Saturday Sprouting Reads (Chickenisation, Solvable Food, China's Quest for Protein, Lab-grown Meat)

Kickstarting a new Open Thread section for the community to chime in with AMAs, links+ book recommendations, interesting startup finds, and comments.

Dear Friends,

My name is Venky. I write Agribusiness Matters every week to grapple with vexing questions of food, agribusiness, and digital transformation in an era of Climate change. Feel free to dig around the archives if you are new here.

I have been a bit under the weather and feeling a strong sense of ennui: Why on earth do I jump out of the bed in the morning and write (without waking up my three-year-old toddler)? I don’t know how this newsletter will shape up in response to this. I know this for sure: I want to shake things up.

I want to restart the Sprouting Reads as a short-and-sweet Saturday ritual and kickstart an Open Thread section for readers to post any open questions for me and the community, links and books of interest to check out, and any thoughts that you would like to share with me and the Agribusiness Matters community.

You can check out the previous long-form Sprouting Reads editions here.

Sprouting Reads #1: Amitabh Kant's Agritech Oped, Jain Irrigation's Recast Plan & India's Edible Oil Problem.
Sprouting Reads #2: TCA Ranganathan's Opinion on Farms and Cities
Sprouting Reads #3: Jagadeesh Sunkad on Farmers' Share of Consumers' Price
Sprouting Reads #4: Zack Fuss on Breaking Down the Food Ecosystem.
Sprouting Reads #5: Agritech Venture Capital Dilemma -Rhishi Pethe's Interview with Sarah Mock
Sprouting Reads #6: Water, Wars and the Future- The Story of Water Cooperatives in South India
Sprouting Reads #7: Greg Meyers' Friendly Call to Arms to Agribusiness

About Sprouting Reads

If you've ever grown food in your kitchen garden like me, sooner than later, you would realize the importance of letting seeds germinate. As much as I would like to include sprouting as an essential process for the raw foods that my body loves to experiment with, I am keen to see how this mindful practice could be adapted for the food that my mind consumes. 

You see, comprehension is as much biological as digestion is.

And so, once in a while, I want to look at one or two articles closely and chew over them. I may or may not have a long-form narrative take on it, but I want to meditate slowly on them so that those among you who are deeply thinking about agriculture could ruminate on them as slowly as wise cows do. Who knows? Perhaps, you may end up seeing them differently.

Is Chickenisation the bane of Agritech?

Ever since I read this Twitter thread and picked up Christopher Leonard’s Meat Racket, I have been thinking hard about Chickenisation of Agtech. If the sole purpose of doing Agtech is to pursue chickenisation of the modern kind through data and technology, then what is the ultimate point of doing agtech? (If you read the thread, you will get what I am talking about).

Of course, I don’t naively expect many to pursue the romantic notion that the point of doing agtech is to attempt to address the agrarian and food crisis. But seriously. What is the point of doing agtech?

Is Food Solvable?

Maybe it’s just me. I haven’t come across any investor thesis document that attempts to talk about “structural” issues pertaining to food and agriculture. And so it is refreshing as aloevera to come across one that talks of transforming our food system. To transform our broken food system (and ride on the investment opportunity), this thesis states that we need to orchestrate four shifts 1) Protein Shift 2) Regenerative Farming Revolution 3) Circular Supply Chain reformation 4) Healthy diet transformation.

I don’t want to wear my critical devil’s hat too soon. I want to drink the kool-aid.

China’s Quest for Protein

Ever since I dug into the reasons behind Olam’s demerger (which I covered in the last subscriber-only edition), I’ve been trying to put together the bigger geopolitical jigsaw puzzle that makes and unmakes the global food supply chain. I came across this analysis, which gives a fascinating take on China’s Protein diplomacy, including the circumstances that led to the takeover of Syngenta. I also came across Russia’s Wheat Diplomacy more recently. I am trying to construct the bigger jigsaw pieces at play. I will write more when I have a clearer view. Do share if you have found any critical pieces of the puzzle.

Lab-Grown Meat

When Bollywood idol Shahrukh Khan stretches his hand (in his classic style) to sell alternative protein, you have to know that alternative protein is riding high atop the infamous hype curve.

This article, along with this, does a thorough “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” to the science and the politics behind the lab-grown meat. I haven’t yet made up my mind about it. I have been doing some research on agri biotech and trying to discern the signal from the noise. I will share further announcements on the research soon.

Open Thread

  • Drop in any links /books that will be of interest to Agribusiness Matters readers.

  • Ask me anything

  • Have you come across any agritech startup doing kickass work in solving the structural problems of food? Please share.

  • I want to write about CSC, the dark horse of Indian rural e-commerce. It’s quite fascinating to see how Agriculture provides fertile ground for incestuous relations between the State and the Market. Are there examples from your country that add further gravitas to this incestuous relation argument?

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