Nature and business: the need for continuous growth
How has the human race upset the fundamental balance of nature, and which technologies are used remedy the environmental? Dagan Eshel, Innovation Manager at Strauss Group, shares his thoughts in a post marking World Environment Day
What do nature and the business world have in common? Ostensibly, nothing. In fact, what happens as a matter of course in nature is superficially assimilated by players in the business world through incentives and setting goals, in their desire to push for continuous growth. What, then, is the difference between nature’s growth model and the business growth model? And how can technology bring the two models closer?
Nature has existed for billions of years, and what people perceive as difficulties or natural disasters is an inherent part of its essence; a plant dies after bearing fruit, a forest is burned, entire species become extinct after they have over-proliferated and exhausted their food supply. But in business we behave differently; if there’s a bad year, and even more so, if we foresee an economic crisis, we make huge efforts to prevent it, or at least, to make sure that our country or company remains unharmed.
When the balance of nature is disrupted
When a plant grows, it converts natural resources into sugar and creates polysaccharides, which are the building blocks that form the skeletal component of plants. However, at the same time, the plant also converts carbon dioxide into oxygen (and other elements), protects its surroundings from the sun, grows fruit that will feed neighboring animals, and selflessly sacrifices itself completely at the end of the seasonal cycle, decomposing into new resources.
And the animals? They are in a frenzy of growth, but this growth is entirely dedicated (most likely unawares) to the next stage in the food chain, and if a creature has lived a long life and died of old age, this will be to the benefit of scavengers. When nature fails and its balance is disrupted, what we call a “natural disaster” will come to its aid and restore order, even if this comes at a high price.
Several million years ago, nature began to cultivate a disruptive species, which, in time, became the human race we are – a rebellious race, denying the theory of natural growth, a species seeking to grow endlessly, devoid of natural cycles, fires or economic disasters, most of whose growth is unkind to its environment, sucking it dry and never giving anything back in return.
Fortunately, the human mind has come to its senses and recognized that if it does not apply its inventiveness to reverse the equation, a huge beast will emerge and put an end to the carousal
Technology comes to the aid
The human race is trying to accomplish this growth – with considerable success – with the help of a developed, inventive mind, but so far most inventions have addressed ways to manufacture more, make a bigger profit or eliminate rivals.
This is an economic growth model that is liable to increase harm to the environment. Fortunately, the human mind has come to its senses and recognized that if it does not apply its inventiveness to reverse the equation, a huge beast will emerge and put an end to the carousal. Indeed, there are today many technologies that seek to mitigate damage to the environment, even if not according to the perfect growth model of nature.
In the past few years, dozens of such technologies have been submitted to Alpha Strauss, some of which are currently being tested in different companies in the Group. They are examined thoroughly, but as opposed to technologies that contribute directly to economic growth, technologies that contribute to mitigating environmental damage are met with greater suspicion. These are technologies that are spread along the length of the value chain, starting in the field, through the improvement of the production process, energy savings and wastewater treatment, to the use of eco-friendly packaging.
I'll give an example of one of these technologies, which is somewhat surprising: EQUInom is an Israeli company that has developed advanced calculation methods, which, together with the great progress made in DNA testing, are able to shorten the time required to develop new species by many years.
We are now in the second year of a project for the cultivation of sesame that is capable of growing in the US, as it will be able to be processed using modern means, without the use of forced labor. The species in development will have significantly better crop yields, and it will, of course, be suited to the production of tahini.
What does sesame have to do with environmental quality?
Today, every kilogram of tahini used by Sabra, Strauss's international dips and spreads brand, starts out in Ethiopia as slightly more than 1 kg of sesame, from whence it immigrates to Israel, becomes tahini, and then continues its journey to the US. In total, the exhausted kilogram of sesame travels 12,000 kilometers.
It wouldn't be a big deal if it was only a single kilogram, but we are talking about 10 million just like it, every year (10,000 tons). According to the accepted calculation, carrying one ton a distance of 1 km on a cargo ship emits approximately 20 grams of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which means that on a journey of 12,000 km multiplied by 10,000 tons multiplied by 20 g, 2,400 tons of carbon dioxide will be emitted! This entire amount, which is equal to the emissions of an average distance traveled by 1,000 cars in a whole year, will be saved each year from the moment we start growing sesame in the US. Actually, the saving is twofold, since some ten million dollars will be saved each year thanks to the technology. This is a distinct example of how economic growth can be achieved while reducing the damage to the environment. Happy World Environment Day!