Hydroponic farms in shipping containers and software poised to turn electric vehicle (EV) owners into well-paid electricity providers are among the ingenious innovations that are signs of a better world to come—despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Toronto Star reports.
“While the clock to climate disaster has ticked down, people have been rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. Not because they knew their work would make a difference, but because they knew that unless people got to work, we’d be lost,” writes climate reporter Marco Chown Oved.
“Though many of the commonly cited solutions involve sacrifice and belt-tightening, many others will bring widespread benefits, more convenience, better health, and less expense.”
As examples, Oved points to Growcer, an Ottawa-based company that has figured out how to construct closed-loop hydroponic farms in shipping containers, thus eliminating the skyrocketing costs of importing fresh produce, and Peak Power Energy, a Toronto-based cleantech company developing software that may one day turn every EV into a “portable power plant”.
While the climate crisis is hardly something that can be ignored, the stories we tell ourselves and each other about that crisis matter. Determined to stress the positive, Growcer co-founder Corey Ellis said, “sustainability doesn’t have to involve sacrifice.”
And, indeed, his container farms have meant that locals in Churchill, Manitoba, where the company is fully operational, now “get weekly boxes of locally grown produce for 40% less than they paid when food was shipped in,” Oved writes. “In a country where the growing season lasts barely more than six months, this isn’t just a solution for isolated northern communities—it really could make everyone’s lives better.”
Ellis concedes that “by no means are we perfect”, but urges everyone to “move forward in a positive way, to build resiliency into what we’re doing in all parts of the economy.”
Noting that “in all that complexity and challenge, there’s a massive opportunity for people who want to be part of building solutions,” he adds, “it’s all about one foot in front of the other, marching toward that end goal.”
A fellow traveller with Growcer is Peak Power Energy, the Toronto-based cleantech company developing software that will manage EV battery charging at a very high level.
“EVs will fundamentally change the way the electricity system works,” said Mabel Fulford, the company’s director of innovation. Those changes have the potential to “democratize the grid,” she added, noting that pending the necessary regulatory changes, a single EV owner could earn as much as C$8,000 per year feeding power back to the grid through their car.
Marty Reed, a former Silicon Valley investor who is now a partner at Vancouver-based cleantech accelerator Evok Innovations, believes self-enrichment of this kind will be the catalyst for more of the population to embrace climate solutions, not any desire to contribute to the common, and planetary, good.
“Our desire is just overall to enrich your world and allow you to keep doing what you’re doing,” Reed said, “but to do that with a much lower impact on the planet.”
While that’s “a contentious position to take among those seeking to solve the climate crisis,” Oved adds, “most activists, technologists, and policy experts say we will not be able to consume at our current rate and live sustainably.”
The rare earth minerals needed for EV batteries, for example, are mined in a process that is “far from being decarbonized.”