Kimbal Musk is going to feed the world... from shipping containers... without dirt.
By Jim Mundorf
I stumbled across this article in the New York Times about a man who has decided to save agriculture and the food industry from the big, dumb, idiots that are currently growing your food. I would suggest you don't read it, but in case you feel like it here it is: Kimball Musk Wants to Feed, America, Silicon Valley Style.
The article profiles Kimbal Musk. He is the brother of the more famous Elon Musk, who was one of the guys that helped build Paypal, and made a boat load of money from its sale. Elon is now trying to save the planet by sending everyone to space in an electric car, (or something like that.) Unfortunately Kimbal has decided to stay on earth and tell everyone involved in the food industry that they're doing it wrong.
He has founded The Kitchen, and describes it as, "a family of businesses that believes in real food for everyone." Kimbal started the family of businesses off by pouring money into multiple restaurant chains, or what the article calls "concepts." Turns out he's not just interested in blowing his own money but he also enjoys having it given to him to do stupid stuff with. If there's one thing Kimbal has learned from his brother Elon, its where to find the real money, and that's from donations and government contracts.
It seems he has some noble ideas, "Mr. Musk’s nonprofit arm, The Kitchen Community, has put learning gardens into 100 Memphis schools." That sounds nice, a garden in the school where kids can learn about growing things. That is until you read the next line. "Each one costs about $40,000." That's right a FORTY THOUSAND DOLLAR garden. "He has placed his gardens in schools in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and 150 in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave the project $2 million in city funds. By 2020, Mr. Musk hopes to have them in more than 1,000 schools." Um, I'm no Silicon Valley tech nerd, but by my math if your paying 40k per garden that 2 mil got you 50 freaking, gardens. I also don't know a lot about Chicago schools but I have a strange feeling that money could be used a little more wisely, than 50 gardens. Also, if your wanting 1,000 that's gonna cost you a cool $40 million.
If you think a $40,000 garden is a great use of tax dollars, you're gonna love his other idea. Growing plants in shipping containers without dirt. That's right this guy has figured out the problem with today's agriculture and the problem is that it uses dirt. "Whether food actually needs soil is one of the flash points between organic traditionalists and people like Mr. Musk. “Ideologically, they prefer soil,” he said. “We don’t care. Let them fight their fight.” What an idiot! I've heard of this vertical farming, but no dirt! What a freaking idiot. Whether food needs soil is not a flash point between organic traditionalists and people like Musk, it is a flash point between the sane and the bat shit crazy. Who is investing in these idiotic ideas, I mean what kind of morons would give this guy money? Oh..... "In August, Square Roots secured $5.4 million in private seed funding, and has grants from the United States Department of Agriculture." That's right the good ol' USDA has also seen the future and its dirtless. The article conveniently leaves out the amount of hard earned tax dollars that have been handed over to this genius. It also somehow forgot to mention how much one of these dirtless shipping containers costs, but considering the amount he spends on his gardens, I have a feeling its somewhere around a gagillion dollars. I think that's what he means when he says, “We don’t care. Let them fight their fight.” Why care about those stupid dirt farmers who have to make profits from their crops when you have foundations and the government throwing money at you for your dumb idea.
There is also no mention if Kimbal has ever actually set foot on a real farm, or talked to a real farmer but from his quotes I have to assume that he hasn't. “food is one of the final frontiers that technology hasn’t tackled yet. If we do it well, it will mean good food for all.” Hey Kimbal, my grandpa spent his youth picking corn by hand, and hauling with with a team of horses. Today's farmers are harvesting using machinery that drives itself. Again, I'm not a tech nerd, but I have a feeling that technology has something to do with that.
And then there's this little gem. “Food is this beautiful gift we give each other three times a day,” he’ll often tell a crowd, “but you couldn’t design a worse food system than what we have.” What an asshole! I'm sorry, but as someone whose family has been raising food probably back to the beginning of time, there is only one word that can be used to describe this guy. Well actually there's more than one: arrogant, ignorant, condescending, but the one that really sums this guy up is, asshole. Sure there are problems with the food system but saying that you couldn't design a worse one does nothing but prove your ignorance. You want a worse system, how about one where a little garden costs $40,000, or one where we grow food without dirt and starve to death.
Don't worry, I know that I'm just some goofball farm boy typing up a blog and Kimbal Musk has made millions in his life. But I am willing to bet Kimbal Musk is not going to start some dirtless revolution and start feeding the world. You know who is going to feed the world? The same people who have been doing it since the beginning of time, farmers and ranchers.
I wonder what the reaction would be if I had made millions in the ag industry, took my money to silicon valley, told all them nerds that the way they were doing things was ass backwards, and that I was there to show them how to do it right. Also, my products or ideas don't need to sell or create any value to make money, because I will preach and campaign telling the world how smart I am and how stupid those tech guys are. Then, I will be given millions of dollars from foundations and government grants. I wonder if the New York Times would right an article about me without questioning my sanity... I wonder.