The Weekend Wonk: Food is the New Internet

December 12, 2015

Kimball Musk is Elon’s Brother.


We don’t need to feed the world, we need to get smarter about food. The Industrial food system built in the 60s and 70s has left us simultaneously fat and starving and it’s time for it to die. There’s an opportunity for smart young entrepreneurs to build a new smart food system that supplies the natural, local food people are demanding. Farmland is available, new technologies have created new possibilities and investors are flooding into the sector.

Kimbal Musk is an investor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a chef. He is on the board for Tesla Motors, SpaceX, The Anschutz Health and Wellness Center and Chipotle Mexican Grill. His personal mission is to get communities rapidly thriving by improving every part of the food culture. Kimbal is a co-founder of The Kitchen, a growing family of restaurants that sources directly from local farmers, stimulating the local farm economy to the tune of millions of dollars a year, and creating quality jobs. In 2011, Kimbal co-founded The Kitchen Community, a complementary non-profit organization. The Kitchen Community has already built 225 Learning Gardens reaching over 135,000 students every school day, improving their vegetable intake and academic achievements. Follow Kimbal on Twitter @Kimbal.


3 Responses to “The Weekend Wonk: Food is the New Internet”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    Kimbal talks a big game here. But, from what I have read, large-scale farming in ideal weather sites like California is way more productive and efficient. (At least until the water runs out).

    Small-scale farming sounds great – but can it feed all the people we are going to have in thirty years?

  2. I think he’s wrong on at least two points, and this answers the question above about small-scale farming.

    First, the cheeseburger index – where did he get this data? We cannot feed the world many times over because the way we produce that food is UNSUSTAINABLE. In our current food system it takes more energy to produce, process and transport the food than the calories produced by the food itself can provide. “Stoop Labor” IS sustainable because that’s how people have harvested food for MILLENNIA.

    We also cannot feed the world using our unsustainable system because it depletes topsoil. Plowing, pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers kill the soil life, turning soil into sand. Dustbowl. It does not build topsoil, even if you use ‘organic’ methods. The only way to farm and build topsoil is through permaculture methods, and right now that’s most often found on small farms. Permaculture is an ethical system of landscape design for creating sustainable, productive ecosystems.

    Where Musk is right is in the opportunity to meet the demand for real food. The danger is in creating a green-washed ‘organic’ niche-market supply chain for the wealthy who want to jump on the real food trendy bandwagon, versus creating vibrant, sustainable landscapes that produce abundant, nutritious food for communities around the world, rich or poor.

  3. addledlady Says:

    He doesn’t seem to be talking about small-scale farming to me. He’s talking about not using vast quantities of fossil based fertiliser. That might well mean _mixed_ farming on a large scale rather than old-fashioned family farm sized plots. It’s certainly true that many organic and permaculture approaches are well suited to “family” operations, but if he’s talking about farmers using satellite information to determine whether crops are ready for harvest, he’s probably not talking about people with an acre or two of onions or oranges.

    Some people say this is “inefficient” – and much of it might well be less productive initially, maybe for a decade or so while soils recover from a history of too much ploughing and chemical application and too little opportunity to build living communities of bugs, worms, fungi and bacteria below the surface. It certainly is inefficient to have so much nitrogen and phosphorus initially applied to soils but finishing up polluting rivers and lakes, maybe because of applying too much, maybe from the soils being badly managed so that the stuff *can* run off.

    However, he’s also talking about, eventually, taking 10s of billions of acres out from under ethanol and cotton production in the US alone. I know some of that extremely marginal land should never have been ploughed in the first place – maize for ethanol production is more about using land to produce income from subsidies rather than from the grain itself – and a lot of farmers resisted planting some areas until fairly recently.

    There are all sorts of organic processes and initiatives in farming in most countries. The US is probably better off than most in having extremely large areas available for food production that are currently used for non-food and less profitable activities.

    It won’t be all sunshine and roses, but that’s a huge buffer of land area to cover any temporary reduction in food produced per hectare by allowing larger areas to be regularly fallowed or interspersed with soil replenishing ground covers.

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