14 Nov 2011, 4:38pm
Books Business Food
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Vertical Farming and My New Obsession

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Every so often (more often than I’ll admit) I delve into a subject that captures my imagination and interest so much that it becomes part of my life for a long time. Most recently, it was the Criterion Collection and then business school and reading.  This time, I think it’s different.

Backstory:

The day I graduated college (December 17, 2004), I remember sitting on my bed and thinking: “now what?” I quickly glanced over the industry options that would put my degree to good use: defense, enterprise engineering, consulting, banking, industrial automation, electronics, etc. Nothing was really speaking to me. I went back to the drawing board. I realized that I had been on a journey to reach that day for my entire life. Now that I was there, I had no idea why.

Our basic needs are met. Our second level needs are met. Humans invented commerce, agriculture and written language. I took me five years of reading and searching to realize this. After realizing that my degree and any short term goals I had wouldn’t allow me to realize what I needed to do long term, I thought about what I would go back to school to study. Law? Too focused. Neuro-prosthetics? Not really on my moral compass as there’s too much potential to do harm. Ecology? I’d have to take 2 years of biology and chemistry before even applying to grad school. More engineering or computer science? That would only make me a specialist – and possibly not in a way that I’d want to be. Business? Hm. I could do one of the thousand things I was thinking about. And I can do it part time. That sounded like the best option economically and logically.

But it wasn’t a solid enough idea to convince the admissions board at Haas last year. I wasn’t ready to apply when I did the first time. I needed one more year to ruminate and self discover.  I’m ready now.

Dickson Despommier’s The Vertical Farm is just a book with a rather inspirational title. Most of what I took away from reading it was the idea. Taking the idea a few steps further, I came up with a list of engineering problems that I’d be interested in solving. I have the seed of a business plan in my head and in my new goals essay for admission to Haas. I think that I could cater to my personal goals of working in a city, in something to do with agriculture by owning a business that is executing specifically to the triple bottom line. I also think I can help solve one or more really big problems: job creation (here and elsewhere), feed the world, secure food, provide a viable plan for squatter cities, etc.

In school, I will want to focus on my business plan, building connections to help solve some of the engineering problems, learn about entrepreneurship, global business and continue doing research around helping the world. There’s a quite a bit of learning to be done and I’d like to keep this blog as a record of my progress. I won’t promise to update every week or month, but when I feel like I need to record something I will come here. My next post should be either the list of engineering problems I need help with or a high level framework of the business plan I will be working on. Hopefully we’ll get to see the evolution of that.