Robert Saik is a professional agrologist and a certified agricultural consultant, who has the mission of making agriculture sustainable with technology. Rob has forty years of experience as a professional agrologist, entrepreneur, and consultant, having worked with a wide range of agriculturalists, from Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture to Bill Gates, helping developing economies thanks to agricultural technology.
The Future of Agriculture: Sustainability & Technology
Rob Saik defines himself as an “Agricultural Futurist” as he’s always been obsessed with finding ways to optimize agriculture. If you think about it, the vast majority of the food we eat comes directly from agriculture. That’s why by making agriculture more sustainable, you can bring positive change to the whole planet. The way to do that is by deploying agricultural technology.
Rob started as a farm boy in Alberta, and he got his first computer in 1983, during his university years. It’s then when Rob had the realization that if he could integrate computers and technology in agriculture, he would make a difference. That’s what led him to found over 15 companies, writing books, articles, and holding keynotes about the topic.
And now here’s Rob Saik.
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Podcast with Rob Saik. Making Agriculture Sustainable.
agriculture, people, crops, organic, called, technology, thinking, farm, soil, farmers, tedx talk, grow, data, world, peter diamandis, canada, alberta, mike, abundance, talk
Mike Malatesta, Rob Saik
Mike Malatesta 00:01
When you get this going.
Rob Saik 00:06
I put up a background here because I want to be less sloppy.
Mike Malatesta 00:17
Alright, so I’ll,
Mike Malatesta 00:20
I’ll start the recording. I’ll just count down three to one, and then we’ll get going.
Mike Malatesta 00:30
321 Hey Rob welcome to the podcast.
Rob Saik 00:36
I’m glad to be here with you, Mike exciting to be to be on your show and excited to be talking to your listeners about all the things that you want to lead me into.
Mike Malatesta 00:48
Yeah. Well I’m excited to because I, I first became aware of you at abundance 360 This year, when you had a little bit of time to address everybody. And for those who don’t know abundance 360 is a group that Peter Diamandis, put together, and it’s, it, so it’s, it’s just a really cool group of entrepreneurs and other, I guess really deep thinkers that, you know, goes into space and robotics and AI and the future and health and longevity and just all of these things so once a year, there’s this big conference and we just like three days or whatever of just complete immersion into all this stuff flowing at you and one of the things flowing at me, and all of us was, was Rob and what got me really interested, not only was what he was talking about in terms of future and stuff which we’ll get into but Rob is a, you know, an agricultural specialist who somehow ended up spending six hours with Bill Gates, so I asked everybody the same question to get started, Rob, which is how that happened but I hardly ever tee it up like that. So, let’s go.
Rob Saik 02:09
Background started off just on a small mixed farm in northeastern Alberta, Canada, and you know if you sat me down. At the age of 16 and said, You know this is going to be your life, you’re going to travel around the world you’re going to, you know, you’re going to develop a whole bunch of companies you’re going to develop a lot of technologies, you’re going to have an impact across the country if not across North America and internationally, and you’re going to end up, you know, hanging out with guys like Peter Diamandis, and you’re gonna end up spending some time with the one of the richest guys on the planet, I would have said, you know bullshit.
Not gonna happen. Yeah.
Rob Saik 02:49
You know how it happened was an interesting journey, because, you know, me being involved deeply in agriculture, working directly with farmers, my background is plant physiology saw chemistry and crop nutrition, but I’ve always been involved in ag tech, and you know I have a lot of background and knowledge of the whole area of genetic engineering, and I had, you know, I’ve been a supporter of GMO and gene editing, and so I’ve written lots of articles on it, and in 2014. I did a TEDx talk, will agriculture be allowed to feed 9 billion people. And it’s a real poignant question because, You know tools are being taken away all the time without knowledge what the ramifications are. So I did this TEDx talk, and it’s been seen 100 over 160,000 times now. Will agriculture be allowed to feed 9 billion people, about that time I wrote my first book, The agriculture manifesto, 10 key drivers that will shape agriculture in the next decade and then in 2019 I wrote the second book food 5.0 We’ll talk about that, how we feed the future, sure, but the TEDx talk was, was really, you know, kind of a hit, and I was walking through the San Francisco Airport, and I got a call from Cornell University and Cornell University has a group called the Alliance for bio science, and they call me, and they asked me to open up the Alliance for Bio Science series, with two lectures at Cornell University. And so, I’m walking along the airport and I said well that’s great I’m honored to do so but how did you hear about me and they said oh you’ve got this TEDx talk. And Bill said to watch it. And they said, Well, Bill Gates, that I’m going Shut up, Bill Gates, to watch the TEDx talk. So, anyway, it was a couple years later, that bill was gathering some I think innovative leadership in the area of agriculture and invited. just a handful of us to into Intellectual Ventures his kind of his intellectual venture his venture and kind of his laboratory playground for new technology, just outside of Seattle. And we had six hours old afternoon with Bill talking about, about agriculture technology I had built at that time. One of North America’s largest agricultural independent agronomic Precision Ag carpet credit grain marketing and business management companies layered on top of a data management system so agri trend and Agra data. And I was just in the process of exiting to Trimble at that time, but I’m so out of Sunnyvale, California, and I was explaining to Bill, what we were doing with Agra data, and agri trend. And I also used as an example, a farm in Saskatchewan, Canada, and another farm in Uganda, just west of Gulu towards Congo, because I have an investment in a 5300 acre farm called Omer farms in Uganda, and I was sharing Bill what we were doing and he said to me, he said, You know, that’s all really good what you’re doing, addressing the pinch point in in agriculture, which is the right advice from the right expert at the right time, but he said your model doesn’t scale. And so that kind of kind of upset me and then Peter Diamandis challenges us Mike to do a moon shot right so I got to thinking well if I could do this over again and then since I just sold the company. I began to think about mashing together, eHarmony together with FaceTime, together with Uber together with Twitter and created a brand new company called ag advisor Pro. So that’s how it happened. I get calls almost every week on sustainability and agriculture on carbon credits. On October, the 15th of this last year I got a chance to address the United Nations and the FAO on sustainability in agriculture. So, yeah, so it kind of morphed in and in February, I was lucky enough to be honored and recognized as one of Canada’s top 50 Most Innovative agricultural leaders. So, it’s been quite a journey from being on the farm to meeting with Bill Gates.
Mike Malatesta 07:35
Yeah, congratulations on that recognition by the way. And so being in that room with Bill Gates. What in the world, what, six, seven other people with you you said. So it’s kind of a roundtable sort of thing.
Rob Saik 07:52
But six presenters and then there were some observers, the room was no, you know, the total number of people in the room were no greater than 30 people altogether some listening. We had, you know Bill sat at the table with a couple of other really innovative guys and basically we all had a chance to stand up in front and talk about what we were working on what was on our minds. And then we got in a free flowing discussion so that was really cool. And when he
Mike Malatesta 08:23
before he challenged you I guess I wanted to go there but I’ll back up for a second when you went there, what did you think you were going to, what was your goal. What was you. What were you trying to accomplish when you when you went into the room.
Rob Saik 08:37
Well first of all you don’t get a call from Bill Melinda Gates Foundation saying what are you doing on May 2 I’m 17, I looked at my calendar, nothing
Mike Malatesta 08:48
can move whatever flexible,
Rob Saik 08:50
yeah, yeah, flexible, whatever I want to do. Well first of all you’re honored. Secondly, he’s a really humble guy. He walked in, he knew, way more about me than I know about him, he was really well versed on on all of the guest speakers and extremely, extremely well versed on agriculture and agricultural issues, which I which I was very impressed about because that the discussions and the conversation we had about agriculture. They weren’t fluffy an ideology, and they weren’t philosophical, they are very pragmatic which, which I really appreciated. And so, from what I what I expected. I don’t know I, I wanted to go in and meet some cool people and some of the other people there were from Australia, Africa, and Germany, and we were all obviously selected because we were, you know, forward thinking. And it was a really great experience. I don’t know that I came away with any, you know, expectations, and then subsequent to that, the next day I got invited by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to talk about technology transfer for small landholders around the world and how we were going to do that and I’m still in conversation with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and some of their people around some of those pinch point issues that we’re facing as we stare into population of, you know, Nine. Nine plus billion people by 2050 How are we going to do all right that’s where my
Mike Malatesta 10:36
mind is, and when he, when he sort of pushed back on the scalability of your idea, you know, you sort of mentioned like, you know, I’ve kind of like, maybe you weren’t maybe you were maybe you weren’t expecting that. But it sounds like you channeled it into something positive, by saying, or considering his point of view on it, at least
Rob Saik 11:02
in 97 When I returned back to 97, the internet was just starting email was just starting. In 2000, arguably one of the first fully online data platforms for farm management services and agricultural data management in the world called agri data, We released the aggregator solution and we were recognized as Alberta e Business of the Year because we figured out how to manage foreign production data using thin architectural programming on ADSL copper lines so if you think back to that time, There wasn’t any we didn’t even build software, it was called NetWare because we were in the cloud, before there was the word in the cloud. So we were that far ahead of the game, but the, the advisory services that I had built Mike were layers of people so we had coaches agric coaches working on the ground with farmers and the agriculture’s were cross referenced by quality control agric coaches that verified the recommendations and then everybody was supported by senior agri coaches, which was injured interdisciplinary specialists, so we had built layers and layers of people to support the question from a farmer through an agro coach, through to a senior coach, quality control through a quality control coach, and it was heavily humanistic and of course, you know, that was, that was 1997 thinking. So when I got around to 2015 and by 2018 I was thinking about advisor Pro. And I was thinking about, you know, is there a way to shrink, time and space. Is there a way to put an expert in the field in the shop in the greenhouse, or in the barn, without the expert being on the farm is like Star Trek. Yeah, there’s the way, is there a way for us to do this, and it was really his comment that kind of ticked me off a little bit and I go, okay, okay. and then Peter Diamandis, of course, with abundance and I was at the very first abundance event held at Singularity University with Peter Diamandis and and Ray Kurzweil and Dan Sullivan from Strategic Coach and organized that there was 52 of us two days, And it was Peter one hour Ray one hour Peter when our ray went okay. I remember in two days I took 83 pages of notes. Yeah, that was the that was the that was the brain, that was a brain literally exploding with what I was hearing. And I didn’t sleep didn’t sleep between the first and second days because my brain was working so fast. With the possibilities of what we can do. So, those are cool things you know when they happen. And I don’t know how you plan or don’t plan them but when doors open, you just walk through.
Mike Malatesta 14:05
Yeah, yeah it’s it’s, it’s, I get what you’re saying about planning or not planning, you know, you just have to be aware, like, oh, there’s an open door. Let me see what’s there, and then start asking questions or get around the right people and listen or whatever
Rob Saik 14:21
you are interested in abundance 360 The reason that I’m interested in attending abundance 360 is because if it creates an opening of your brain to all of the other things that are going on in the world so I mean you’ve got crypto people, you’ve got blockchain people, you’ve got, transportation and energy people, you’ve got medicine, you got all of these disciplines that are there and you know agriculture is highly underrepresented in the abundance 360 ecosystem right so it creates a tremendous opportunity for me to look at what’s going on like I was CEO of a robotics company for 19 months as we package that company up and sold it to Raven industry. One of them was called dot, one of the largest autonomous robotic platforms in the world for broadacre agriculture. And so, you know, it’s, it’s exposure to the people like Boston Dynamics and so on and so forth out of abundance that really creates this awareness for you. And once you’re aware, your curiosity starts to make and then you say well how can this technology such as blockchain such as crypto such as robotics, such as remote sensing or satellites, all played back into agriculture and food production.
Mike Malatesta 15:44
So that’s where that’s where I come. Yeah, and that’s, that’s so cool because most of the if you separate them, and you’re thinking just very narrowly about agriculture or trucking or whatever industry you might be and you might be thinking, Oh, Blockchain that’s for financial transactions and that’s, you know all these things don’t relate but if you open your mind up to, you know, understanding what all of them do and how they connect you can bring them back to out in any industry right. Pretty much.
Rob Saik 16:15
Think about where we’re going and in fact, let me, let me just do this I’ll say that you know the Book of fluid 5.0 how we feed the future. I publish this book like I wrote it in 2019, and then published it in August of 2019, so just remember the date, August, 2019, the first line of the book. The first line of the book is this morning when you woke up did you think about a pandemic.
Mike Malatesta 16:41
Oh, get out of here.
Rob Saik 16:42
The first line of this book, first line. So, my mind was attuned to the fact that, you know, pre pre 2020 The world is pretty good place. I mean, everybody bitches and complains a bunch of stuff but the reality is, the world is pretty good play we travel wherever we want to travel. We have freedom, we have the ability to accelerate our earning power. Lots of things are in our favor, but I was thinking about disruptions to the food supply, war, I was thinking about famine and I was thinking about pandemics, and I was thinking about nationalism and then in the book really I talked about the five iterations of agriculture, which are really the era of muscle and machine, and chemistry and biotechnology and where we are today which is convergence. So, we’re in the era of convergence and Peter Diamandis talks a lot about convergence of technologies, Well what I’m working on is how do these technologies converge in farming, how to work in agriculture. And so that’s, you know, when we’re exposed Mike as we are, you know, it’s a real privilege for us to be exposed to the thinking of the people in the room, in abundance 360 Because we can grab that into other disciplines and take that energy and ideas over to another place,
Mike Malatesta 18:09
right, and can vary when you say convergence in that in that context, reminds me of walking through that open door like a walk through that open door and this, you know, I, so your TEDx talk, is, you know, you’re pretty, pretty solid on what you believe. And I’m wondering, outside of gates at this meeting, you’ve got these six or seven other experts from around the world and I’m wondering, okay, so he challenged you on the scalability. Were there other people in there, challenging you and your thoughts, or vice versa, I’m just trying to, because it’s like a room of the global experts on agriculture right so they can all believe the same thing, I, I’m thinking but I don’t I don’t know.
Rob Saik 19:01
The field of forward thinking is which forward thinkers, and it was, it was all about the application of technology on agriculture and so I remember all the names of everybody in the room but I but I do remember, for example, the Australian guy was talking about the utilization of LIDAR which is a technology we’re using in driverless cars and robotics LIDAR which is basically laser lasers and and basically you get feedback. So it’s the ability to detect things inside of inside of environment, and they were using LIDAR technology to ascertain the muscle composition of cattle, so you know you’d be able to use remote sensing and and basically find out what what the composition of the livestock is and this is very important when you’re raising livestock because certain animals come into the right the right position at the right time for harvest other animals don’t and so that was really interesting, Another, another company I remember out of Germany was using artificial intelligence to do. Identification of weeds or problems in crop and today there’s a proliferation of companies that is using photometrics or a variety of other sensors to really detect what’s going on in crop and this could be either this data. These images could be acquired through through drones, through aerial imagery or satellite imagery. But if we, if we knew, like I live in Canada so Canada thistle is a real problem for us it’s a, it’s a real bad weed, but it doesn’t grow everywhere it grows, it grows see it in certain clumps. So if you can have a sprayer going across the field, and see, he added a vessel, and that 12 miles an hour spray of the this’ll just spray the whistle, and not the entire field, think about the savings of cost,
Mike Malatesta 21:12
Rob Saik 21:14
farmers and so that was another technology that was discussed. Another one was, was actually a Microsoft guy named Ranveer and he was talking about TV whitespace. When I grew up on the farm. We had three channels on our rotary dial on three TV channels, the rest of it was whitespace, those, those whitespace channels mic can be utilized. Now, to act as as communication channels for broadband internet. And the interesting thing about that is whitespace transmission of internet signals, you’ve seen the TV whitespace. It follows the contour of the land, and trees and things like that aren’t as blocked it doesn’t block it as much as line of sight communication that we have today. So when Ranveer was presenting this I’m saying well this could be an answer because one of the real constraints in agriculture today Mike is lack of broadband service on farm. You imagine anybody in your city running a five or $10 million business without access to the internet. Can you imagine that, no. Yet there are lots of farming operations that are running to 510 $20 million business with inadequate or zero access to internet for internet access, it’s a, it’s a travesty. And it’s holding back, it’s holding back adoption of technology on on farms, there’s this terminology right now we have our farmers where you have IoT or Internet of Things devices connected all over the farm. It’s called a smart farm so basically the farm itself becomes a sensory sensory acquisition sensory device, but you can’t have a smartphone with a stupid internet connection.
Mike Malatesta 23:17
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So those are the they call that a boat anchor.
Rob Saik 23:23
Those are the kind of technologies that were discussed in the meeting they were you know they were complimentary, one of the guys from Africa was actually talking about IoT sensor devices that we’re using today with agriculture such as such as moisture probes, so how much moisture is left in the soil we can do that with sensor devices, weather stations, of course, carbon dioxide monitors and grain storage, you know, remote sensing of satellites and aerial imagery I mentioned, all kinds of things, fuel, fuel sensors to monitor fuel levels and fuel tanks and all of these kinds of things that are going on in homes, just think about it being applied on a farm with more information would be coming back as a result of these devices. These sensors being planted all over the farm.
Mike Malatesta 24:15
I know Peters always talking about sensors like how many sensors the proliferation of sensors and so I’m wondering on the technology like Starlink or something has got to be at least presenting the possibility that that broadband problem could be solved, you know for a lot of a lot of places right.
Rob Saik 24:37
I live north of Calgary I live in the farming community called OLS, Alberta. My mom, I’m a half a mile away from town on the, on the other side of the road. They have one gig up and down. Where I live, I have access to a hobby, and very often I’m limited to about, between six and 10 down, and one and three, up. As you know, many times, it’s, it’s the, the issue. Yeah we communicating so startling. And one way, and these kind of companies will, will, and you know what I mean, for, for 600 us you can have the hardware and it’s about 100 bucks a month for the subscription I don’t quote me on that but I think those are the numbers, and I’m very seriously thinking to do that and doing that because it’s 150 down, megabytes per second down and 50 megabytes per second up like shit, that’s, that’s 10 times what I’m getting. Sure, yeah, yeah.
Mike Malatesta 25:43
So, when when you started. Haggar data, Rob, But how would you describe, like, now if you were talking to somebody like me about how you would describe what aggregated aggregate data did, how, what would you say because in my mind I’m thinking it’s like taking tribal knowledge and making it shareable or, but I don’t know if I’m on the right track there.
Rob Saik 26:10
I think you’re very accurate with that so the first thing. The first thing I did way back because my, my background as an astrologist is agronomy soil science so the first thing I did way back in 1996 97, and this was Strategic Coach thinking went down so that was to systematize or develop a process so I developed something called the 10 step soil interpretation process, so you can take a soil test. And I can teach you 10 steps to interpret a soil test. So, think about a doctor you go to a doctor and the doctor gets your blood test, well there’s a certain thinking that goes on inside the brain of a doctor as he looks at your soil temps there’s a certain methodology, a certain hierarchy. So we developed a process called the 10 step soil interpretation process. Then I looked at the whole agronomic cycle of planting and planting a crop, and there’s a certain, it’s not a it’s not an event. It’s a process that starts with getting the information of the yield and the quality of last year’s harvest locking that data in, and then getting the soil test information in, And then building recommendations which interestingly enough, I was doing right before this, this podcast,
Mike Malatesta 27:23
okay make a
Rob Saik 27:24
recommendation for a farmer for 120 bushels and Troodon Kailey per acre anyway. And then you build this whole thing so we built something called the strategic crop plan, which was a process to replicate the strategic cropland we developed the agriculture program which was a replication of the process with people, but to manage all that we had to do something to manage the data, I started out using Word documents and fax forms so back in the day we fax things. Then I excel spreadsheets and then eventually I built Access database but the problem with an Access database is you never knew who really had the hot data, because if your data was later than mine, but you merged it that later data actually trumped my current data and it was a mess. So it was, I learned about in 1997 Maybe 1998 I learned about SQL, and we had a brilliant programmer named Kevin, Madison, who basically listened. He was a farm guy and a computer expert, and together with our leadership Nelson Solberg and soil science and Darren Howie and processing. We built this thing called the Agra data solution. And what it allowed us to do was effectively replicate what we were doing. And, and bring multiple sets of eyes to the same piece of data in real time, and the data was always hot data. So today, Mike, I was just working with a farm that I’ve been working with, I have 22 years of data, 22 years of soil test data and fertility recommendations and crop data, and that’s all because we have a system in which to put everything that data platform today because we sold the company is now the guts of Trimble ag software which is now available internationally, I think in many many languages around the world so that all came from the thinking of a bunch of prairie boys in Canada.
Mike Malatesta 29:26
Yeah, it’s not where you come from. It’s not where you come from. So let’s get into when you did your TED X Talk it was 9 billion I think the number is probably higher now maybe 10 billion people that need to be fed.
Mike Malatesta 29:46
how do we continue to feed the growing population and even for that matter, feed the people who are here and I know that there’s a, there’s at least I’ve heard, Robin, you can tell me if I’m full of crap here but I’ve, I’ve heard there’s, you know, there’s, there’s plenty of food it’s getting the food to the people that can sometimes be the problem and I don’t know if that’s true or not but how, let’s get into how we actually accomplish this because in the age of, you know, organic and vegan and all of these things, celiac, you know, gluten intolerance and all these things, you know, gluten, wheat, you know, at least as I understand it, you know that genetic modification of wheat, basically saved Europe from mass starvation, but now it’s, you know, all of those things complicate. Well I don’t know, maybe they don’t complicate it maybe they, I don’t know you. You tell me you’re the expert. Yeah, let’s do it.
Rob Saik 30:52
Genetically Modified wheat on the marketplace, there was some, some experimental stuff but in genetically modified we’ve never really never, it hasn’t been commercialized. What you’re referring to really is hybridization of we hybrid away Norman Borlaug, yes, the Green Revolution, and that really saved billion over a billion people, particularly in the Asian subcontinent, particularly in India. So those, those scientific advances have been with us for a long time. The other piece that you need to unbundle is what you said above, is there enough food well, there might be enough food, what you refer to as geopolitical issues that prevent food from moving around the planet where food is used as politics and is used as power to keep food away from people. The answer to feeding the people is not in necessarily somebody growing it and then doing food aid that isn’t the answer. And when we talk about food waste, people are always freaked out, there’s always drunk wasting food. They’re all concerned about how much we scrape off our plate to the garbage. It’s not the big issue. The big, the biggest issue. The biggest issue for food waste on the planet. The thing that destroys the most food on the planet is mycotoxins mycotoxins are organic toxins that are released from fungus and mycotoxins destroy crops in the field, and they destroy crops and storage mycotoxins are the number one cause of food waste on the planet Earth. And the number one cause of cancer, especially liver cancer, on the planet Earth.
Mike Malatesta 32:36
But that’s, let me just interrupt you for one second that. But nobody sees it. They don’t see that being scraped off their plate is that right key. Okay, good. All right.
Rob Saik 32:47
Get back to pragmatism. Your listeners, most of the listeners won’t even know the word mycotoxin but mycotoxins embody a whole family of toxins like aflatoxin for example and you know many, many, many crops especially moreso organic crops are prone to higher levels of mycotoxins, so if you want to help people that end reduce food waste the number one thing would be we should concentrate on the reduction of mycotoxin attacking crops globally in Uganda Uganda Uganda’s rate of liver cancers amongst the highest in the world. Why, because they have a lot of mycotoxins in the crops and they consume. So that goes into cattle, it goes into your livestock and it goes into human beings. Anytime you, it doesn’t move from cattle to human being but when you’re eating the same grain, it gets exciting.
Rob Saik 33:51
this is an issue that I think requires some, some thoughts. The other thing that we need to be cognizant of is with the planet of nine, nine and a half billion people, Mike. We’re going to need to grow 60 to 70 More 60 70% More food in all parts of the planet. We have to grow 10,000 years worth of food. In the next 30 years. So think about that, we have to grow the equivalent and 10,000 years worth of food. In the next 30 years. How are we going to do that, or is ideology going to trump the day do you really think that any of these religions, whether it’s paleo whether it’s veganism, whether it’s any of the any of these denominations you think anybody has the truth, the light and the way you think there’s one answer to solving the food problem on the planet. There is not. Agriculture is nuanced Mediterranean growing. The dairy industry in New Zealand under Mediterranean conditions is vastly different than running a dairy operation in Canada where minus 40 degrees is not uncommon in the wintertime. So, you know, and so we have people running around with words in their head, like agroecology and regenerative agriculture and all of these things, and all of them have merit. Organic has some merit. I don’t think there’s a farmer out there that I’ve ever met that wants to spend more money on suicides or spend more money on fertilizer. Right. And, and yet the organic, the organic movement has vilified genetic engineering. That don’t make no sense to me I think the future of agriculture is GMO genetically modified organic food production. The only way we can have the reduction of synthetics in agriculture is by utilizing the technologies that are available in plant breeding. Everybody is waiting for the COVID vaccine. Oh, give me my COVID back, give me my COVID vaccine so the life can return back to normal. When that same RNA AI technology when used in agriculture is vilified as evil. Explain that to me.
Mike Malatesta 36:07
Oh is that right so that’s what it is. So that’s, that’s, I’m glad you said that because that something that needs to be explained. Yeah, so
Rob Saik 36:15
it’s the same science gene editing gene silencing. Now we’re advancing. We’re advancing away and I don’t know that we necessarily need to but we’re advancing away from transgenics actually to the time where we can do a lot of manipulation as nature would do, of the crops, inside the crop itself so Arctic Apple is a good example. So I’m sitting here with a bag of Arctic Arctic apples. And the advantage of Arctic apples, is that when you slice them open, they don’t turn brown right away. So, the oxygen doesn’t. I think it’s called the. Go get it wrong here, but there’s an Amazon terms of Brown, the apples Brown, well how did Arctic apples deal with that what they flipped off three or four genes inside the apple they didn’t introduce any new genetics, they just flicked off some genes to slow the Browning, potentially, that would reduce food waste. That would reduce food waste of apples. So when you cut the apple open and send Johnny to school, and Johnny opens his lunch kit. If they still have a bunch of gifts, and the apple is brown and he throws in the garbage. Would it be better for him to eat it. Well, Arctic apples is a gene, a gene editing technology that allows you to do that, that would allow us to save potentially hundreds of 1000s of tons of apples from being thrown in the garbage as waste. Well, to do that we need to embrace technology such as gene editing so fix that. fix the waste problem, but don’t use any science to do it. How am I supposed to do that.
Mike Malatesta 37:55
What else in the world is, has been fixed like that right with without. Yeah, right. So,
Rob Saik 38:03
the population of tomorrow with the technology of yesterday, right, agriculture is the same way. So these, these things to me are really at hand when you get into it, when you really get into it. I care less about ideology and word phraseology I care a lot about outcomes so if you, you know, in the book I talk about the fact that as long as we have human beings mike on the planet Earth. So I’ll just back up a second so you’re sitting down with your, your paleo your vegan, and your pescatarian, and your organic and your non organic friends at a table and everybody’s arguing over the right food. Yeah, like that and say, Can we just stop for a second. Can we all agree that so long as human beings are on the planet, agriculture must be infinitely sustainable.
Mike Malatesta 39:01
Right, no one.
Rob Saik 39:04
Agriculture needs to be infinitely sustainable okay so that shut everybody up for a second. Now, let’s discuss what makes agriculture infinitely sustainable. Now people have to do something haven’t done in a long time they have to think what would make agriculture infinitely sustainable. Eventually someone will come up with soil. Good one. The epidermis around the earth and supports human life, the soil must be sustainable, must be healthy. Agreed. What about water. Yeah, water, water use efficiency. Yeah, that would be a real good one. What about greenhouse gas bounds. Okay, let’s throw that one onto the table as well greenhouse gas bounds, and we don’t want to we want to agriculture, by the way, is vilified in the greenhouse gas debate. But agriculture is one of the real big solutions actually for climate change. And we’ll probably talk more about that. And then the fourth one. People always forget about for agriculture to be infinitely sustainable, farmers have to be viable. Because without viability, you have no sustainability. So, farmers have to be viable. Well, while it makes farmers viable well, they need to get paid to make money. Yeah, so if you have a green agenda you have a green agenda that says farmers need to move in this direction, You have to be aware of a couple of competing things. Number one is that a lot of the agendas, will result in something called a yield drag where yields will actually go down and organic is a classic example of a worthy yield drag maybe 1020 30% So there’s a you know drag there. Now, if everybody moved to organic food production, I’m not saying you can’t buy organic you can if you want to, I think that’s fine and there’s a lot that we can learn from integrated intercropping and cover cropping and rolling crops, etc. But if everybody moves in that direction. We’re gonna have to plant a whole bunch more land. Like, where do you find another California. Right. Do you cut down the rain forest in Brazil, is that what we want. So, we have to increase food production. And yet, we want to strip away the tools that are necessary newness or we want to move into a denomination according to the theology of farming, that would result in production declines. So how does that square away right now, the European Union, the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union is calling for 25% of the agriculture in Europe to be organic, in the next number of years. Great, good. The yield drag will be eight to 12%. So the whole European Union is going to experience a decrease in production of eight to 12%, where is that going to be made up words that could be made up in face of the increasing population. Now, there are lots and lots of good news, because we have all sorts of advancements happening. We’ve got technology advancements there’s all sorts of agronomic and technology advancements that can be made on farms all over the world. There are indoor farming operation cropping up everywhere, not many of them financially viable, by the way, but the technology exists, there’s alternatives to protein development such as, you know, proteins, being manufactured from plant based products which Canada is famous for pulse crops peas, lentils, chickpeas, etc. We’re one of the largest producers in the world, or generating meat in laboratories. Now you say you don’t like GMOs because it’s generated in the lab, but meat generated lab is all good, so I square that one with me. We could get into mutagenesis which is the generation of mutations in crop by exposure of seeds to nuclear or radiation are carcinogenic chemicals in a process called mutagenesis, which is endorsed by the organic industry. So the random scrambling of genes in mutagenesis is totally okay you can call that an organic crop, that’s where your ruby red or your real red grapefruit came from through mutagenesis that can be called organic, but flip Goff some genes are introduced a gene from another species, and all of a sudden is Satan. Explain that to me I don’t understand. And yet everybody is applauding the fact that we can grow meat inside of that’s inside of laboratories and that’s good, but you can’t use the laboratory to generate plants plant breeding that’s bad. And yeah, the generation of RNA AI technology for your Pfizer Madonna and and all your injections is good. I need that, but using that in agriculture and food production is bad it doesn’t square with me, right things don’t line up right then we throw climate change on top of it and get into a whole bunch more stuff Yeah,
Mike Malatesta 44:13
yeah, we need another podcast to do all of that stuff. And maybe we’ll do that because I’m really interested in getting into some more of the weeds on this but I’ve got a couple things that I want to I want to ask you about because I think they’re important one. I think you said something like, genetically modified organic. So what is, what is that because I haven’t heard. I haven’t heard that. So,
Rob Saik 44:40
because of course the organic movement has vilified genetic engineering, but when you really think about it, when you buy organic it doesn’t say, no pesticides everybody buys organic because they think there’s no pesticide use, if you read the label, it says raised without synthetic pesticides, okay. Because if simply growing organically would allow what if you put up a sign at the end of the field Mike and said this field is organic therefore weeds and insects and diseases, please stay away.
Mike Malatesta 45:14
Yeah, micro, micro toxins beware. This is an organic field
is organic, yeah.
Rob Saik 45:23
Okay, how do, how do we control insects weeds and diseases. Well weeds are controlled through tillage and largely through covering and and rolling there’s a variety of good ways to tillage is a destructive way to control weeds and soils. What about insects and diseases. Well, how are insects controlled in organic crops well intercropping with with crops that resist those insects is a viable solution, but the utilization of organic insecticide is prevalent. So pyrethrum thyroid are a good example pyrethrum is an organic insecticide derived from chrysanthemums. So you pick without chrysanthemums crushed them, And you will elicit pyrethrum, which is an organic insecticide. It has six asters pyrethroid is, is this synthetic cousin pyrethroid has to asters paradoxically, the organic form of high rethrow is more toxic to human beings, and bees and butterflies. So by using the synthetic derivative you’d actually be safer than your organic derivative. So when you buy organic food, it’s not like it doesn’t have pesticides on it, synthetic pesticides, but who’s to say that the organic pesticides are safer for you than the synthetic cousins, right. Okay, have a look at it there’s there’s chronic tech there’s good there’s acute technology, acute toxicity there’s LD 50 lethal dose pill 50% of the population is called LD 50 per toxicology measurements, these things exist, and again, it’s easy to slap a non GMO sticker on something. Non GMO spinach doesn’t exist there is no genetically modified spinach, you’re being lied to, non genetic non GMO past if I could tell it, you’re being lied to,
Mike Malatesta 47:18
oh okay so they’re putting it on there, even though it doesn’t make any scientific sense.
Rob Saik 47:23
Okay, tomato sauce, there’s no such thing as GMO tomatoes in the marketplace. These things don’t exist they’re designed to create fear to pull money out of consumers and vilify technology and consumer don’t understand. And do you think
Mike Malatesta 47:38
with that, the reticence to well reticence or the willingness to split hairs on this. Do you think that’s, that’s what is that to do, is that to, to, to raise organic in the minds of the consumer to a higher level even though, organic could possibly be available to way more people if you would just like not be as dogmatic about a certain thing or what’s your thinking on that.
Rob Saik 48:09
Well a lot of this goes back to the marketing right, so yeah, buy eggs for 11 cents an acre, you can pay 51 cents, Craig, depending on the package, man the ideology attached to the package of eggs. Now, what I’m what I what I want to do in with advisor pro what I want to do is I want to have pragmatic conversations around outcomes, I, I believe that we can feed nine and a half billion people, sustainability to me Mike is having $100,000 in the bank, and living off the interest is there a way for us to have agriculture so that we don’t attack, the principal and attacking the principal really is our soil. So if we start to erode our soil, then we’re really attacking the principal and that is not sustainable. So when you consider that we’re having around sustainability, cover crops agro ecology regenerative agriculture organic GMO non GMO. All of those things. Let’s stop talking about ideology and phraseology, let’s talk about outcomes. Let’s talk about soil organic matter, let’s talk about carbon sequestration and soils, let’s talk about water use efficiency, let’s talk about reduction of methane and nitrous oxide through agricultural practices, again what I’m trying to do right now is I want to create a channel where people can have conversation, and learn from each other and learn from experts as to how do we make agriculture more sustainable. Yeah you’re right I’m really dogmatic and and in favor of the utilization of genetic engineering for future agricultural production. Why, because it makes sense, the breeding processes of the past are so slow. And they are slips. So, ad hoc. And so randomized that you’re way better off with the technology of today than you are, like, how long would the COVID vaccine have taken to build 20 years ago, right 510 years, and
Mike Malatesta 50:19
interesting it’s not only that but it’s also, at least the Pfizer materna with the mRNA, they’ve sort of changed the whole, like, the whole nature of what a vaccine is it’s a protein now it’s not injecting you with a virus, right, so it’s, yeah,
Rob Saik 50:40
specific, very specific. So, so what are you know I mean people are listening to me and they’re, you know, rolling their eyes or they’re mad at me for what I just said, or whatever. Don’t be. Let’s learn more about agriculture let’s let’s understand that two thirds of agriculture, farmland on the planet is is pasture. They just want to wipe out cattle. Okay, one more count two thirds of agricultural farmland now is not suitable for cropping it’ll never grow crop. The best thing you can do is turn that cellulose and hemicellulose, into, into meat into protein for human beings into milk. Well, cattle are killing, are they really chilly. Do you understand the difference between old carbon and new carbon or greenhouse gases and new greenhouse gases, you really understand that cows eat carbon from crops that pulled carbon dioxide from the air and they broke off methane and turn it back into carbon dioxide to tell me how livestock is increasing greenhouse gases when the peak of the livestock herd in North America was in 1971
Mike Malatesta 51:46
Yeah yeah yeah I get it, there’s so people are basically combining co2 from cows as being the same as co2 from a self smokestack and they are different. Is that what you’re saying,
Rob Saik 52:00
you know, to be fair I mean methane has got 28%, or 20, times more greenhouse gassing effects than the carbon dioxide does but it also has a half life of 10 years, that nobody talks about oxide is 311 times more greenhouse gases than than carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide is released when you tell soils. So nobody talks about tilling the soil and the release of nitric oxide, nitrous oxide is released when you use fertilizer so people use fertilizer to grow a crop, hey, here’s an idea. Why don’t we grab crops that naturally fixed nitrogen, and use that genetics inside of crops that don’t, so we could reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer farmers have to use to grow crops. This is actually being done in corn right now where they, they isolated nitrogen fixing properties of an heirloom, corn, in, in, in Mexico, and they’re grabbing that technology, and they’re trying to put it into conventional crops so we could increase corn production, we could decrease the amount of nitrogen we can decrease the amount of carbon greenhouse gas emissions, but it would take genetic engineering to do it. Yes or no. Right. Yeah, so these trade off. Right right right I love these discussions, Because you as a consumer might are faced with these labels, and very often these, these labels come with a 20 3060 80% premium in price, and you say, I’m going to buy this non GMOs, this non GMO spaghetti. But there isn’t any genetically modified spaghetti doesn’t exist.
Mike Malatesta 53:46
That is you. So I, we shop frequently at an organic market, and I feel I’ve always, because Dan Sullivan was on this from the very beginning, probably because of you, you know, I remember him talking about how, you know, the quickest way to the quickest way to. So I’m paraphrasing but you know the quickest way to starve a bunch of people is to go
It’s like, it’s
Rob Saik 54:15
not a lot of technology inside of that inside of that practice it couldn’t make sense and couldn’t be adopted in larger scale by conventional farmers, why couldn’t. Again, I just keeps on saying that pragmatically, the future is GMO genetically modified organic farming because everybody would like to use less pesticides, everybody would like to use less fertilizer everybody would like to increase soil organic matter, but to do so we have to use science to do so, but these, this, that that phraseology that I just shared with you is paradoxically opposed to each other and they painted each other in corners,
Mike Malatesta 54:54
and this is my last question for you, but I have a ton more but I but this is the last one for today, because this got me started thinking about the whole look grown local, how do you feel about the grown, locally grown I guess is what it’s, You know, typically referred to as
Rob Saik 55:15
it all the premises. Think about this, I live in Canada I’m staring though we just had a snowstorm last week, so I’m staring out. There’s no leaves on the trees and no grass. And yet, you go to a restaurant and they say we only serve grass fed beef. And I haven’t seen Roscoe slash last April.
Rob Saik 55:39
so there’s no way you could have locally grown grass fed beef in Canada and right now you’re in old’s Alberta you can have locally grown beef. In April, because there are so many grasses last October. So therefore, the movement, you know, to that. The whole marketing of grass fed beef to consumer means that you’re not buying local. So they’re cash items. We were going to buy local, here in Alberta, if I was going to buy local, what would I be buying for vegetables. There are no vegetables here, right, the only thing that you can have would be in your cellar, which would be beets and carrots and potatoes that you can store in your cellar. That’s it. You can’t store lettuce, you can’t store spinach, you can’t start cucumbers, you, you can’t buy pickling. But, so, from a pragmatic standpoint, again, a lot of the ideology comes around, you know, from people live in like San Francisco. So sure, grow, whatever you want, all year round, no problem. But we have something called snow in winter and minus 40 You can’t write, local is good. And I think that the closer we get to our food, the better. In fact I encourage your listeners to try to grow gardens, because you’ll quickly appreciate things like fungicides because they mean Mother Nature’s aren’t that hard to manage when you’re growing food is insects and diseases and weeds are our ferocious competitors. And so we have to learn more and I’m, I’m a big believer that we could support more local food production, but it will come with a cost, and and again for a lot of people that disposable income is a finite number, that they’re going to spend on food so that increased that increases support that increase in ideology, comes with a cost, and so not everybody can afford that, it’s cheaper, it’s cheaper to bring our, our, what I just had the other day, green beans, yesterday I had green beans and they came from Mexico. Well, to grow green beans in Alberta in the middle of winter time is pretty damn tough. Not to say can happen, but it’s tough.
Mike Malatesta 58:05
I love your approach to help more people come to the table and especially this GMO if you know, genetic modified organic farming that would be. I know just makes a lot of sense. How do you get people. Yeah, and then that and then we didn’t even get into how you’re going to use technology really and maybe another time but
Rob Saik 58:26
to talk about greenhouse gas. Yeah, love to talk about technology, I think I can fascinate your listeners with how we’re integrating convergence on the farm of technology so at some point, it’d be a delight to talk to you again. All right,
Mike Malatesta 58:41
let’s do it. Let’s do it. Rob thanks so much for being on the show today and sharing your wisdom and your experience and pragmatic ideas your good ideas i It’s you got my mind working a ton and I’m sure everybody listening will be as well.
Rob Saik 58:56
They can go to my website, Robert sake.com They can check me out on checkout the TEDx talk, they can order on Amazon and put 5.0 is a pretty fun read, So you enjoy that.
Mike Malatesta 59:08
Just so you know his last name is spelled si sai K so Robert sai K calm. Yeah. Got it. All right, thanks so much.
All right, Thanks buddy.
Mike Malatesta 59:24
All right cool Rob, thank you. Well I, the I didn’t know I mean mycotoxins, I think that was a great one because there’s a lot of awareness around toxins in the home now, right, like people are talking about Oh my I got mold and I got all this stuff but I don’t think I haven’t heard too many people talking about it when it comes to to food, and then the thing about organic pesticides versus synthetic pesticides was pretty interesting as well. Because, you know, Especially now,
Rob Saik 1:00:01
organic store, and you pick up this head of lettuce or whatever. And it says, in your thinking no pesticide use. Well, if it was that simple with all farmers, just not use pesticides, right,
Mike Malatesta 1:00:14
yeah, there’s got to be a reason. Yeah, yeah, right. You’re so you’re. I loved what you said to about, you know, we’ll put up just, we’ll put up this field and we’ll put a sign out and say this is an organic field everybody stay away. That was, that was, that was cool, and in your. I think in your TEDx talk, you had that woman from the UK or whatever, who was saying, you know you should eat organic food or or nothing else and if you can’t afford it eat less thought to myself, Oh my gosh.
Mike Malatesta 1:00:45
Yeah, you said quote unquote on that
Rob Saik 1:00:48
was really really enjoyable, you know, people are so distant today, and they just, they just don’t think they, they ingest the social media means, and, and just ingest them as being the gospel truth, and they’re so far away from being pragmatic. There’s always, there’s always a little bit of truth, but there’s a whole lot of lie. Yeah, sure.
Mike Malatesta 1:01:14
Well, let me. If you don’t mind I would reach out and do another one on these other issues, and then I could maybe run them back to back here because it’ll be a while before this comes out anyway so let’s do it.
Rob Saik 1:01:30
There’s just so much that we could talk about with respect to constraints of food production, you know, one of the big constraints being labor on a farm,
Mike Malatesta 1:01:38
yeah, whatever, think about that to talk about
Rob Saik 1:01:43
all kinds of things. So, this has been fun Mike I didn’t know where this was gonna go but it’s just been enjoyable. How many, how many people are following your podcast. Well,
Mike Malatesta 1:01:52
it varies, you know, based on the, on the different episodes and I don’t think I can track everybody but it’s it’s only a few 100 or so, an episode so far. But,
Rob Saik 1:02:05
13,000 on Twitter and 5000 on LinkedIn are 7000 linkedin 5000
Mike Malatesta 1:02:11
on Facebook so I can help you. Okay, appreciate it. All right, well this sounds good, I’ll reach out to you about episode two.
Rob Saik 1:02:19
Yeah, see what we get. Because I watched you. I watched you and you’re going, I didn’t think about that you write a little note, yeah, yeah. That resonated with me.
Mike Malatesta 1:02:30
Yeah, I love it. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Have a nice day.
Mike Malatesta 1:02:35
Okay. You too, Bye bye.