Here's what I'm discovering from the hundreds of journals and thousands (literally) of comments and discussions in which we have engaged. First, the skill base of the founders is central to the issue of success. Usually, it is one sided, either they are fish people, or they are dirt farmers, or neither. Most have little or no actual experience running the day to day operation of a business. Do not understand the supply chain, value chain and have no experience with sales and marketing ... in particular, Branding!
That, absent lots of luck is a sure fire formula for failure. They are often woefully undercapitalized and do not understand that 'overhead' is a cost of doing business... and of course spend nothing on promotion. AND... since they are essentially independent minded confident people they will not hire competent consultants and rely on the usual snake oil consultants who practice witchcraft online.
Then there is the product. It is possible to make money with a small system (under 10/20K sq ft) but you have to chose your crop wisely (spring mix, salad greens...not lettuce) A boutique system can work but I know of few that do Liz Kim at Genesis Clock Farm in CA’s system seems to be one. I would love to hear their story. I’ll ask them to write a guest blog for us.
I am so happy to hear about Ouroboros and their successful business. We should do a focused case study on them as it would provide great impetus for VC's and others who would like to invest but fear (that like the Borg) profitability is futile. We have lost more than one investor at the due diligence stage.
As to the large systems... most have already failed and there are a number that are just starting. I know I have become the curmudgeon here but understand that I am and have been attempting to fund a minimum scaled (45K sqft) automated vertically integrated AP system for three years now! I have sunk every dime I ever made into this and am only now on the brink of getting off the ground. I WANT to know others have succeeded. I am a fan not a denigrator.
I will try to practice what I have been preaching and you can all be certain we will keep a visual and statistical record of our development and publish everything as transparency not secrecy is what we all need if we are going to save this planet ...we must work together.
Economic Viability and Profitability have always been the mantra of Corporate management and for good reason. No profit, no business. BUT ... Now, we're seeing large corporations finally begin to move the term from Green Wash (just more PR) to using it as a potential asset of the corporation. The Environment has taken the next rung down on the ladder just behind profit. It is still not the most important priority but sustainability has moved into second place because the company's reputation with the new class of consumers has economic value in the market place.
Environmental Soundness is only one of the three components of a Sustainable business that gets attention and it is VERY important. However, it's not all there is to be a sustainable and responsible corporate citizen. Sustainability has three components: Economic Viability, Environmental Soundness, and Social Responsibility. The Business and Popular Press focus on the Environment but there's more.
Social Responsibility - According to the Supreme Court, The Corporation is a person and personhood brings with it some obligations and 'responsibilities,' like Citizenship. That is the opinion of more and more of today's consumers who are beginning to demand a more pro active role, that of good corporate citizenship. The new green and high tech sector has always had a social dimension to their commercial personas ... Google most of all with it's free food and lodgings at their HQ ...Apple is also noted for it's very very generous perks but both of these are focused upon their employees.
Enlightened Self-Interest is the driving force behind the Social Responsibility movement ... not a bad thing. The incentives to a more open outreach by the corporation to it's immediate environment or engagement of its vast economic and marketing influence can become significant. It's good business to encourage social benefit, as well as an obvious and appropriate activity.
Dannon, for example the large French food producer partnered with Dr. Muhammed Yunus to form a company that produced enriched yogurt for the malnourished children of India and Bangladesh and there are emergent expamples appearing everywhere. Corporations are reaching out to their local communities and Corporations are not the only one's. Anchor Institutions like Hospitals, Universities, and Municipal Governments have also begun to see the value of improved social investment in their respective neighborhoods and adjacent communities as such improvements enhance the quality of life for all concerned.
The trend is obvious ... Social Responsibility is and will become the next major requirement for a Sustainable Business! AMEN !!!!
Ronald Reagan drove a stake into the heart of organized labor while advanced automation in the form of tools and smart programs eliminated whole job classifications. Then the 1% robbed the banks.I consider myself a post modern realist. I am neither a Libertarian, a progressive, nor am I a conservative. I believe in the U.S. Constitution as drafted in the 18th Century and in the spirit of individual liberty but also in the context of a present day ethos.
Surely the job of Government is to provide for the general welfare but it is also to assure and maintain a condition of social justice and fairness'. In other words to maintain an equilibrium, a just balance within the society, a level playing field on which all may equally compete. (sustainability) The spectacular rise of the Corporation in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th Century gave rise to the Robber Barons smacked down by Teddy Roosevelt only to rise again like the once disgraced Standard Oil Company that morphed into Esso, then Exxon whose roots are deeply embedded in the most egregious and nefarious of business practices.
The Sherman Anti Trust act was designed to thwart just those corporate behaviors that are common in today's board rooms and strategic planning sessions. Instead of trusts the newspeak refers to these as alliance partnerships and their meetings are held in international venues away from the prying eyes of reporters and others who would expose the their monopolistic intent. Ours is NOT an economically Sustainable Democracy and to survive it must become one.
What has happened here is that our government has moved steadily away from a representative democracy. The U.S Government's victory over the corporate monopolies was an illusory win.. We won the battle but lost the war. Using the power of money, the corporate strategists simply co-opted the government itself. We maintain the mythology of Democracy while operating as an Oligarchy, moving rapidly to a full blown Plutocracy where the members of the government and the members of the financial elite are on the same side of the table. Instead of becoming regulators, our agencies, populated by pro industry experts, have become enablers and confidants of the very people over whom they are tasked with oversight and regulation.
... give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes the laws - Barron RothschildThe recent financial crisis proves the point that regulators are impotent in the face of massive political pressure and emasculated by industry insiderss who block every effort by well intentioned regulators to effect a modicum of control. Again and again in the Food industry and others we see the inability of regulators to gain control over run away profiteering on the part of those who flaunt the rules with relative impunity. Using the tax system, the 1%, under a succession of pliant congresses gradually and then with increasing aggression removed the controls and barriers to collusion and conspiracy creating massive capital shift out of the hands of the middle class and into the pockets of the corporate and financial elite.
The End of a Sustainable America