As leaders in the biochar space, the re:char team tries to stay at the bleeding edge of emerging trends. We’ve come up with a list of predictions for the coming year and beyond. Comment around this time next year to see what we got right (assuming the world doesn’t end in 2012):
- The Black Revolution is Coming: 2012 will be the breakout year for biochar. Soil carbon sequestration has become an emergent trend in Africa. On several occasions, we have heard Kenyan gov’t officials state that East Africa could be the ‘Inverse Saudi Arabia’ of soil carbon sequestration. In addition, Australia has launched the world’s first ever Biochar Capacity Building program to incentivize farmers to work with biochar. Multiple companies are launching bagged biochar products for horticulture with nationwide distribution. Oh yeah, and re:char has some big plans for this year, but we can’t talk about them right now….
- Poop Becomes Cool: The influential Italian art and living magazine COLORS recently published an entire issue devoted to sh*t. It examines all aspects of the human waste supply chain, and how it can be improved. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also committed $42M (of which re:char is a grant recipient) to reinvent the toilet. For thousands of years, we’ve flushed value down the toilet. In 2012, we predict humans will finally give up the taboo and convert human waste products into value-added products like fertilizer and biochar.
- Africa Rises: East Africa will become the most exciting place to invest and do business in 2012. The populations in the countries within are rapidly growing, urbanizing and increasing their standards of living while still maintaining ties to agriculture and their roots. Anyone working in tech, agriculture or clean energy should be looking closely at Africa.
- Urban Agriculture Becomes a Necessity: As food supplies become increasingly more unstable and urbanization continues, city-dwellers will come to depend on food crops grown in urban areas. We are witnessing urban agriculture explode everywhere from Amsterdam’s Plantlab to Vertical Farming in Nairobi’s largest slum. This trend will represent one of the greatest disruptions in agriculture. Traditional farms will focus on grain production, with vegetable and fruit production shifting to urban farms.
- Traditional Investment Models Collapse: Kickstarter has totally disrupted early-stage VC for hardware-based products. Tech Incubators have done the same for early-stage internet investing. The Occupy Wall Street Movement and the Financial Crisis have shown the risks associated with allowing the few to control the wealth of the many. 2012 will be the year that investment becomes truly democratized. Anyone can be an investor and can invest directly into the means of production. There will be massive losses but also massive gains in unexpected places.
- Abundance: Conflict originates with resource scarcity. The West has been embroiled in conflict for resources for the entirety of the past 100 years. New models for food and energy production will emerge that will begin to create an abundance of resources in places traditionally shaped by scarcity (Africa, SE Asia, India). As these innovations become democratized, individuals will become radically self-reliant rather than dangerously dependent.
- Governments Become Increasingly Less Relevant: A significant portion of the United States will be disappointed by the 2012 election. The US is so culturally and ideologically divided that it simply won’t matter who wins. In the Developed World, people feel alienated from their governments. In the Developing World, people don’t expect anything from their government. Groups like Peter Thiel’s Blueseed are subverting government policy through entrepreneurship. In 2012 and beyond, people will seek and employ new models to govern and provide social services.