How to deal with (white male) privilege – How Zjef will bring peace to Israel & Palestine – Chapter VII

The gender and racial equality debate has been on my mind for many years. I’ve been attracted to the discussion because this has been an issue for some of my closest relatives, friends and lovers. But maybe even most of all it is because for 98% of my life I’ve never ever felt like a person in a powerful position. Nope, I even subconsciously hated myself for being…a white man (I’m not saying I didn’t have privileges, I’m just saying I didn’t feel them).

aka Ungratefulness

So after carefully investigating the whole controversy and exercising some self-love, I feel I have come to a point where I can write this chapter. Some will say it makes sense, some will be offended and say it’s not my place to talk about this. Whatever your opinion is, I’d love to hear it because it is my intent to head in the direction of more equality.

I’ll start this chapter with what I understand from this whole dispute, then I’ll get to what I feel is missing to get to decent equality, and lastly we’ll get to some actual steps on how to peacefully deal with the whole (white male) privilege thing.

The issue as I understand it

It seems that due to historical reasons, male dominance and patriarchy are big contributors to lots of inequality in the world. Most positions of power are taken by (white) men and it’s what we see confirmed all around us: In movies, on the news and in our everyday lives. We all take this in subconsciously and therefore most of us automatically see white men more as political or business leaders, more than we see women or people of color to take the same positions. This is the current “normal”.


Many empowerment-movements are slowly changing this “normal” by spreading lots of awareness. The goal: To have a diverse set of global and local leaders, chosen for their competence as leaders, rather than the subconscious benefits they get because of specific traits like their gender and race.

The inquiry of the empowerment-movements is for white men to notice their benefits and at times, take a step back to let others take positions of power. Hence in time, we will get to a more equal and diverse set of people in power. So that in time, we can subconsciously see everyone as a leader, not only white men. The new “normal”.

The missing part

Now I feel there’s something missing here, the reasoning behind this is 2-fold:

(1) Taking  a step back as a person in power requires A LOT of integrity and courage. Which in my opinion is a great quality as a leader…hence…the ones that actually take a step back as a leader are the ones that we need to have in positions of power. A beautiful contradiction that brings me to the second part of my issue in this debate

(2) Most of us choose what we will wear every day. Most of us choose what we eat and the products we buy, we decide which companies/organisations we buy from, and we choose the ones we work for. Most of us choose who our friends and our lovers are, and most of us choose who our local and global leaders are. The point is….we choose a lot, we choose every single moment on how the world around us will look.

What I’m getting at is that it is not only white men who are in power because they have a privilege and they take power just because they can. There are also an enormous amount of not-white-men who support these men to be in power. And even if those people choose to support those men because they have been subconsciously fed with the idea that they are the right men to be in power…only they themselves actually hold the power to break that vicious circle. They hold the power to surround themselves with other men.

In this picture our good friend Donald Trump is being empowered by being surrounded by many beautiful women. And who can blame the women to empower themselves by taking a picture next to a powerful man? However, they might have some temporary benefits in their status and impact, yet they are undermining their long term empowerment by standing next to a first class misogynist. Who can break this vicious circle? Other men….or these women?

SO I would state that to overcome the many inequalities, to get to a more diverse and right set of leaders,…it is not only the white men’s responsibility to change that. I would state that it is the responsibility of everyone who is able to choose the right people to surround themselves with, the right people to support, and the right people to empower.

Two important remarks about this part

(1) What I aim to do is not to get rid of my responsibility and to transfer it to others…NOPE…I’m actually sharing with you all how I seek my own empowerment in the most ethical way. This actually leads me to have more responsibilities, not less.

(2) When I talk about actively making the right choices. I’m not talking about the quick-fix-kind-of-choices. I’m talking about long term recurring choices and habits. Some can take a month to have effect, others years, and the most systemic issues might even take generations to change. But it all starts with the 1 choice you make in the many single moments that make up “your life”.

How to ethically deal with (white male) privilege

Time to get down to business and get some guidelines on how to deal with the whole issue.

First – know yourself and feel the other. I love a good fight, and even when I’m losing a fight I see a win-win because I’m learning. But there are times when I draw lines for myself & for others.

Recently I was in a discussion with a former romantic girlfriend about this whole debate. At one point in the dispute she reacted very heavily to the fact that I questioned the whole white-male-privilege concept (because I had never really liked being a white-male). At that point she bluntly told me: “You have white male privilege so shut up”, and she walked away. This of course enraged me as I was in a very vulnerable moment and I didn’t feel heard. My blood was boiling and the adrenaline was raging through my body, but instead of using it to get into a more messier fight…I just backed of and made a facebook-post about it (which taught me a lot too).

The point is: I knew her and I knew I had to back off. I knew myself and I knew what the anger and adrenaline could destroy if I pointed it specifically at her. Now we were both bloodied and hurt, but we lived, learned and were not traumatised (I hope).

Second – privilege as advantage.

When someone tells you “You have privilege”, don’t get defensive…because, you have nothing to defend. Privilege is not a bad or good thing, it’s just a specific advantage you have…. Be it money, education, your good looks, or the fact that your skin-color or gender is generally associated with leadership… That advantages you have can be turned into power, and power is simply put: responsibility.

What you do with that responsibility, that is up to you and will define you as a human being.

Do you use the advantage to gain more power and attention, and make others serve you…wellll, in my opinion that makes you a kind of an asshole. I for one would not like to be in your care.

Do you use your power to listen to others, to restore the planet’s ecosystem and/or to empower your fellow human beings to live happy and fulfilling lives,… Then I’d trust you much more to make good decisions for me.


The almighty Lucie Evers broke this even down further into a step by step guide:

  1. Look at power in a different way. Be aware of your influence on power dynamics and your need for control.
  2. Let go of the need for control.
  3. Understand the relationship between self-image, your projection of yourself in the world and the actual ‘position’ you have. Put it in sync.
  4. Understand the privilege you have and deal with it. Don’t deny or get rid of it, just accept it and deal with it in a responsible way. Noblesse Oblige.
  5. Don’t feel responsible for what is not yours in the first place. It’s not because people leave (their) issues on the table, that you have to take them on. Get rid of saviour complex.


The issue is that the world around us is built on a whole lot of suppression of certain groups of people. And it’s not because that this is the world now, that this is how the world should be. Let’s get “normal” out of our subconscious, and make it better.

To do this everyone needs to use the power they have at hand. Everyone who is able needs to put their money where there mouth is and let their actions be congruent with their values of equality.

The recipe: Keep an open mind, listen, learn, live and be more like Janaya Khan or  Hannah Gadsby.

If you think there’s something completely wrong or if there’s something missing – hit reply.

Lots of people to thank for the many talks & discussions on the subject. Let’s start with my mother and my sister: Magda Van Acker & Jana Van Acker, then for sure Esther Bonebakker (probably the first person to really open my eyes). Then Stephanie Hermant, Lynn Josephy, Charlotte Schelstraete, Jacklyn Bandy, Mia Fernandez Medinacelli, Lucie Evers, Marcus Chin Hien Goh, Zeljko Blace, Kelechi Johnbosco, Ayşegül Sırakaya, Mark Horler, Ryan Ginsburg, Nils Plovie, Niek D’hondt & the many others who jumped in the snake pit with me. Thank you for all the patience and open mindedness.

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel & Palestine – Check out the other chapters in the series via this link.

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine – Chapter V – The burden of being the best

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine – Chapter V – The burden of being the best

I’m a big fan of Peace on Earth, and I believe that we can truly achieve this seemingly impossible state of utopia. Yet in the quest to help obtain it, I’ve been struggling with a question that I do not seem to find an answer to.

Our world and our history has been full of people doing “exceptional” things. For example Alexander the great and Dzjengis Khan both conquered enormous territories. Another example is Julius Caesar who transformed the Roman republic into the Roman empire. Yet if you look closer into the stories of these many so called “great people”, It seems like they all had a deep hole inside of their soul that forced them to want to be the best. And because they wanted to achieve and prove themselves, their actions often came at a great costs.

Alexander the Great VS Darius III at the battle of Gaugamela. It is known as a great and impossible victory for Alexander. Yet many seem to be overlooking the fact that both of them were big assholes that got a lot of people killed for their pride

Today, there is still lot of wanting to be the best in our society. This drive is creating a lot of innovation and progress, it is driving us forward for sure and bring us lots of comforts, pleasures & luxuries. But at what costs? Today 1 in 4 Belgians suffer Psychological problems, and do I really need to talk about politics and the other obvious stuff: The wars we still wage with ourselves, with our own nature and with our own habitat? 

So yes, there is this question I do not seem to find the answer to:

Can we as humanity advance ourselves without the need to be better than someone else? Can we advance ourselves with respect for ourselves, the people around us, our environment and our planet?

The reason why I find myself asking this question is because I too recently discovered the hole in my soul. And like Caesar or Alexander the great, I also had a serious need for myself to be the best

The hole in my soul was initiated by a small trauma when I was 7. For me it was a defining moment. It was a moment that my 7 year old self would remember not in memories, but in feelings for the next 22 years to come. It would be on those feelings that I built my reality.

I’m not ready to tell exactly what happened to me, yet I can tell you that it left me with a serious feeling of abandonment, the feeling of not being worth it to be loved. And out of that feeling came the idea that I needed to prove myself to be loved. The start of me…wanting to be the best all the time.


Feed the monster

Always trying to be the best is ludicrous for a at least 3 reasons.

  1. Trying to fill up the hole in your soul is exhausting. It’s like feeding a monster than can never be satisfied.
  2. It’s is destructive. This can be towards others, or towards yourself. For me it was mostly the latter: Carrying around the idea that you have to be the best, only gives you the feeling that you are NEVER the best. It’s like climbing a mountain, never looking back and enjoying the view, never enjoying the steps you are taking. And even if you reach the top, you never enjoy reaching the top, you only look at the next mountain to climb. So you keep on bashing yourself to be better and better and better. You can never enjoy and accept yourself for who you are at that very moment
  3. And thirdly, it completely messes up your idea of what “love” is. If you cannot love yourself for who you are, you cannot let others love you for who you are. And you can also not love people for who they are. This affects all relationships: family, friends, romances,…


The solution for all this is of course very simple: it is self-love. But I’m not here to talk to you about self-love. I’m here because I still have this question.

If I would not have had this trauma when I was young, would I have had the fire to push myself to go beyond my fears and limitations? Would I be on this crazy life’s journey? Would I have traveled the world and walked amongst the pioneers in urban and vertical farming? What would I be doing if not for this small trauma?

Now that I’m much more at peace with myself, and have less of a need to prove myself to others, the dye has already been cast: I am on this path and I’m planning to keep on following it

And because our history and our society today is full of people who want to be the best, we might extrapolate this question to the rest of the world. What would we be without these people? Maybe we would have world-peace, but would we still live in tribes? Or would we have found other ways of discovering what we have discovered, Achieving what we have achieved?

Interesting question.

As I believe that our society consist of individuals, I’m really curious towards your answers. If not for wanting to be the best,…

What powers your life?

What is it that makes you want to get up in the morning and create your world?

Competition got us to the Moon, but what will get us to Mars?

How Zjef will bring peace to Israel and Palestine: Click here for Chapter I & IIClick here for Chapter III & click here for Chapter IV

Why I’m disappointed about Barack Obama

Why I’m disappointed about Barack Obama

He has a great smile, is a funny & elegant speaker, has SWAG and also made some decisions that shook the US  in its foundations. Barack Obama is for sure the coolest president the US ever had.

So, why the f*ck do I feel disappointed upon seeing such a phenomenon live at Seeds&Chips 2017 in Milan?


It is not every day that you attend the same event as one of the most influential world leaders of the past 20 years. And I for sure was not the only one acknowledging the special occasion. Everyone had been talking about it for weeks and the excitement reached the summit right before Obama’s appearance.

The crowd in the conference room was just swarming all over the place. Everyone was walking around nervously, talking to everyone while looking around, taking selfies and not really wanting to sit down as if they had to be ready because the guy could be walking by them any second.

An interesting experience I completely immersed myself in.

Me and Seppe Salari, taking selfies like bosses right before the special occasion.

Anyway, 30min behind on schedule, Obama entered the stage, thanked everyone and launched a furious and passionate speech about the importance of food and Climate change.

Here are some cool things he said:

1h21min into the youtube video
“We have to create a food culture that encourages the demand of healthier and more sustainable food”

“If we can act boldly and swiftly than it is not to late, and we can leave a world behind that is worthy for our children”

So far so good. Zjef was very happy.

For the second part of the event, there was a Q&A with Sam Kass, chef and personal friend of Obama. In the beginning of that conversation I learned more awesome things about Obama. Like the fact that he is setting up an institution to empower the young leaders of tomorrow. And I also felt a shiver down my spine when he said the following:

“The mark of a good leader, is somebody who is able to empower other people”

So far – still very good. Still muchos Obama Love.


Yet, around 2h00min things started to change – Slowly but drastically.

It all began when Sam Kass brought up the biggest driver of Climate change: Beef production. They both agreed that it was an important issue to tackle. HOWEVER, when it came to talking about solutions, Obama was very very veeeeery vague. He basically avoided to talk about the bold and swift actions that are required to address this issue.

The bold and swift action for which he was advocating just 35min earlier.

I mean – common – It’s so fu*king simple.

To heal this planet you first start tackling the stuff that is the biggest contributor to its destruction. Just like when you are injured, the doctor will first fix that open leg fracture before the little cut on your arm.


Please stop me if I’m saying weird stuff here!

And that’s where my disappointment about Obama rose to the surface. After that moment, I started noticing that his responses were always very diplomatic, yet those responses never reflected the wisdom and boldness that our society needs so badly.

We all look up to the Obama because he is one of the best politicians we have seen in the past years. But the dude is still one of those politicians that are more a part of the problem, than a part of the solution. Their actions do not reflect their words.


Sh*t, I’m complaining about politicians….how did I end up here?

People who know me, know that I never give that much attention or energy to politicians. So why did I start now? Well, maybe it is because Obama is not the real source of my disappointment.

The big disappointment is about us and the fact that we give so much attention to leaders whom we should not be adoring that much. OBAMA is no Gandhi, Jane Goodall, Aristotle or Lao Tze that bring themselves and this society back into balance with itself and this planet.

The big disappointment during Obama’s appearance is a resurfacing disappointment of a realisation I made long ago: I cannot rest until I know our society is in balanced human hands.

So yes, you are understanding this right.

The big disappointment is because I just want to chill out on a f*cking beach, enjoy this amazing planet and make love to beautiful ladies without having to worry about anything else.


ps1: Don’t worry, I also find a lot of joy in life helping our society to transition and get into sync with our planet.

ps2: Learn about a way to produce meat that is good for this planet – check out the Soil Carbon Cowboys

The Big Why

The Big Why

On Saturday the 29th of April 2017, I was invited to the yearly conference of the International Association of Students in Agriculture and related Sciences (or in short: IAAS).

There’s a lot of beautiful things I can tell about this event, BUT there’s one thing specifically that stuck with me and it had something to do with The Big Why.


For the afternoon group discussions of the IAAS-conference, all the participants split up into groups of their interest and one of them, of course, was about urban farming, to which I was assigned expert.

After an hour into the discussion, there was one person who asked the following interesting question that is the cause of this blog post:

You know, we’ve been talking about urban and vertical farming and I get that it’s nice and that it has many benefits. But, I’m still missing The Big Why. Why should we be doing urban and vertical farming?

I love a question like this and I was eager to answer it.

But, as I wanted everyone to think for themselves – rather than giving an answer before they could do so – I held back and deflected the question to the crowd. And it had the desired effect. Many students in the group answered and many interesting points were stated:

  • Urban Farming Brings people together.
  • It brings people into contact with their food
  • There are less foodmiles and a lower Carbon Footprint
  • It has higher yields per surface area
  • Urban farming projects can re-use waste
  • and so on…

I loved it.

Yet, even after a dozen people gave many reasons on why urban and vertical farming is needed, the two people still remained unconvinced about “The Big Why“. The dozen students had indeed brought up many valid points on “why” we should be doing urban and vertical farming, yet to be honest, I wasn’t satisfied either.


So, when the 2 unconvinced students turned back to me with a gaze of hope mixed with desperation, I cleared my throat, took one last deep breath and let the true Zjef reveal The Big WHY via a loud and confident voice:

I can not tell you why you should do something. I can only tell you why I do what I do.

I do what I do because I see a very destructive human society. We are destroying nature. We are destroying people. We are destroying life. And thus….we are destroying ourselves.

This cannot go on and I want to be part of the needed change, rather than remain part of the structural problem.

Does this mean I think vertical Farming is the answer to all our prayers? Hell NO! Vertical farming is just what it is: a technology. It’s not inherently good or bad. It is defined by how we, humans, use it.

What I do believe is that vertical farming is a powerful tool for change because it touches the foundations of our human society.

Vertical farming touches our basic human needs: food, water, energy & Shelter. Hence, if we can do vertical farming in a creative, constructive and ecosystem-manner, we can transform the foundations of our society and spiral our species into a new era of beauty and magnificence.

Is this the big why? Did I go into vertical farming because of this rational reason? Well, partly, it helped me to form a strategy.

The real reason why I chose vertical Farming as my battlefield for societal transformation is very, very, very simple and much more down to earth. It is because, when I first learned about vertical farming and Dickson Despommier’s vision in an article in Scientific American (somewhere during 2010), my thoughts and feelings just screamed:

This is fucking awesome!

And that, my friends, is the essence of the big why!

Knowing and feeling why to do something, comes from no other place than within!


Ps: So, If my first Blog post ever didn’t make that much sense to you, it should now.

Ps2: And just check all the images below, so AWESOME!

Is this one of those thoughts that keep you from being a happily productive person?

So, I guess this post is about something that haunts many of us. Time to write those thoughts & feelings down instead of keeping them battling in my head.

This morning, as many other mornings, I had the problem again: waking up and not feeling like waking up, not seeing or feeling the joy of the day to come.

What is this shit about? Why the fuck am I like a diesel that needs to warm up and am extremely reluctant to even start?

Is this in my DNA? Am I just like this? Or is this something that became a habit, hence I can get rid of it through some serious mind-training.


I am a very ambitious man, the dreams I have are big and I know I can reach them. Yet I also know that I will have to work hard, learn a lot and be smart about it.

On the other hand, it’s also very important that I can live this short and fleeting life in happy way.

I’m definitely not the only one struggling and writing about this, check out this article for example. Quote: “How to strive and grow and be ambitious without getting caught up in a rat race against your peers—in other words, without becoming obsessed with your relative status, as that is an obsession that I believe can seriously dent your happiness.”

Part of the ambition is that I like acknowledgement, attention & I would definitely like to be famous (in other words: “status”). Yet I also know that becoming famous and known is not a real good driver for my life’s purpose.

Who will care about what I do, a 1000, or a million years from now? Or who cares about this on the other side of the universe?


So yes, ambition & hard work opposed to just enjoying my life as much as possible. Can those things be combined? Is it possible to be happy with this life while also trying to make this society a happier place? And is it a matter of training my mind and learn to enjoy the things in life in a different way?

Or should I just be happy with life, not be too ambitious and not care too much about the future of our society?

Or should I not complain, work my ass off and achieve stuff?

All these questions, all these questions. They are running through my head and are constantly making me question the way I do stuff. Which is also not very good for finalising that stuff.

Any advice from anyone?


I’m scared as fucking shit

I’m scared as fucking shit

I’m a big fan of succes stories, motivational video’s and the idea that feeling strong and confident about reaching your goal actually helps you to reach your goal. But still I’m just a normal boy with a lot of insecurities and at this moment I’m as human as I can possibly be. Yes, I’m scared as fucking shit.

You know that feeling of butterflies in your stomach when you’re in love? Well, at the moment it feels like they have died of cancer and are being dissolved very very slowly by and exuberant amount of stomach acid.

It hurts.

People tell me a lot that I look chill and relaxed all the time. Yeah, true, I’m pretty relaxed and cool most of the time. Yet I’m also extremely good at hiding my stress, anger, and fear. And when these feelings become too strong, I numb myself out by running away from the things that cause the pain. Hence, I am all relaxed and chill again.

Not caring about the things that cause the pain is an easy way to deal with it, yet is the right way?

Of course not. Let’s hit it head on, the earth-bending way.

Yes Indeed, Avatar!

At the moment my fear wants to keep me from writing this blog post, yet I push myself to do it anyway in 2 steps. First I just simply ask myself: “What can possibly go wrong?”. My imagination is quite good, yet it cannot come up with a decently good story where I’ll die or lose an arm because I’m writing this blog post. Second: I focus on the task of writing this blog post, finding enjoyment while doing so.

So, reason and focus help me to deal with my fear head on. However, is it enough?

I’m focussing on writing this post with the knowledge that it’s not going to kill me, yet my body doesn’t seem to want to follow. The fire in my stomach is still raging and my body still wants to run away because focussing on writing this blog post requires me to focus on my feelings, which is fear!


So, maybe getting to the bottom of this thing will help me. Where does all this fear come from?

At the moment, I’m at a point in my life where I’ve been a couple of times before. I’m at the edge of redeeming success or brutal failure. And because I’m afraid of failure, that redeeming success seems impossible to reach…weird, right?

I’ve been going hard on the vertical farming dream, I’ve been working my ass off, following my guts and taking risk, all of this while still aiming at the basics of the basics: I just finally want to get a fucking income out of this. Since 4 years, noppes, nada, niente, no income from all the vf-work I’ve been doing.

The idea has always been that the return on investment will come…later, however, it bugs me and it scares me that I might never reach it.

So, on the edge of redeeming success or brutal failure, Zjef is scared as shit.

Yet in the end, is it all that important? Because I know that even if I fail this time, I’ll still be alive and I will have learned an enormous amount of things again.

Is that the answer to my fear? To convince myself that it’s not real and to keep on doing things until the fear is over? I dunno, I can pull out a lot of old and proven wisdom from Gandhi to Eckhart Tolle, from Jezus to Paulo Coelho,  and give an answer to that question.

But Goddamn…

At this moment I just want someone to hold my hand and take me to Disneyland.


How Zjef will bring peace to Israel & Palestine – Chapter III

Read Chapter I & II first

I want to bring harmony to Israel and Palestine, I want to end the war in the middle East and I want to end the corruption in Africa. As a matter of fact, I truly believe that I can do it and this series of blog-posts will tell you the story on how I discover the super-powers that can and will initiate world-peace.

Chapter 3 – Knowing yourself


So, today I was talking to Kyara, a 20 year old lady from Kansas, USA. She wants to get into Vertical Farming and I, as head of the Education Division of the Association for Vertical Farming, am trying to help her with that. In our many conversations questions about her strengths and who she really is popped up a couple of times. Today she made me give an epic reply that gave birth to this blog post.

This is how it came to be:

Zjef: Do you feel it’s hard to talk about who you are and what your strengths are?

 Yes it’s hard. Like im barely 20, im still trying to figure out what im good at.

Zjef: Well, 20 is quite late to think about it :p But better late than never

Kyara: Really? Cause I’ve been told multiple time thats it’s normal… or maybe thats just America.

Zjef: It’s the same in Europe. However, it’s not because it’s normal that it’s how it supposed to be.

I’ve lived my life without any aim or purpose for 25 years, and in that way, I feel that I’ve wasted a big part of my life. Especially when I was in University. Our education system is based on getting you ready for Industrial capitalism, which kills creativity and the ability to really getting to know who you are.

Kyara: Damn, i think you just explained it better than any other person I’ve talked to. But isn’t it normal to not know until your mid or late 20s?

Zjef: Why would that be normal?

Kyara: I don’t know, because isn’t that when our brains are fully developed.

Zjef: That’s sounds like a good explanation, yet wouldn’t it be better if our brain developed to support who we really are?

I for one can definitely say that I developed a lot of bad habits because I was an annoying little brad who didn’t know who he was and what to do, except hating people and society because they were fucking the planet up. If my parents and my school had taught me that it was possible for me to constructively have a positive impact on it all…well, I most probably would have been much stronger and confident by now, and I would have achieved much more by now.

My parents told me that I should study well because I was one of the most intelligent in my little class in my little school that was way below average. And at that school I was put in a science-class because of that same reason. There I was taught that I would become a successful scientist. I was taught that I should always try to get to achieve the highest level possible. Never even trying to determine what I was actually good at, or what made me happy.

(I’m not even bashing the absurdity of thinking in “levels” of intelligence here)

Result: I never ever did my best in school because it didn’t really excite me all that much.

And during my time at university, my mom always was angry because I spent too much time organising events and managing and playing in my band. Thinking I was wasting my future.

In hindsight, it is actually these experiences that give me most strength and confidence today.

So, brain development should be in service of who you are, not in service of what “society” says you should be. Because now we live in a society where a lot of people don’t know who and what they are, because in a way, they got brainwashed.

A very disturbing thought

Kyara: Yeah, you make a good point. And did anyone ever tell you that you would make a great blogger? Cause you would.


Who are you? Today this is for most people a difficult and vague question. First of all, it requires a lot of balls to get out of your comfort zone and go and look for the answer, and secondly it requires a lot of persistence to actually make it to the end of that quest.

Am I there yet? I don’t know so probably not. Yet I do know that I am where I need to be, and that is right here!

ps: Thanks Kyara for making me write this.

Kyara looks innocent and cute, but don’t let those puppy eyes fool you, she’s a badass:


Peace out & enjoy this inspirational music:

When plant, Mushroom and insect producers come together

Read the original article on Agritecture by clicking here


On the 10th of February an open forum on Vertical Farming was organized in Ghent, Belgium. The Association for Vertical Farming (AVF) collaborated with Urban Farming Ghent on what we thought would be a small info-night for around 50 people. Yet the internet decided otherwise, the event went viral on facebook and soon a bigger venue had to be found.  Even after booking an auditorium with 400 seats at the Faculty of Bioscience of the University of Ghent, people were still sitting on the stairs. So, before it had started, the event could be marked as a success. Yet, the story that unraveled during the event was so inspiring that I just had to write a blog post about this.



As an opening speaker there was me, Zjef Van Acker, Chief engagement officer of the AVF. I opened the evening by explaining everyone why we should do vertical farming. No, I didn’t start with “By the year 2050 we’ll be with 9 billion people and 80% will live in urban areas and so on….” Yeah, they are valid reasons, however, they’re really NOT the most important ones. For me, the issues lie much deeper, they lie at the level of our mindset and our world-view. At the moment the majority of people and businesses in our society are still driven by short term financial paybacks and linear ways on how to get there: Resource => Product => Waste.


Even Global warming can be explained by this: Fossil fuels (resource) => gasoline (product) => exhaust (waste). And that, my friends, is inherently not sustainable. Neither from ecological, social or economical perspective.

So, while I was talking to 450 attentive listeners, I explained that vertical farming has the great potential to change the above, linear mindset. This is for the simple reason that vertical farming affects the 3 fundamental pillars of a society: food, water and shelter. If we can change the economy at its foundation, we can change it in its whole. And that’s why vertical farms, in all their beauty and magnificence can become important icons of change.


But, there’s a big but, vertical farming is still a technology and thus inherently not a solution. To prove this I just had to pop-out my smartphone and tell everyone that the computer (smartphone) I was holding in my hand had more computing power than all of NASA in 1969, when they put two people on the moon. A mindblowing comparison I got from the very interesting book “Abundance” by Peter Diamandus and Steven Kotler. The comparison proves that the solution for all the world’s problems lies not in the technology itself, but in how that technology is used by us, humans.

I believe that we, and our society can use our extremely advanced technology in a constructive way, and that we can get back in  sync with ourselves, with our fellow humans and with this planet’s ecosystems. We’re with 7 billion people, 7 billion fantastic brains and 7 billion caring hearts. I believe that we can find ways to use technology in a responsible manner, for a true change.

As I’ve been in the Vertical Farming movement for quite some time now, I’ve heard all the arguments against VF’ing. Some of them, like energy and resource use, are really important to address, so for the Open Forum on Vertical Farming in Ghent, I invited some friends that might present a solution for that.


First there was Jasper den Besten, professor in New cultivation system at HAS University (The Netherlands). He started the evening by teaching everyone the basics of indoor Plant Production. And maybe it’s because he’s a professor and not a salesman (or just a good person), he explained indoor farming in a very open and honest way. He pictured it as a very good and efficient system with many, many benefits. Yet he also explained that electricity use is high and that it’s of paramount importance to switch from fossil fuels towards renewable resources. And this just might have been the most important reason why this evening was so inspiring and such a success. Every speaker and every expert in the panel was very honest and realistic about the fact that the systems are not yet perfect. And this got the whole vibe beyond “being pro or con”, it made us and all the 450 people that were present, open to all its possibilities.

You also might think: “Well, the source of electricity-issue is important, but that’s not a job  for the vertical farmers, that’s a job for the electricity companies.” Yet, is that really so? As I said, vertical farming touches the foundations of our society, so we should definitely take our responsibility on these matters.


Nikolaas Viaene from Little Food presented a possible solution. Little Food is a Brussels based company that is growing and selling Crickets for human consumption. He explained that insects are perfect for Vertical Farms because they don’t need light. Yet, there is more. In contrast to many other insect-growers, the little food team are true changemakers. They are thinking ahead, as they are applying cradle-to-cradle and circular economy principles. After all, insects are nature’s waste recyclers, why wouldn’t they be used as waste upgraders for our economy? From waste to food, now, isn’t that already starting to sound more energy-efficient?

And for the 10th of February, this was just the start, because we saved the best for last.


Bruno Van Haudenhuyse came to the stage and in his short presentation he connected the dots between plant, insect and mushroom production. Bruno is founder of Gandazwam, consultant to many other mushrooms companies and is one of the biggest experts on turning cities’ waste-streams into new resources for food production. Like insects, mushrooms are also nature’s waste recyclers. Plus, mushrooms are also not in the business of doing photosynthesis and for that reason, they have been grown vertically for ages.

Bruno didn’t stop there. Plants, insects and mushrooms interact for mutual benefit in nature, each generating value from another’s waste-stream. Therefore if each is grown in high tech controlled environment systems, where the input and outputs are perfectly managed. Each of these small controlled ecosystems can be connected, forming a bigger ecosystem. To quickly give you one of the many possible synergies: Mushrooms use oxygen and produce C02, plants need a lot of CO2 and produce oxygen. Can you already see the possible exchanges of inputs and outputs there?

Yes, it’s true: Plants, insects and mushrooms can together produce much more than each separately. And this my friends, is what happens when you bring plant, insect and mushroom-growers together. It’s a first step on the way to close the loops in our city and how we can change our current unsustainable economic mindset, by starting with the basics: Food, water and shelter.

Luckily for you all, this event was just the beginning of this game-changing way of thinking in vertical farming. The subject of this year’s AVF-summit is Vertical Farming and the Circular Economy. Building further upon the mindset that “in order for vertical farming to be a real change, we need to actually change”. The AVF and I hope to welcome you on the 13th of June, at RAI in Amsterdam.


You wanna find out more about the above subject? Check out:

Circular economy
Blue economy
Little Food
HAS University (Follow an online course with Prof. Jasper den Besten on growing without daylight)
The Plant (an npo experimenting with circular economy and  food production in Chicago)
Pctures of the short Info-market that happened after the presentations.







* A train of thought…

A train of thought…

Originally posted on 14 February 2013 on

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At first, embarking on a four-day-train journey from Belgium to Sweden seemed a crazy idea, but in the end, it turned out to be one of my best decisions ever made. Of course, taking the airplane to the Urban Agricultural Summit would have been easier, but as a sustainable-guy, I do have to set an example, right? Apart from that, I had two other reasons to opt for the train ride. First of all I could visit 2 beautiful cities on the way. But the most important reason was the voice within saying: you have to do this!!!!

Many people might have sensed it, many people might have noticed it, but when I departed from Belgium, I was scared as hell!

Luckily for me, the magnificent Boris and Rodrigo provided me with safe shelter for my first night in Berlin. In 2011, my cousin and his husband decided that this city would become the location of the first Paleo-restaurant in the whole world. So, opening “Sauvage” can be seen as the official return of the healthiest eating-habit mankind has ever known. This is because the Paleolithic cuisine is created with the food our ancestors ate as hunters-collectors 10.000 years ago: It is gluten free, lactose free and sugar free. And in Sauvage, they do it as sustainable as possible: Like real inventors they create new dishes with local, seasonal vegetables and fruits, combined with fish or meat from wild/organic/grass fed animals (which is actually very hard to find these days).

Apart from the amazing taste, that evening I felt like the healthiest man on earth. So if you ever visit Berlin, you should definitely try to score a diner at Sauvage: It will change your life! The evening was also coloured by many interesting and inspiring conversations with the fantastic Boris and Rodrigo. But unfortunately, morning came, and I had to continue my train adventure.

Sauvage by night
Boris promoting Paleo – food (awesome photo)

I just deleted half a page about the path which I am following in the pursuit of my dreams. Leaving Belgium was like jumping in the unknown or taking this huge leap of faith. But this explanation just felt wrong, that’s not what it is; I’m not Captain America, I’m not the red knight, I’m not a hero on a quest to fight evil and do good; that’s not what I do.

I’m just a normal guy, dealing with normal insecurities, trying to break free from the imaginary shackles I laid upon myself. And that’s another issue: What are insecurities? Are they problems? Can they be solved? For instance death, as something unknown, is it something to be frightened of? Is it something to be solved?

As I entered Copenhagen, all kind of worries and insecurities still gnawed in my stomach, Until José Bedoya took me on a walk.

José is a fantastic, very open and extremely sapient guy that I met through couchsurfing. He lives, studies and works in Copenhagen and offered me a guided tour. And as we were walking through the snowy city, I enjoyed listening to his vast knowledge about Copenhagen.

But we also talked about life, about the mysteries of the universe and about the past, the present and the future.

He took great care in listening to my story, my associated dreams and my worries. All of the sudden, something funny  happened: He made me feel as strong and confident as I had never felt before. But what was this mystical force that made me feel invincible? Was it some kind of dormant power of a true hero that had awakened inside me? That would make me very special and unique, wouldn’t it. Hell, everybody wants to be Luke Skywalker, Superman, Spiderman or any other superhero that protects the weak and the innocent.

But…the weak and the innocent…doesn’t this sound wrong?

Because don’t forget: talking about everyone that is not the hero, talking about that useless and feeble crowd that needs rescuing, these people also include you, yes, YOU!

Do you need protection? Do you want choices to be made for you?

So, as far as I’m concerned, it is just wrong to describe this change of feelings as the awakening of my long hidden super-power. But how should I describe it then? It took me about two weeks to figure it out.

Me and my Copenhagen girlfriend

Anyway, Jose and me had a fantastic time in Copenhagen: We were as relaxed as tourists and we had fun like children. He made me pose with the little mermaid, we jumped on the city trampolines and we did a lot of other stuff that seemed silly, but was actually a lot of fun. Oh, and before I forget, everyone who visits Copenhagen, definitely has to check out Christiana: it started out as a independent hippy-commune in the sixties, and today, it is still a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood, which is pretty cool.

If I had chosen to take the airplane, I would not have done all these fantastic things and I would not have arrived at the Urban Agricultural Summit with as much confidence.

Instead, I followed my guts.

And when I arrived in Linkoping, the worries in my stomach had transformed into tickling confidence, the doubts and insecurities felt easy to overcome and I saw joy and happiness everywhere. This was because of a train of thought that helps me to accept all insecurities as a part of life, a train of thought that enables me to meet all worries with celebration and a train of thought that makes me see the beauty of life as a whole.

And that is no superpower, that is something that everyone can do!


(Originally Published on February 4, 2013 at

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Ten days ago, I left everyone and everything behind to go on this special and exotic quest. It is a very challenging task to describe the reason why, not to mention the associated feelings. And up till today, the explanation is still very hard to produce.

Yet here I go!

Just the other day, after the Urban Agricultural Summit 2013, I enjoyed a nice and very slow walk through the city of Linköping (Sweden). I reflected on what had happened the past days and months. With a satisfied smile, I crossed the street and took a big detour around a young boy and girl coming from the opposite direction. Passing by, I observed that the shy boy focused on the road ahead, but when my gaze turned to the little girl, I saw that she looked me straight in the eyes with a big, confident smile.

During that split second of unabashed eye contact, I noticed something very peculiar in her eyes: it was a look that said “why”.

Of course, I could have been completely wrong about what was going on inside her head. But that glimpse of wonder and gratitude in her eyes made me think about the saying;

“Look at the world through the eyes of a child”

It is one of the many expressions that, a couple of months ago, had helped me to take a step back and rethink my life. It had been a train of thought that had forced me to reflect on what I had been doing and especially…why I had been doing it.

So after I smilingly passed those two children and made a kind gesture by getting out of their way, I was curious. Had the girl been observing me? Had she learned that even small acts like these have the power to change a person’s mood? Or had she just been thinking that my hair looked funny? The answer will forever remain a mystery.

Still pondering on this meeting, I wondered whether the girls investigative quality, her researching feature, her exploratory instinct is part of the attitude of a natural born learner. A tiny baby looks at the world with wondering eyes. He is curious for everything crossing his sight. And when the child learns to talk, question-mayhem begins; “why this? Why that? How come this? How come that?…”

This made me reflect, why did I lose this attitude as I grew older? Why did I ever come to think that everything could be explained? Was it because I stopped observing after people told me staring is impolite? Was it because the school-system taught me that every problem has a strictly defined solution? Or was it because of the easy “you’ll understand it when you grow up”-answer to many of my questions?…

Who knows… yet her curiosity also made me reflect about the important question Chief Oren Lyons had posed during his speech at the first day of the Urban Agricultural Summit 2013. It is one of the questions I had asked myself a lot during these past months:

“How do we educate 7 billion people about a sustainable society?”

And although life holds many uncertainties like this, there are numerous amazing and fantastic things to hold on to.

Did the little girl inspire me or did I inspire her?

Was she learning from me or was I learning from her?

And is it foolish of me to believe that the world is like that little girl?

Can I dream that, one day, the world will look up at that food-producing-skyscraper and wonder “why”?

Well…I guess there’s only one way to find out.

“La tour vivant “by SOA
Chief Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Nation