What do Google and farming even have in common beyond robotic sorting of results you might search for any topic related to agriculture? Nothing at all. At least until you realize that it is owned and operated by humans who have to eat just like everyone else, but more importantly, it’s a for profit company, and well… food is big money. Google has plenty of that these days, and they’re always looking for ways to increase their healthy share of the pie.
Of course, they don’t express this new interest of CEO Eric Schmidt’s in words you could remotely connect to their wealth. According to spin-off Flexitronics’ Head of Lab IX Lior Susan, agriculture isn’t sexy. I bet the folks in farmland would have a bone to pick with her. But the next part of her statement published in the TechCrunch article that tipped us off to this latest news on the Googly Bear front, “You don’t see IPOs and big acquisitions that pull Sand Hill into the game.” Schmidt and partners in this new Farm2050 endeavor see this as why its necessary for them to foster an AgTech ecosystem.
Before you get all bubbly with excitement though, this is not really a game changer so much as it is bait to update the environmentally unfriendly methods we know as factory farming in soil. It has nothing to do with a lot of things that concern a growing segment of the global population about the wastefulness and toxicity of the current food system. The partners at Farm2050 are not progressive growing interests, they include DuPont whose interests lie in chemical fertilizers and pesticides, Agco whose interest lies in farm equipment like Massey Ferguson tractors and grain storage structures, and Sensitech who makes sensors that pertain to both big ag endeavors, and food storage or transport… all of which have built entire companies, or a healthy portion of their businesses on conventional agriculture.
Now, we can’t grow corn and other grains in closed system agriculture (a.k.a. indoor farms, hydroponics, and aquaponics) so it makes a lot of sense to get some impetus going on changing the way things are with this part of the broken food system production. Still, it is almost impossible to fathom reducing the amount of synthetic inputs like pesticides, genetically modified seed, or carbon fuels needed to bring these crops to harvest with long time players like DuPont and mega-tractor manufacturing Agco involved. Furthermore, why do we need IPOs and big acquisitions to feed the world when the world can feed itself given the knowledge it needs to do so? We don’t – but they do… and as the title of a related Fast Company Exists article states: “Silicon Valley’s Attempt At Cashing In On The New Farming Revolution“. No matter what happens next, people gotta eat and Google knows how to sniff out money. They created a massive amount of it out of thin air while the established corporate world practically sneered at this upstart fad called the Internet. Like blue jeans, the fad only grew into a massive reality instead of the flash in the pan the good old boys deemed it to be. Kind of like the need for food that will sustain the masses who populate Earth.
So how much do you think Eric Schmidt really knows about growing food? I wager his experience with food in the past decade or two is buying it at a premium, and eating it prepared to perfection, though while investigating new ways to make his money grow he just can’t ignore the repetitious news that we need to increase the amount of food the world can produce by 70% by 2050. Notice he’s not overtly concerned about the massive quantities of edible food that is thrown away while people everywhere are going hungry or eating fast food because that’s all there is. His focus is on fixing the broken by throwing money at inventing something new and futuristic that will aid those who keep the messed up things in place now spinning a profit in tomorrow’s world.
Maybe its just my take on the situation, but this really appears to go against the grain – a leap to fund the unhealthy side of sustainability, and continue corrupting our daily bread.