While Ted Cruz makes headlines trying to bring down the government, I turn to people who are building things. This week in Louisville, Kentucky, nine entrepreneurs, some of them very young, presented their ideas to a group of investors. Both entrepreneurs and investors are part of a growing movement called “impact investing”, in which profitability is one criterion in a business that also addresses social and environmental issues – the so-called “triple bottom line”. The focus of the three-day event, presented by Village Capital, is the intersection of energy and agriculture, and its goal is to encourage entrepreneurs who address major societal problems.
The ideas have been imaginative, grounded and exciting for me: an insect-monitoring device that reduces pesticide use; a precision irrigation system; a plan to repurpose “gray water” for urban hydroponic growers; platforms to determine shellfish size before harvesting, streamline solar panel installations and lower costs for electricity consumers in East Africa; a battery that will double the energy and life of current batteries at half the cost.
My two favorites are a patent-pending technology to measure crop-water use over an entire field and a plan to turn old electric car batteries into low-cost power packs for schools in rural India, where electricity is both expensive and unreliable. “Why,” asked company founder Shiv Rajendran, “should dreaming be a privilege?”
I believe in a positive government, but I am certain that America’s future has more to do with nine idealists in Louisville than Ted Cruz’s claptrap on Capitol Hill.