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Advisor

Shoot for the stars

 I recently read a profile of  Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley billionaire who runs a hedge fund and a venture-capital firm. He's credited with the first investment in Facebook, as well helping found PayPal and Palantir Technologies, a company that makes software for tracking down terrorists and other criminals.

 

Thiel believes these inventions are not grand enough, in terms of job creation and for advancing U.S. progress with technology. One of his new interests is funding a start-up company that is developing technology to help doctors easily map anyone's genetic makeup to improve diagnoses of disease. The ultimate goal of the new company is to "cure aging." (A libertarian politically, it is said that Thiel believes in neither death nor taxes.)

 

Thiel is shooting for the stars in other projects he's willing to fund. If one were to imagine a wild dream like curing aging for agriculture, what do you think it would be?

 

John

 

 

 


 

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16 Replies
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Re: Shoot for the stars

Yes.

 

These aren't even over the top crazy, but I think there would be strong public benefit from investment in research for producing better cover crop options for northern crop farmers. That would probably involve biotechnology as the current genetic material seems to be only marginally adaptable.

 

Also the old dream of modifying non-leguminous crops to fix nitrogen would potentially yield more net energy than corn ethanol is ever going to do.

 

Both would probably require public investment because they don't fit the business model of most comapnies currently doing biotech research. And in the case of of nitrogen fixing grains- it would be a destructive revolutionary technology- it would be kind of hard on some of tthose "ag space" corporations that Cramer and the other talking heads are touting.

 

Net benefit to society from biotech crops has been mixed but there are some really important things that are worth some investment.

 

For starters you could pull the funding from cellulosic ethanol which is a complete bust and put it somewhere that is more promising.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Shoot for the stars

N-fixing grass forages  was my first kneejerk reaction, given that we are grassfarmers. 

 

Coming up with a logical way to capture methane from liquid manure storage lagoons is another, and would actually have more benefits for us.  It's been done, but not cost-effectively. 

 

Boosting earthworm populations would have tremendous benefits, but would require a lot of different choices in pesticide use, from what's in practice today. 

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Veteran Contributor

Re: Shoot for the stars

A product that has been over looked for years, that would have a tremendous benefit to the ethanol industry mainly cellulose ethanol is the production of hemp. The oil content is outrageous, plus the byproducts can be used for many different things. We have modified crops over the years they just need to figure out how to take the THC content out of it so the illegal use factor can be taken out of the picture. And no I am not a smoker, Hippie etc. It just is a plant with tremendous possibilities. Now I know I'll get blasted for this comment. Fire away.

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Advisor

Re: Shoot for the stars

I'm not sure about that last one this guy is working on.  Sounds like an attempt at separating the well from the unfit to me.  This could open a pandora's box of sorts if not controlled properly.

 

As far as ag is concerned, how about creating a plant's ability to synthesize the necessary nutrients if they aren't available in natural form.  It's way, way out there, that's for sure....

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Honored Advisor

Re: Shoot for the stars

What you are talking about is essentially a crop called 'kenaf".  It was proposed as the Second Coming in tobacco country here in NC. 

 

There was a Ph.D. who was pushing his nomination as Top Saint , by advocating that farmers invest their buyout money from tobacco Master Settlement funds in the processing facilities.  He seemed to feel entitled to say how their hard-earned benefits should be spent. 

 

"So," as he said at a conference I attended, "... they won't spend all that money on a cottage at the beach."  He was just offended that people weren't jumping onto his bandwagon, but I had seen the stuff rotting in fields, for lack of an enduser, years earlier down country. 

 

I was crass enough to stand up and say, "Well, Sir, this IS America, and it is THEIR money."

 

Old man at the back of the room muttered a pretty loud  "AMEN!"  Came over and shook my hand afterwards. 

 

Let us raise the real stuff, legally.  Mary Jane has been the top cash crop in many states for many years anyway.... 

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Senior Advisor

Re: Shoot for the stars

Genetic makeup most certainly would be beneficial in helping doctors discover ones genetic odds of developing certain afflictions. On the negative side it would also provide insurers information to aid their selective customer base.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Shoot for the stars

This is probably the worst aspect of mapping the hiuman genome, except for the potential for eugenics.  Babies are already being disallowed from their parents' health coverage, due to problems they are born with...so, is the next step that insurance carriers will say who has a right to be born!?!?!

 

We are truly standing on the shoulders of some of the worst villians the world has ever known, if we allow this information to be misused. 

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Shoot for the stars

My grandfather brought to my attention an idea he always pondered. If plant breeders could cross a soybean plant and a green or snap bean plant. Can you imagine soybeans in a green bean pod lol! Instead of Monsanto trying to get farmers to find 5 bean pods they would be encouraging them to find an 8 bean pod haha! As funny as it may sound I don't doubt science finding a way to do something like that in the future.

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Senior Contributor

Re: Shoot for the stars

Perennial corn, wheat and beans that don't need fertilizer nor water.

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