If the world wants to feed 10 billion people in 2050, he will have to find a better way to grow food.
Today, about half of the world’s habitable land is devoted to agriculture, but even that amount cannot provide everyone with the kind of diet enjoyed by people in developed countries. If everyone wanted to eat like Americans, about 140% of the world’s habitable land would have to be cultivated.
This is obviously not possible. The other option is to drastically increase the amount of food each acre of land can produce. While agriculture has made impressive progress over the past few decades, tripling production seems like an exaggeration. One solution is to skip the soil and grow crops hydroponically in greenhouses.
Hydroponic farming has a lot of potential – lettuce yields, for example, can be 10 times higher than traditional farming – but it’s not without its problems. On the one hand, it requires a lot of energy. But it’s relatively easy to solve compared to other challenges in the industry.
“It’s a bit of a dirty secret that the industry doesn’t really like to talk about, but they have very serious outbreaks,” said Paul Rutten, founder and CEO of Concert Bio, a space microbiome company. .
If bad bacteria or fungi get inside a hydroponic greenhouse, “it’s open season — it’ll just take over,” Rutten said. “It’s a big, interconnected loop of water, so it’s not going too bad – it’s going catastrophically bad. It’s all just going to die, basically.
Rutten and his colleagues at Concert Bio are developing a system to monitor and possibly modify the microbial ecosystem that lives in hydroponic systems. The team landed an oversubscribed $1.7 million seed round led by The Venture Collective with strategic investments from Nucleus Capital, Ponderosa Ventures, TET Ventures, Day One Ventures and Possible Ventures. A handful of angels also contributed.