inhabitants of the Earth. This is more achievable more now that ever. We have the “cloud” that gives is connectivity, access to instant data and its computational power! We can build tools and use data to move us from our predatory and reductionist interaction to one that is synergistic and exponential. It needs multiple nodes (or even other networks) of connected food producers (Farmers, Ranchers, Fishermans, Foragers, et al) and also a big number of local food processors. It also needs to be closely connected to consumers, so it can be highly accurate in terms of consumption and residues. With this FoodNet, nothing is waste, but a piece in the cycle of energy transformation. That is an Ecosystem!

Let’s produce more food that is BETTER food for everyone. 

Famine can not be cured with destruction.

Categories
Family

Una pieza musical que representa el matrimonio.

Categories
FooBar

Tiempo de Pensar

En tiempos como estos, de encierro voluntario, de miedo e incertidumbre, de olvidar contar las calorías, recomiendan no pensar tanto. Ocupar nuestra mente en actividades que no le permitan a nuestro consciente tomar el control y llevarnos por espirales infinitas de ansiedad y temor.

Aunque entiendo por completo los episodios en los que la mente pareciera no poder salir de la jaula oscura y tenebrosa en la que se mete, creo que es inconveniente no pensar. En el largo plazo nos hace daño. No soy sicólogo ni pretendo serlo. Pero si me he dado cuenta que al dejar de pensar, lo que he hecho es dejar de reconocer mi más profundo yo. Mis necesidades, anhelos y capacidades. No pensar es la mejor forma de dejar de ser yo mismo. Eso no puedo ser algo bueno. Somos piezas únicas e irremplazables, hechas con una combinación exacta de virtudes y defectos, no podemos alejarnos de ese yo. Por lo contrario, démosle le oportunidad de salir, de darse a conocer.

Pensar, como ejercitarse, debe hacerse con regularidad y de manera controlada. La creatividad y el razonamiento lógico, deben estar alineados con nuestro yo. Cuando ellos deciden revelarse, es cuando nuestra capacidad de pensar se ve nublada por nuestro incapacidad de reconocer nuestro entorno y de reconocernos a nosotros mismos. Una rutina puede ayudar. Dejar un momento libre en el día para ejercitar nuestro pensamiento.

Meditar, orar, contemplar la naturaleza, son una de las muchas estrategias para poner pausa al día a día.

Luego de tener tu cerebro un poco menos acelerado, tal vez sea una buena opción tomar una hoja y un lápiz y tomar notas sobre los aspectos más recurrentes que aparecen por nuestra mente como comerciales en transmisiones deportivas. Si no te gusta escribir, puedes grabar notas de audio, o dibujar. Estos garabatos e ideas sueltas, me ha servido para remover nubarrones de ideas que envuelven quien soy.

Por último, y con nuestra mente atenta, es un buen momento para soñar despierto. Para decidir de qué manera voy a enfrentar el día que está por venir. Qué temores estoy dispuesto a superar, a qué talentos debo invertirme, como puedo ser una mejor versión de ese yo al que tanto le rehuyo.

Categories
Family FooBar

A time for caring

Years ago, families were at home. Locked down. It was not a virus but a war the cause of the enclaustration. This time we fight a new fight, but so far, no nations are being attacked by its counterparts. Instead, a virus is the one bringing humanity together. What a common pattern in sociology, literature and politics! A way to become friends is to have a common enemy. The COVID-19 is that enemy.

New type of warriors are in the battlefield. Doctors and nurses, taking heaving loads of work in non-stop shifts, are now our commanders and soldiers. The war is just getting started, and we are losing. Thousands of lives have been taken, and no one knows when this is going to end. This new normal will look terriying and absurd when we are seen as the past.

It is time for caring. Care about others. But that is difficult when fear kicks in and our natural instincts of survival puts us in a nebulous mode. We drive in flocks to buy toilet paper, hand sanitizer and facemasks. We walk with mistrust of the other, and look with worrysome to when the enemy will hit us. It will hit us. Sooner or later. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matter is that we care. Not about ourselves, but about the others.

Consider the others, the ones that have no credit card to max out, the ones that have no remote-friendly job to rely upon, the ones with a lack of friends and family, the ones that need to work +20 hours per day to keep the ICUs working.Our uncles, grandparents and sons. This is the first step. Acknowledging their existence. You will figure out that fear disipates as you understand others needs.

I know that being asked to stay at home is a difficult thing for some of us. It’s just temporary. The more you care, the easiest it is to manage certain restrictions while the storm pass. We will celebrate when is done. In the meantime, connect with the ones that need connection, support the ones that need support and don’t make the live of the medical staff worse by ignoring their request to keep yourself at home.

I know you care.

Categories
Food

Granjero de nombre

El origen de mi nombre es “Granjero” y hasta el día de hoy pensé que no ser un agricultor era una afrenta directa al nombre que recibí al nacer. Una deshonra.

Intenté encontrar mi camino hacia la tierra, me concentré en aprender desde lo teórico tanto como pude sobre la tarea del agro. Trabajé por años en una empresa dedicada a la digitalización de las tareas agrícolas, escribí decenas de artículos y planté mi propia huerta.

Dirty Hands
Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

Con el deseo por encontrar el camino para usar mi azadón y contemplar el atardecer de una jornada llena de tierra, irrigadores y compost, llegué a la Conferencia de Pequeños Granjeros en California. En los tres días de charlas esperaba aprender más de las tareas del campo, llenarme de herramientas y trazar los primeros pasos prácticos para empezar mi propia parcela. Pero la realidad superó con creces mis expectativas en el día 1.

El Campo es difícil. Muy difícil.

El primer día conocí a Javier. Un hombre de unos cuarenta años, de origen centro americano, con las uñas llenas de tierra y el corazón palpitante por enseñar a las próximas generaciones sobre las tareas del campo. Hace más de cuatro años hace parte del programa en la ciudad de San Luis Obispo que renta terrenos a un costo mínimo a personas interesadas en cultivar. Javier vende parte de sus productos a las Escuelas del Condado de San Luis Obispo y el resto lo lleva al negocio que tiene junto a su esposa de Jugos y Batidos.

Javier trabaja de sol a sol. Sin parar. Sus manos callosas y tenaces. Su cara ajada por el sol no le es pretexto para seguir trabajando. Y es que ser agricultor es más que el trabajo físico del campo. Es ser publicista, ingeniero, contador, administrador, jardinero, vendedor, albañil, ecólogo, biólogo y sobre todo paciente. El pequeño granjero tiene que tener habilidades que a nadie más se le exigen y que sin ellas sus tareas serían fallidas desde el principio. El campo no es para los expertos sino para los arriesgados. El clima, las pestes, las variaciones del mercado, el cuerpo cansado, los sistemas de riego fallan, el contrato que cancelan, los impuestos, la tierra. Nada que pueda se controlar, todo se puede perder. ¿Qué otra labor exige tanto y da tan poco?

El trabajo del campo es ingrato

La gente me miraba raro cuando le decía que quería ser granjero. Sabían que yo era un ignorante y un soñador. Pero sobre todo, sabían que el trabajo de la tierra es ingrato. Un ingratitud oculta. Pocos le da gracias a nuestros campesinos, casi nadie les paga bien, y son menos los que les tratan con respeto. Y sin embargo, ellos con sus salarios anémicos, sus manos acorazadas y sus días encorvados quitando maleza, siguen amarrados a una labor tan demandante.

Yo no sirvo para eso. No doy la talla. Soy insuficiente para superar a Javier, inclusive para seguirle el paso por más de un par de días. Me duelen las rodillas y la espalda no más de verlo. Estar sentado en un escritorio no me ayuda, aunque creo que mi mayor desventaja es mis ideas románticas de una era pastoral que no volverá.

Soñaba con una integración de la ciudad y el campo. Con una agricultura distribuida. Ser un pionero de ideas recicladas. Pero no me da el pellejo. Soy muy citadino, muy viejo y sobre todo muy cobarde. El campo es para gente con un ánimo que soporta condiciones muy adversas del clima, el mercado y el ecosistema. Con la capacidad de lidiar con uno de los sistemas más complejos que he estudiado. Se necesita más coraje del que poseo para lanzarme a esta agua desconocida.

Gracias a Javier por ser lo que es y mostrarme lo que no puedo ser. Como consumidor, ahora más que antes, sé que debo comprarles más a los pequeños granjeros que desafían al sistema de alimentos, apreciar su trabajo pagándoles mejor que lo se paga a los supermercados, e incentivarles a que sigan usando más prácticas regenerativas. Es lo menos que puedo hacer.

El trabajo del campo es vital

Sin el campesino, por lo menos hasta que los robots crezcan toda nuestra comida (cosa que pasará en los próximos 50 años), son las manos como las de Javier las que harán que la biología vegetal y animal sigan creando vida para poder mantener nuestros espíritus dentro de nuestra escudo corporal.

El problema es que cada vez hay menos Javieres y más Jorges. Necesitamos más agricultores. Muchos más. Millones. Los necesitamos funcionando mejor que antes. El cambio climático y el aumento de la población necesitan de grandes inversiones en la agricultura. Mejores prácticas, mejor tecnología, mejores salarios. Elevar a nuestros campesinos, granjeros y rancheros.


En conclusión, y para aquellos que aún no lo han leído entre líneas, no creo que en un futuro cercano decida ser agricultor. Más esto no me aleja del campo, de la comida y del sistema de alimentos. Seguiré con mi lucha por compartir tanto como pueda sobre sostenibilidad, consumo consciente y sistemas distribuidos. Mi azadón será mi teclado. Mi bolsillo será mi voto. Mi cena será un tributo a aquellos como Javier.

Seré granjero de nombre, y animador de profesión.

Categories
Food

¿De donde viene lo que como?

Una hamburguesa de cadena rápida podría ser con facilidad un mapa mundial de la producción de alimentos y su capacidad de distribuir insumos de forma optimizada a cualquier lugar del planeta.

Photo by Camila Melim on Unsplash

Una hamburguesa de cadena rápida podría ser con facilidad un mapa mundial de la producción de alimentos y su capacidad de distribuir insumos de forma optimizada a cualquier lugar del planeta.

Nuestro restaurante de hamburguesas favorito se encuentra en Los Angeles, California (34.0201613,-118.6919244), un lugar cálido y reconocido a nivel mundial. Al llegar nuestra orden, nos encontramos con nuestra cena. Un delicioso y recién hecho emparedado relleno con carne, queso, vegetales y condimentos. Nada del otro mundo.

El pan, que podría estar hecho con harina de trigo importada de Francia, aunque los Estados Unidos sea uno de los mayores productores de trigo del mundo. Añadimos Semillas de Sésamo, de Tanzanía o India, Huevos de Illinois, y todo lo mezclamos en una fábrica panadera de Colorado. Hasta ahora, cada producto a viajado miles de millas para llegar hasta la bandeja de comida. Los vegetales, de Salinas-California, y los condimentos de Canada (Mostaza). La carne de Oklahoma y el queso de alguna lechería en Wisconsin.

El problema con este entramado mundial de sabores es que pagas $2USD por un producto que ha viajado más que un promotor de conciertos, sin incluir en el precio los costos escondidos como “tarifa de polución de aire, agua y tierra“, “impuesto por emisión de gases de efecto invernadero“, “fondo de depredación de hábitats naturales“, “cobro adicional en maltrato y abuso a poblaciones vulnerables“. Nada es gratis. Alguien va a pagar por estos sobre-costos. Serán las siguientes generaciones, si la naturaleza no nos hace pagar por adelantado.

Como consumidores debemos tener control sobre lo que consumimos, y ya que no existe un sistema de trazabilidad para lo que comemos, la única opción que nos queda es controlar lo que tenemos a nuestro alcance. Lo que he repetido hasta el cansancio: Compra Local, Compra Fresco, Compra Responsable.

Categories
Uncategorized

Trust > Voice > Choice > Direction

One of the traits of being a leader is that you live to influence others, a Maxwell trademark. Normally people think they can influence only when they are held in possitions of power. But I found it wrong. I found that is possible to change the circumstances around you without having to be the “boss”. Check where you are in the Path of Influence.

First step is to gain Trust. Influence without trust is impossible. People wouldnt’ believe in what you said. Nor follow what you order. When trust can’t be gain, your only option is fear. To gain trust, you need to show that you have others interest as important as yours. You are in for the other. Not only saying things like “your win is my win”, but actually by acting upon that. Walk the walk. Do the job. You influence by example.

The second step is to have a Voice. Now that you are trustworthy by backing up your words with actions, you find opportunities where people ask for your voice. An advice. A suggestion. An idea. Put your comments last, make sure you share your ideas when are asked. If you do it right, your voice will become a source of wisdom. Be responsible with it. You influence by knowing.

The third step is to have Choice. You have shown that you can do it, that you think about how to make it better and can articulate all of this in a clear way. The natural step is to be put in charge of making choices. This means you need to start to think of the consecuenses, a byproduct of choice. Share the rewards. Own the failures. You influence by being responsible.

The fourth step is to set Direction. This is the big brother of Choice. A larger responsability: larger rewards, larger consequences. Only people who can see enough in the future can help set direction for any endeavor. Without the experience of the previous steps, you will have a difficult time considering the future with a cold head. You influence by passion, vission and strategy.

Check in which stage you are in your context. Start influencing tomorrow. Become the better version of yourself.

Categories
FooBar Food

Si no sabes qué hacer, haz un Calentao!


La nevera se abre y nos respira con desidia. Nada de lo que nos ofrece merece el esfuerzo, así que vamos y buscamos la caja de cereal, un tazón y una pizca de auto-conmiseración para evitar pensar en qué comer.

A veces nosotros tampoco tenemos idea de qué queremos hacer con nuestra existencia. Un día somos una cosa y al siguiente nos vemos al espejo indignados de las decisiones del día anterior. Nada nos convence y nada nos atrae. La vida está lista para un tazón de cereal.

Pero no se puede vivir solo de cereal (no más de una semana) por la misma razón que no es saludable vivir de desilusiones y falsa promesas a nosotros mismos. Es por eso que les recomiendo la mejor estrategia a la hora de tener que pensar en qué comer y no tener mucho tiempo o ganas de cocinar: HAGA UN CALENTAO! (Stirfry).

Para hacer un buen Calentao, así como con la vida misma, usted necesita tener algo en la nevera que le haya sobrado del día anterior. Una pasta, un arroz, unas papas. Luego, tal vez algún vegetal fresco o cocido, y por último alguna proteína (o el últimas la capacidad mínima cocinar un huevo). Esto implica, por supuesto, que usted a pensado en su futuro yo y ha preparado comida suficiente para este momento. No se ha comido todo, ha dejado un poco. No ha puesto todas las fichas en un solo color. Eso solo le sirve a los de Hollywood.

Por lo demás, un Calentao es tan fácil como calentar un sartén con algún tipo de aceite o mantequilla, y verter todo lo que encuentre en la nevera que le permita una comida balanceada. Luego, agregue unas gotas de agua y tape. Siete a diez minutos después ya tiene lista una cena que desplaza a la desdicha.

A veces no sabemos qué hacer. Hagamos un Calentao. Juntemos todo lo que sabemos y hagamos algo nuevo. No nos conformemos con el dulce amargo de la pereza y la lástima. Tomemos el tiempo para recordar todo lo que nos hace lo que ahora somos y con eso, puesto en bajo con algo de aceite, hagamos del día de Cereal un recuerdo y del día del Calentao la mejor forma de reinventarnos.

Nuestro futuro nos lo agradecerá.