How to start small when you have a utopian project.

In my nine-to-five job, my colleague is also my wife. When we are working, I call her “Wife”; when we go out or just stay home doing family stuff, I call her “Colleague”. Colleague is normally bossy and thinks she knows more about me than I know myself, and I think she might be right on that one.

We know each other for a long time and we don’t need many words to communicate. At the beginning of this year (2018), Colleague looked directly at me and said: Now is the right time. I knew what she meant.

Colleague was talking about “The Project”, an idea we had been playing around with for a long, long time: to build the perfect auto-sustained farm. It’s about putting together an ideal farm in which the objective is not much to grow things, but where every element (crops and animals) works to keep the ecosystem’s balance.

lab 02

The idea first came to us when we were studying highly productive ecosystems that naturally occur in the wild. It turns out that the main characteristic of these systems is that it supports not the lazy; instead, different species come to terms and work together in a symbiotic manner, to take over the use and maintenance of each of the layers of the food chain, in a way that nothing is wasted.

Some species like bacteria, fungi, plants, insects and fish specialize in such tasks, and that’s where the high productivity and high yields come about: when the products are put to work for the benefit of the whole system instead of just growing.

But every project requires time and money, and this particular one would demand huge quantities of both assets. We were passing for a goldilocks period in our work at the time, but our resources were still way far from what was needed to even start. I was skeptic.

Bootstrapping, Colleague said. I knew what she meant.

Next thing I knew, we were installing a home-made lab in our garage to grow beneficial bacteria. I took some time, but it was relatively easy. The hard part came when we had to find a way to test our results. We decided to use them as feed for an animal I had worked with before in the past, a vey tiny small animal called rotifer.

Rotifers are a near-microscopic aquatic animal and one of the most common zooplanktons. I knew about them since college, but I really got acquainted with them some couple of years ago in an aquaculture project where we used them as feed for shrimp larvae.

Our home-made lab now holds two different species: beneficial bacteria and rotifers. Nowadays, they look happy together and we have managed to keep them healthy, in a sustainable way. Now what? I asked.

Digital Marketing, Colleague said. I knew what she meant.

Selling the rotifers could do the magic. It could not only provide funds to keep the project going but it could also give us a hint to where to direct the enterprise towards the perfect auto-sustained farm. But, how could a couple of limited-resources, biotechnical-oriented, pasta-lovers take advantage of what digital marketing can offer in an interconnected world? I asked in angst.

Udacity, Colleague said. And I knew what she meant.

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