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April ’08 Eco-City Conference: Academic Sessions

The key to the Eco-City Conference as a whole was separation of labor and time management. Wielding dual mp3 recorders and carefully planning each day in advance, Ryan Mykita and Grant Canary ran this second gauntlet shortly after the bio-cycle conference. Amongst diverse topics that were decently grouped, some speakers were obviously hard hitters, others languished on well-beaten trails, while others came up as big surprises.

As I found out later, Umbria’s services are based on a former DoD code. Umbria tracks issues online using algorithms that are applied to the text of blogs and web pages.  In their presentation they analyzed who is talking about sustainability.  Amongst the interesting results of their 170,000 blog sample was the movement on sustainability they’ve seen recently.  The majority of discussions were about food and sustainability while only 9% of discussions were about brands and the latest campaigns. (hmm…there’s a hint…no one cares about green washing)

In the Urban Agriculture sector, NY Sunworks nailed their presentation, which detailed a system that cultivates plants contained within the walls of skyskrapers.  The skyskraper in question uses a double skin facade (like a double pane window) and in between the two layers of glass is a “dutch bucket system” of plants that are rotated up from floor 1 as seedlings, through to floor 10, and back down when they are mature at the thirty day mark.  The plants provide cooling (via evapotranspiration), shading, and food which makes the building an ultra efficient project.  The group’s economic figures purport that there is a $20 gain per square meter of installed system for heating/cooling cost reduction and a $70 per square meter when the production value of the plant is taken into consideration.

This group offered three visions for the sustainable future: the eco-apocalypse (everything goes to hell),  the eco-apartheid (those who can afford healthy and sustainble life are the only ones who get one), and the vision they are working for: eco-equity.  It is for this reason that they offer an accreditation program on greenroof installations for persons of all classes.  Judging by the participant handbook I had a minute to look through, the program appears phenomenally well organized and put together.

After two days of grueling sessions, we had another 3 days of featured speakers in the conference sessions of the Eco-City conference held at the masonic center. The fun had just begun…

(For the sessions listed above, contact me if you’re interested in the Mp3 recordings and we’ll see what we can work out.)

Insect-Based Feed Gains First Acceptance in Market

Insect-Based Alternatives to Fishmeal is our target market at BioSystems Design, LLC., and it is very active! Neptune Industries, Inc. has signed a Letter of Intent with Ziegler Bros, Inc. a leading manufacturer of high quality animal feeds, to purchase over 40 tons a month of its Insect-Based Feed.

We like the news at BioSystems, because it shows introductory acceptance of Insect-Based Feed as an excellent option for animal feed, fishmeal in particular. Neptune Industries, Inc. is progressing on standards certification for Insect-Based Feed along with other scientific developments that complement the fishmeal market. Neptune is breaking down barriers for the industry, and we are excited to see it – with full confidence in our own Insect-Based Feed which we plan to have prepared just in time to enjoy the benefits of a young, versatile fishmeal market.

With the full story, Yahoo Finance:

‘You smell like my uncle’: An Entrepreneurs Road

As the four individuals rounded the turn and came into view, I imagined myself much like Daniel Day-Lewis in the opening of There Will Be Blood (2007). I was in a A-Frame cotton undershirt, classic corduroy hat, my face splattered with mud, leaning on a shovel and straddling a big load of dirt and chiseled bricks and chiseled concrete; remnants from the Universidad Nacional’s library demolition. I was leveling out this fill manually because we needed a road to our greenhouse, we needed the bricks and gravel to keep it free of two foot deep mud, and we needed it now!

Our predicament was that two feet mud in long stretches of the 400 meter road to our greenhouse would substantially delay the delivery of our waste foods and our transporter would be charging us for it–if he agreed to deliver at all. Realizing even before the transporter came out, I had noticed loads of rock, gravel, dirt and brick leaving the demolition of the university’s library nearby. I mentioned this to Jaime Moreno, the greenhouse chief, and learned that unfortunately for whatever reason, his suggestion to recieve the loads had been shot down. He refused to name to the person so as to keep his job nice and safe–and left the work to me. In his eyes I was the big gringo money man to make the suggestion and make it happen.

I had finally found myself at 4:30pm sitting in the giant cab of an International Dumptruck arriving at the greenhouse compound honking our horn–much to the surprise and amusement of the workers. Two weeks had passed and Ryan had spoken with the engineer at the demolition site, I had obtained a letter from the director of greenhouses, and then passed it to the engineer, who gave it to one of the women in charge of maintenance, who called someone and so on and so forth. These loads had previously been going to the only landfill Bogota has, ‘dona juana,’ and my fellow driver was quite happy to avoid the 45 minute drive at the end of his friday workday. The engineer was quite happy to give us the load because someone (either the university or the construction company) is saving on the lack of a dumping fee, gas, etc. We were now the proud owners of 2-3 loads of rock and dirt a day. But we needed it leveled, and fast!

As the four approached me, I greeted them with a dirty and dusty wave of the hand. One of the younger female professors who I would soon tour through our pilot factory looked at me as if I was an alien species…why was I doing this, why did I not have coveralls like the other workers…her face was a priceless representation of ingrained class distinction. I changed into more appropriate attire and gave the tour.

Returning after the tour, they observed the work I was doing. A small kid who had accompanied the group on the tour was helping by picking up the largest hunks of brick and concrete he could and dumping them in the puddles–getting himself as dirty as possible in the process. He observed me shoveling the dirt and gravel and honestly observed, “you smell like my uncle.” I had one of the largest laughs I’ve had in a long time. I did indeed smell quite special.

After the group departed, Ryan helped out for a while and guided the newly arrived dumptruck in before taking off. The driver who I had ridden out with last Friday helped me considerably more this time by using the weight of the truck to compact the fill after it had been added, as well as dumping small quantities, shoveling, and dumping more small quantities.

Despite all the hassles Ryan and I have encountered in Colombia, there are some bright spots where you see people reach out and help others. This truck driver was a bright spot. He easily could have dumped his load in a single spot (making my work infinitely more difficult) and departed. This would have been an easy 1 hour off his normal schedule. However, he chose to stay with me, do significant amounts of backbreaking shoveling (because of the hidden bricks, there is no simple consistency like standard gravel) and spend time driving his truck back and forth, back and forth over our Inca road smashing and compacting it.

He brought back a second load and helped shovel some more before leaving due to driving restrictions of big trucks after 6pm. I stayed for another hour and finished the 100 meter section I had been working on. I did this by tricking myself as I do in the weight room, saying to myself…I’ll only do this little part…doing it, and then telling myself the same as I take on another little part…until little by little the work is done. As I finished the pile, I was beginning to lose my light. My hands were rubbed raw from working without gloves. My shoulders were already sore. I’d have to come back and work at least a full day to clear the backload of dumped rubble, about 2-4 yards so far. Either that or bribe one of the bobcat operators working at one of three construction sites.

As I walked out, I thought back to the face of the entomologist and then again to the opening shot of Daniel Day-Lewis, digging in the oil well alone, covered in oil, breaking his leg and dragging himself to camp. I refer to the shot again because even though it is so early in the film, it is the peak point of respect for Daniel Day Lewis’ character –the entrepreneur with a theory, doing anything and everything he can to get that theory off the ground with the little resources he has. In a country replete with 15th generation haves and 30th generation have nots, I wonder if my young entomologist friend, as she watched Daniel Day-Lewis’ character struggle, would feel this same respect, or watch with the same strangely alien fascination of horror and surprise.

Judging by the two guys in the group helping to move some larger bricks for a few minutes, I’d guess a little of both. I can almost hear the thought process…so this is really what they’re going to do to build a new business? It’s not just Hollywood?

For those here with money, labor to build storefronts for businesses is cheap, but rarely wasted on a new idea–that’s for corporations to sensibly manage risk. For those without money, a storefront is a nearly impossible goal as it is. Why would anyone (like ryan and myself) waste money trying out an unproven idea if we could just build what has already been built and profit?

BSD Hires Four Researchers to Analyze Larvae Production Process, Establishes R&D Program

25 June 2008

(Bogotá, Colombia) – One month after signing a five-year Research & Development Agreement with the Agronomy Department of the National University of Colombia, BioSystems Design, LLC. has hired four environmental researchers to analyze details and specifications of the larvae production process as part of the newly established Research & Development Program of the company.

BioSystems Design, LLC has the privilege of working with researchers in Colombia to investigate the industrial production process for larvae-meal. Each will have access to a variety of research laboratories essential to the study and perfection of the larvae-meal production process. Aspects to be studied include the elimination of pathogens, characterization of liquid and solid wastes from the process, along with advanced techniques to degrade organic matter for their assimilation by mature larvae, to be later treated as larvae-meal animal feed. The researchers have begun work on their assigned studies with results expected October 2008.

Initiating this agreement is the new Research & Development Program, formulated by BioSystems Design, LLC., to prepare a business plan that calls for the construction of a large-scale facility to fabricate larvae-meal from organic waste, for use as an insect-based animal feed. for more information on the work of BioSystems Design, LLC visit our website at http://www.biosystemsdesign.com or contact Ryan Mykita at:

ryan (dot) mykita (at) hotmail (dot) com

BioSystems Signs 5 year Contract With Universidad Nacional

So despite unrelated student strikes, and four months of navigating bureaucratic rapids and simply waiting in frustration, we’re signed and confirmed baby! The press release is below. More updates to follow as we get the greenhouse up and begin research with our recently interviewed interns. There’s a lot of back-story to put up on our newly created blog, but look for that in the next few weeks.

27 May 2008

BIOSYSTEMS DESIGN, LLC. SIGNS RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT WITH THE NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF COLOMBIA, COMPLETES FIRST RESEARCH REPORT ON PRODUCTION PROCESS TO CONVERT CROP AND FOOD WASTE INTO HIGH PROTEIN LARVAE-MEAL.

(Bogotá, Colombia) – A five-year Research & Development Agreement with the Agronomy Department of the National University of Colombia was signed this week by Grant Canary, CEO & Founder of BioSystems Design, LLC.

In signing this agreement, BioSystems Design, LLC has the privilege of working with the finest researchers in Colombia to design an industrial production process for larvae-meal. The agreement gives BioSystems private greenhouse space to operate the recently imported Bio Pods from ESR International, as well as access to a variety of research laboratories essential to the study and perfection of the industrial larvae-meal production process. BioSystems will be working with dozens of agronomists, engineers, and biologists from the National University of Colombia, who will assist with key aspects of the research.

Coinciding with this agreement is the completion of the first BioSystems Design research report on the industrial larvae-meal production process, designed and developed at the prestigious Colombian private university, Universidad de La Salle. In this study, BioSystems Design, LLC researchers have compared larvae feeding substrates and feeding conditions for optimal growth. Further study is being developed at the University to understand the growth response of the larvae to varying nutrient levels in organic substrates. Published documents can be read at http://www.biosystemsdesign.com

With the successful completion of the first research report and the signing of this important agreement done, BioSystems Design, LLC is immediately looking forward to designing an expanded, second stage of research study. These studies will commence June 1, 2008 with results expected November 2008. Please see http://www.biosystemsdesign.com for more information on the work of BioSystems Design, LLC.

April ’08 BioCycle Conference Report

BioSystems Design members Grant Canary, Ryan Mykita, and Juan Diego Giraldo got a hard hitting look at composting past, present, & future in the US. Amongst the scrooges and tiny tims were tireless government activists, private operators, machine vendors, and environmental policy advocates. Sitting down in an extremely over-air conditioned town and country resort in San Diego California, a few key facts fell into place:

  • BioSystems Design can get paid to receive foodwastes, our primary target input as well as for producing larvae, our output. In the states, due to liability, supermarkets and food waste producers are not paid for their foodwastes because the potential liability they would risk for the possible transmission of disease from rotting foods is not worth the nominal fee they would receive. This is in direct contrast to Colombia. Colombian supermarkets and food waste producers (or their haulers) get paid for bad foods, which are fed primarily to pigs. In Colombia, this liability is not such a concern and expired foods are purchased and fed to livestock.
  • The California composting permitting process strikes fear in the heart of all attendees. Thus, we must research our costs and timeline for permitting in california
  • Oregon is following California and is this year adopting stricter composting requirements. This may put some composters out of business or in a mood to sell their operations. Regardless, CA versus OR permitting costs and timeline are definitely something to keep in mind as we proceed.
  • BioSystems will not need to manage food waste hauling. Haulers are a completely separate and secretive species. Haulers don’t compete with composters and vice versa.
  • Based on first hand testimony presented at the conference, restaurant chains are in some cases very difficult customers to conduct food waste collection programs with. This is due to high employee turnover and contamination of food waste bins. We additionally don’t posses the ability as the government does to compel participation by reducing waste fees. However, conflicting first hand testimony stated that some chains were very well equipped to handle food waste recycling.
  • When asked who was getting left out of the composting business, many experts from government, composters, and policy experts identified mid-size farmer groups. When I explained the business model and asked who they would target were they me, the answer was grocery stores.
  • Discussions with Hugh Whalan at Environmental Credit Corp. revealed that there is a strong potential for carbon sequestration credits. The process by which methane is measured is that it is converted to carbon emissions, and as it is much more damaging and potent, it is 23 times more profitable than carbon. 1 ton of methane removed is worth roughly 3 tons of carbon credits. This conversation has renewed our strong interest in studying the hypothesis that bio-pods off-gas less than traditional land fills and thus that there is an opportunity for carbon sequestration credits.
  • Amongst one of the best presenters at the conference was Silver Springs Organics, LLC. An extremely innovative small scale process to emulate or partner with.

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The Tribulations of Implementing Sustainable Technologies

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