Victory Gardens of Clean Technologies

Victory Gardens of Clean Technologies

Saluting the local grassroots entrepreneurial wave against climate change.

During World War I, a severe food crisis emerged in Europe as agricultural workers were recruited into military service and farms were transformed into battlefields. Americans were encouraged to contribute to the war effort by planting their own gardens so that more food could be exported to our allies.

Victory gardens sprang up in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and Germany and later reemerged during World War II. Americans grew fruits and vegetables in whatever locations they could find. Even Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory garden on the White House lawn.

These gardens were considered a great civil morale booster and an important aid to the war effort.

A new war has begun engulfing the whole world. Bill McKibben in the New Republic writes, “World War III is well and truly underway. And we are losing.” He is referring to climate change’s effect on the world. He went on, “Our only hope is to mobilize like we did in World War II.”

World leaders meeting in Paris to discuss climate change addressed needs that included energy, fuel, conservation, food production and reducing waste. Scientists and state-sponsored entities around the world are engaged in a concentrated effort to use new and existing technologies to save the planet. Defeating the Nazis required more than brave soldiers; it required wholesale, grassroots support of the broad citizenry. A similar mobilization, from the ground up, is required to win McKibben’s World War III.

This month I salute some homegrown exemplars of the victory gardens that have sprung up in our state, using clean technologies:

Deepinder Singh, founder and CEO, 75F, was motivated to find a solution for the temperature imbalance between floors of his house. That quest has led to energy-saving technologies installed in commercial buildings. The technology monitors each area’s needs, analyzes incoming data and effectively eliminates temperature imbalances. Installations save up to 70 percent in total energy costs.

Andrew Jones, CEO and co-founder, Activated Research, is a chemical engineer inspired by the time-consuming and expensive process of researching new chemicals. He developed the Polyarc reactor that incorporates proprietary and patented innovations that have revolutionized the way scientists analyze chemicals, biofuels, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, illicit substances and more. The system is already in use by academic, government and industrial labs to speed up development of products such as new and more efficient fuels.

Reinhold Henke, co-founder and CTO, Arc Suppression Technologies, had a career in the power industry and came to believe that arcing was the No. 1 cause of switch failure. After 12 years of research and concept development, he created a patented method that actively suppresses an arc at the instant it forms. This yields unprecedented increases in mechanical life, reliability and safety for power-switching applications. It saves electric switch users, such as grocery stores and mass merchandisers, thousands of dollars annually in replacement switches, scheduled maintenance and unscheduled downtime. Electrical switches are ubiquitous, and the environmental impact of a reduction in burnt-out systems can be significant.

Dave Roeser, founder, Garden Fresh Farms, developed an urban aquaponics farm that raises fish and plants together in an industrial space. The fish provide carbon dioxide and fertilizer for the plants, and the water is purified by lettuce, basil, oregano, thyme and watercress plants. Fluorescent light replaces sunlight for a year-round consistent growing season. This is a closed-loop, no-waste system that produces output equivalent to 100 acres of farmland in one acre of land. This concept can greatly reduce agricultural deforestation.

Waste causes a significant damage to climate, water and land. If food loss and waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases—surpassed only by China and the United States. These entrepreneurs are reducing waste by transforming it into products of inherent value:

Paul Koenig, CEO, Viroment USA, saw the nutrient value in the waste stream generated from municipal sewage treatment, agricultural and aquaculture waste, and industrial wastewater treatment. After several trials, he developed a patented vacuum drum dryer that separates sludge from water that can be made potable, used in factories or for watering crops. The remaining solid bio-cake becomes fertilizer or biofuel. Its mobile unit was dispatched to Houston after the hurricane.

Keller Knoll, co-founder and CEO of Reinvia LLC, uses a proprietary grinding and dehydration process to convert food waste into dry, pathogen-free products such as organic compost and fish and swine feed. The goal is to eliminate 70 billion pounds annually of food waste from U.S. landfills.

Fritz Johnson, president, Teknapack, which uses waste cellulose to make packaging products to protect high-value or heavy items during transport and storage.

Today you cannot claim victory in any war without getting the broad community deeply involved. These entrepreneurs, innovating in their own backyards, are doing it for personal gain, of course. At the same time, they are acting for the collective good of the planet, and their initiatives are worthy of our support and recognition. tcbmag

Dr. Rajiv Tandon is Executive Director of the Institute for Innovators and Entrepreneurs and an advocate for the future of entrepreneurship in Minnesota. He facilitates peer groups of Minnesota CEOs. He can be reached at

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