EcoAg: Open-Source Marijuana

By Dr. Rick Freeman

COLORADO: Back in May an automated Tesla car failed, resulting in a collision that killed the driver.  Bad news for Tesla.  But Tesla creator Elon Musk kept moving forward, and just last week he was raising money to expand into electric cars and buses.   At first glance, his business policy might seem heady, but a closer look reveals that, in addition to an insatiable desire to move forward, the man has an ingenious business model – a model relevant to the marijuana industry.

Key to Musk’s model is his dedication to reliable open-source systems to meet the human need for transportation with sustainable technology.  The insight behind open-source is that more people creating products and services based on an open source framework means more options, more customers, and more satisfaction.   The insight behind sustainable transportation is obvious:  the market can only get bigger as the population increases and resources dwindle.

Now, that’s a logic we can apply to marijuana production, and EcoAg (ē’-cō -ag) provides the perfect context.  For  proactive farmers and investors, ecological strategies can bring clean, high-quality herb to a growing market using sustainable production techniques and accouterments.

Just like Tesla’s systems, ecology is a logic that anyone can adopt and implement anywhere at any time.  It works the same way wherever you go, with regional variations to which a savvy practitioner can readily adapt.  What’s more, because EcoAg patterns follow from the larger ecological template, ecosystems dovetail with each other.  So one innovation builds upon another.  Because agricultural ecologies are so complex, countless opportunities exist for creating goods and services that will benefit the marijuana industry.  Innovation and imagination have a wide range for exploration – at all physical scales.  (For example, imagine the possibilities for creating commercial-scale, optimized gravity flow fertigation systems.)

As with Tesla-inspired, independently-owned energy stations, when more farmers adopt EcoAg in an area, benefits increase for each farmer.  More EcoAg farms means more acreage under eco management, which in turn means robust ecosystem services overall.  Bigger areas under EcoAg enjoy a larger “core” area in proportion to the thin strip of land along the border of every farm that buffers the core from adjacent lands.  Further, a bigger area means more ecological variation and more biodiversity, and more biodiversity means fewer pest problems.

Because these systems rely on ongoing ecological processes, they are much more resilient to stress than conventional systems and thus more reliable in general – another parallel to the Tesla energy-station network.  Maximizing soil organic matter, for example, prolongs available water storage capacity, making the field more drought-resistant than a conventional farm soil.   Likewise, increasing plant diversity encourages robust diversity in soil organisms and attracts a diverse population of arthropods for an effective damper on pest populations.  Further, the organisms in an ecosystem form resource exchange relationships and networks, which continue to increase in abundance and complexity, boosting resilience against drought and pestilence.

In line with Tesla’s focus on sustainability, EcoAg is sustainable because it directly closes resource loops.  It is all about replacing industrial products, which require expensive labor input, with natural systems that rely upon site resources.  In a time of dwindling natural resources (and rising input costs), closing loops means boosting sustainability.

Building on this ecological abundance, complexity, and sustainability, a community of EcoAg marijuana producers can create resource exchange relationships and networks and nurture a resilient, sustainable and reliable industry built on a common ecological template.  In turn, industry reliability can help build trust with consumers, laying the groundwork for durable brands.  A robust and diverse community of producers based on the open-source eco-template can offer a rich basket of high-quality goods and services that will appeal to a wide range of consumers and expand the growing market.  That’s open source marijuana.