The Mushie Cave

The Mushie Cave 1 The Mushie Cave 2

The Mushie Cave is a project to inform everybody who wants to know about growing edible mushrooms. Not only is the cave awesomely cool, there’s some science behind it. The cave imitates the ideal natural environment for forest-mushrooms to grow: high humidity, no direct sunlight, no wind and stable temperature.

This Mushie Cave was made possible by the efforts of many volunteers, an alliance with nature and by using as much recycled materials as possible.

This is how it all began.

To complete the Mushie Cave story, more video’s are coming soon!

The Very First Vertical Farming Workshop

Originally posted on January 2 2015 at http://averticalfarmstory.blogspot.be

My second video-blog is a CHRISTMAS SPECIAL!

While talking about the very first vertical farming workshop in New York, I tested my improv-skills, my video-edit-skills and of course…my patience. Damn, video editing is a lot of work. But it’s fun! Check out the result:

(Ow yeah, and because of copyright, this video is blocked in Germany. Sorry German friends.)

So, like before. Any Feedback on the video is VERY welcome. Due to a couple of honest friends I already learned this:

  • Need better preparation, my story-telling-skills aren’t good enough yet to do a decent improv.
  • My stories need to be shorter and more to the point.
Enjoy and see you guys later!

The source of my frustration

Originally posted on July 31 2014 at http://averticalfarmstory.blogspot.be

During my teenage years I found myself to be completely invincible at strategy videogames like Rome Total War. It’s quite unfortunate for the military that I had (and still have) such a Peace-and-love mentality. Cause instead, I applied my tactical insights to promote my own music band. The peace and love expressed itself in trying to benefit others with my plans. 

Tangible proof of my artful strategic mind is Rock Bottom, a small festival me and my friend, Wannes, organized in October 2012. Living in a very rural area and not having a lot of money at our disposal, we managed to combine an evening concert with an afternoon Battle of The bands. In the process we brought together 13 bands and 6 youth houses, while giving away lot of cool prizes (the top prize being a 6-gig Rock-Bottom winter tour)

And although I’ve done some crazy shit since Rock Bottom, it is still the last thing of which I’m really really really proud. It is the last cunning plan I successfully executed in style!

Me, Wannes & The Rock Bottom poster

The source of my frustration 

After Rock Bottom I concentrated myself on devising business plans and strategies to take my first steps into Vertical Farming. Yet, fifteen months after Rock Bottom, I found myself incapable to execute any of them.

And it was not because of the quality of the plans, on the contrary, they were and are still really good!

For example, when Pat and I were working to build a small pilot Vertical Farm in Switzerland (February 2013) we had to overcome the known VF-issues. So, like with Rock Bottom, my Tactical-Peace-and-Love brain came up with a plan that would not only accelerate the execution of our undertaking, it would also benefit many other projects (a message of hope). And although Pat believed it was a good idea and a solid plan, he had his doubts from the beginning. He said it was a gut feeling and that he did not really know why he didn’t have a good feeling about the plan.

Yet, Instead of trusting Pat’s experience and instinct, it all got to my head and I let my ambition take over. Since then, that ambition destroyed many important things, it crushed my self-trust, made me question the meaning of my life and it even made me lose the feeling of “why” I’m into Vertical Farming in the first place. Had I made the wrong choices? Was Vertical Farming not my future? Why was I’m alive and why the fuck would I waste any of my precious time on trying to make this world a better place?

Clearly, I was doing something wrong, and somewhere around March/April 2014 I hit Rock Bottom.

Behold, the legend of Rock Bottom 2012.

Have I told you that in the beginning we just wanted to organize a gig with befriended bands to locally promote our hard rock music? And still, even with these humble initial intentions, we ended up organizing a pretty big event. This was because the lovers of the distorted guitar-sound were spread very thinly across the rural lands of Diksmuide, and because there is just too much concert-competition in Belgium (booking a big headliner wouldn’t assure many people showing up). So, in order to reach our goal, Wannes and me had to think outside the box and devise a well though out plan. The evolution of Rock Bottom happened not out of ambition, but because of necessity!

So, what is my point here? What is the reason I’m telling you this story?

Hell, I don’t know, I never make a point before I start writing. I never know what the end or the moral of my story is going to be. What you read, is just a portion of what I’m writing. Because

When I’m writing, I’m reflecting.

And when I’m reflecting, I’m learning… or making excuses (I don’t know anymore. It’s a very thin line).

Yet, the most important thing I learned while inditing this shit, is that my most memorable successes originated from having fun, while the bigger dreams came second to that!

Btw, this was my awesome band:

And The Winner is…

Originally posted on June 5 2014 at http://averticalfarmstory.blogspot.be

And the winner from last month’s blog post contest is…

Tumtumtum…drum rolls…some epic music…(really, click on the epic music, it’s pretty epic!

Before the winner is announced, I would like to thank everyone for answering and giving me some very inspiring ideas towards self-improvement. A good example is that many of you told me that I need to talk more about what I’m doing, and you are right.

Aristotle once said that, to forge an interesting tale, the best oraters perfectly combine three components: ETHOS, PATHOS AND LOGOS, better known as doing, feeling and thinking.

The reason why my blog has always been a little incomplete, is because of the absence of definite Ethos (doing). It’s not that I haven’t been doing things, on the contrary. Yet, I think I was afraid to share them absent tangible success.

Check out my personal indoor-design hydroponic-cupboard, now growing some huge tomato-plants!

And the winner from last months blog post contest is…

tumtumtum…drum rolls…some epic music

Jonathan Moreel and Jan Van Loo 

Yes, two winners! Both of them started with some great constructive criticism and ended with some well thought out advice. And most of all: they were honest and took their time to explain everything in detail.

Jonathan even demanded that I should do more than just a dinner and drinks, he wants a full blown barbecue with only stuff I will grow myself (time limit; august 2015). I believe this is a good idea actually!

Will we be eating some of my homegrown Reishi-mushrooms (a.k.a. Mushrooms of Immortality)?

 

So to end this blog post in style – I’ll pledge to myself to do 3 things:
  • Create a balanced mix of actions, thoughts and feelings in my writings
  • Write a blog post at least every month
  • Work hard to give a full blown BBQ for Jonathan & Jan

 See you soon, my VFF’s (Vertical Farming Friends)

WIN WIN WIN!!!!

Originally posted on April 17 2014 at http://averticalfarmstory.blogspot.be

Yes, you can actually win something by reading this blog post! Yet first, some background information.

Around June 2012, something triggered a big change in “my view on life”. It was a book about how to be successful in following your dreams. And although I had encountered many of these similar theories before (and dismissed them as bullshit), this one opened my mind. Moreover, it slammed it open with such force, that it felt like I had seen the light, a new beginning with unlimited possibilities!

Fast forward two years (March-April 2014) 

LIFE SUCKS! Almost two years after reading the book about success, none of my predefined goals were achieved. I did not succeed in taking one decent step forward towards achieving the big Vertical Farm dream. In my last blog post, I even claimed that 2014 was going to be the year of success. Yet, shortly after, I hit the ground with the project I had just started. And I hit the ground HARD! My self-confidence was completely gone and I was constantly asking the universe: “Please, give me what I deserve, I’ve been suffering and trying for 2 years now, and what do I have to give for it? ”. And all of the sudden a funny thing happened; friends, family and the rest of the universe responded..

…or…

Was it I that finally started listening?

 
 

The truth is that I was a stubborn “jump-on-every-opportunity-without-thoroughly-thinking-it-through newbie”. It made me enjoy a lot of adventures which made me feel awesomely alive. Yet, they also got me into a lot of trouble which in their turn made me feel extremely sad. In the end, I believe I got what I needed: some hard learned lessons and the strength to endure the difficult periods. But what to do now? My long term goal is to lead a company that owns and builds Skyscraper Vertical Farms. However, at the moment there is no short term plan, and therefore I believe I require your assistance! 

WIN WIN WIN 

Win a night out at my expense! Dinner, drinks and maybe even a fiesta! What to do: Give your opinion, advice and/or ideas on how I should move forward in my quest to build a Vertical Farm. The rules are simple: the person with the best contribution WINS!! 

Email me at zjefvanacker@gmail.com , the deadline is 24 April 2014 

Ps1: even if you live on the other side of the world, I’ll make it a life’s mission to deliver the prize

Ps2: before your submission you are free to ask me any questions you like (no taboos)

 

A new Hope

Originally posted on March 5 2014 at http://averticalfarmstory.blogspot.be

Let’s start with something outrageous to catch your attention: I don’t like Nirvana! Just keep that in mind while I give you an update about the things that have drastically changed about Zjef’s quest to build a vertical farm, 3th-person, yeah!

Zjef stopped working on the Indoor-farming-project which he was trying to set up in Belgium. It just didn’t feel right and for a couple of weeks, he enjoyed only life and love, while keeping the dream of Vertical Farming alive. And as the universe slowly slowly does what it does, something new crossed his path. So while he was curiously investigating this new opportunity, a magnificent new plan revealed itself to him. It’s beauty and simplicity felt so good that after only one month, Zjef decided to marry himself to the idea 

And that, my friends, is the story of how this naive and stubborn dreamer, against all well intended advice in, became self employed! 

To look to the future, one must learn from the past.

2013 was a year of struggles and failure for me, it was a year in which I got to know myself in ways that I’d rather not had known myself. My previous blog-post is one example, yet there were an enormous amount of things that were a part of my character and personality that really blew my own mind. Of course this is a little bit vague, therefore I’ll illustrate it with a simple example;

During my last 3 months in Switzerland (June -> August 2013) I was living with Elizabeth, a remarkably sweet, smart and strong woman with whom I developed a really good bond. The funny thing was, that when she started a sentence with “Could you do me a favor…” I observed something strange in my feelings: I got a little annoyed and even a little bit of angry. Up until today I still have no idea why that sentence makes me feel these negative emotions, yet I understand that these are not the the right feelings that should bubble up when a woman is in need of my male assistance.

So what’s the cause of my annoyance when I heard the sentence “can you do me a favor”? And why doesn’t Nirvana’s music touch the right strings with me even though I’m a big fan of heavy guitars? And is it possible to change that? Interesting questions indeed!

 

Breathing, walking, eating, peeing, talking,… they are all actions we perform on auto-pilot. We learned them somewhere during the course of our life, and we executed these actions so much, that they became deeds controlled by our subconscious mind. And it is said that our subconscious mind directs around 95% of the things our body does. So one can see why this is extremely convenient, just imagine what would happen if had to think about about every move we make and every breath we take…all of the time.

Alex in a clockwork orange, a must see movie

Of course, actions are one thing, but our existence goes further than that: It combines every action and every experience with…emotions. Many of you have probably seen the movie “a clockwork orange”, in which Alex, the main character was sent to prison. There scientist conditioned him to feel extremely sick when he was confronted with violence, displayed to the music of Beethoven. In the end he subconsciously associated these triggers (violence and Beethoven) with such a bad feeling, that he tried to kill himself because someone locked him in a room and played music from the great Ludwig Von.

It is an sad and interesting story indeed, yet what does it mean for me and my negative emotion around the sentence: “Could you do me a favor…”, and moreover, what does this have to do with Nirvana or Zjef and the quest to build a vertical farm? 

Well, for me, 2013 was a year in which I got to know myself and my temporary limits. During that quest I observed that over the course of 26 years, I had subconsciously stored a lot of habits and associated feelings that I would rather not have. So, as a real optimist I started actively pulling my negative habits and emotions into my conscious mind in order to change them. By doing that I went trough a really tough period of my life. And although I’ve more or less come to terms with my past, I still have a long way to go!

2013 was hard, Yet, my friends, 2014 is going to be different!! Cause I believe that slowly slowly, step by step, I am becoming that crazy motherfucking Vertical Farm building CEO I want to be.

On the next episode of “Zjef and the quest to build a vertical farm”: Does this mean that Zjef is constantly unhappy with himself and how he is now? Stay tuned and you’ll find out!

Switzerland, the Universe and Zjef

Originally posted on November 5 2013 at http://averticalfarmstory.blogspot.be

What you are about to read is one of the hardest things I had to write down in my entire life. To be honest, there are still a lot of thoughts and feelings that are confusing me, but as I am starting this story all over again for the 15th time (seriously, the 15th time), I am now absolutely certain that this will be my last try (and yes, I did say this the last 5 times too).

The past months I have been swinging between moods when I thought  back on my time in Switzerland. Sometimes my feelings were neutral and logical, sometimes I felt a lot of anger and sometimes I would think back with joy. So, while I was having a lot of temper-changes, I wrote pages and pages about why I’ve returned from Switzerland after 7 months without achieving anything tangible. All of the stories combined would have made a semi-interesting book, and that book would have given you a quite accurate description. But what’s the point in making you read all that if the most important thing to understand is this: I fucked up and nothing can change that.

I went to Switzerland to work with Patrick Rota, a fantastic friend and person! Honestly, the things he did for me were quite amazing and he did all of them, knowing that I would never be able to pay him back. Damn, the guy basically gave me the opportunity to follow my dream… Of course, I still encountered many difficult roadblocks, had some long moments of extreme loneliness and almost completely lost my self esteem, but nothing can ever justify the things I did to Pat.

“Be the change you want to see in this world”, for months it was my facebook banner, I even tattooed my personal version of it (“Be Change”) on my arm so that I would never ever forget…yet, even when this message was in my face all the time, I became this fool:

A truly good man is not aware of his goodness,

And is therefore good.

A foolish man tries to be good,

And is therefore not good.

(Laotse – Tao te King, Thirty-eight)

All of you are probably wondering what I did wrong and what I specifically did to fuck it all up to the point where I had burned all my bridges and felt so defeated that I had to return to Belgium. Yet, there’s basically only one thing that’s really the cause of all of it: In order to reach my goals, I ceased being honest. And that’s the worst thing one can do to any friend!

I challenge you to try and read this fluently

Originally posted on September 23 2013 at http://averticalfarmstory.blogspot.be

Yes, you are completely right, it is taking too damn long! Personally, I blame alcohol, pretty girls and Star Wars as the main causes of diversion and the inevitable loss of concentration during the few and rare moments in which my literary inspiration was of an acceptable level. Even though an exuberant quantity of narrative worthy events have occurred since my latest blog-post, enormous amounts of time and strenuous efforts were needed to mold all these acts and facts into an in depth, yet readily readable story. 

Fortunately for all of us, my deep affection towards Vertical Farming is still as intense as my unconditional love towards the above mentioned concentration killers. Therefore, through thorough thinking and perfectly profound pondering, a not entirely un-tiring aggregation of wonderful words were carefully collected and securely sequenced to recklessly render the proper purpose of this tenuous text…and also to provide you with the next update:

“My Back-In-Belgium blog-post is coming soon!”

What is vertical farming – Zjef’s opinion

Originally posted on 15 June 2013 at http://averticalfarmstory.blogspot.be

(Click Here for accompanying music.)

I did a personal scientific study and it showed that 99,99% of the human population wants to see hunger and poverty out of this world. Yet, even with this gigantic amount of good will spread all over the globe, it seems an unattainable goal. Personally I think the root causes are hate, anger, greed, pride, resentment,… and many other destructive emotions that exist in anyone of us. So the only thing we have to do is overcome these emotions and start thriving. Do I sound like Jesus? Well maybe I do, but a more interesting question might be: Why am I writing this in a blog-post with the name “What is Vertical Farming”?

Vertical farming is an expansion of the existing ways of producing food and it comes with many advantages. The most important one, of course, is that this vertical way of farming can multiply the yields of a specific production area by many times. The sky is literally the limit and enormous amounts of food can be produced on small pieces of land. Another interesting characteristic is that it eliminates the costs and other unfortunate effects of transportation. This is because the crops can easily be grown where they are consumed: In the heart of the city, in an underground facility and even in the desert. Next to that, the cultivation techniques, used by vertical farmers, can also seriously reduce the use of pesticides and water, causing the food to be more healthy and ecological. The last (but not least) interesting property is that vertical farming is not subjected to annoying weather conditions, because of that it can produce plants faster and all year long. Thus you can start imagining yourself in the center of a big metropolis, on a cruise-ship or on the moon… eating fresh vegetables grown just a few vertical meters away, cause my friends, this way of growing food is already happing all over the world.

So…highly productive, local, ecologic, healthy and futuristic. Vertical farming seems to have the possibility to solve many of the world’s problems: it has the power to reduce hunger and poverty, while it simultaneously can help to protect and restore our fragile ecosystems. However, I do recall that already many technologies exist with very similar properties, and somehow, they can’t seem to make a difference…why is that? Is there a secret ingredient that’s missing and that prevents us from obtaining these noble goals? And if so, can we add it to the vertical farming technologies?

During my vertical farming quest, I’ve been inspired by many stories, people and companies, but probably the most important one is Plantagon from Sweden and its CEO Hans Hassle. Plantagon is not only trying to build the first full blown 17-stories high Vertical Farm in the world, they are also trying to do it using a special ingredient: “Companization”, an advanced form of corporate responsibility.

Model of Plantagon’s Vertical Farm (to be build in Linköping, Sweden). Plantagon says: In our organizational model, a hybrif between a company and a non-profit organization, we combine commercial and value based driving forces in one organization. We call it “the Companization”. As the corporate role in society has changed dramatically we need to develop the corporate institution itself towards transparency, democracy and a long term perspective. We designed Plantagon to implement a sustainable perspective in the business community. Our vision is a market with a human face. Maximizing profit is no longer a reason for a company to exist. (Hans Hassle in his book: Business as usual is over)

Is vertical farming a solution to worldwide hunger and poverty?

Perhaps… But armed with the knowledge that every human being wants to do the right thing and inspired by international examples like Plantagon that are already doing it… I will put my passionate effort in making my vertical farming work. Plantagon’s inspiring example demonstrates the possibility that vertical farming is not here to replace, but rather to support the current ways of farming.

Yet, the solutions for the supply-difficulties of China’s megacities will be different than those for the East-African food-deserts, not to mention the fact that they are both hard to compare to the European situation. Switzerland, for example, has to import 40% of the food while its highly subsidized farmers have difficulties to survive economically. This means that, in order to be sustainable and beneficial to everyone, the vertical farming technologies will need various and customized implementations for every region.

That’s why I’m here in Switzerland, doing my marketing research and trying to understand the problems and the needs of both producers and consumers. Consequently I can try to unite everyone so we can start implementing possible solutions for the benefit of all. And for me, this cooperation will only be successful if it generates sufficient amounts of healthy, local, affordable and easily obtainable food that makes everyone happy.