Delicious x Environmentally Friendly. Coexistence with Social Issues Starting with Soil Preparation [Space Brothers Collab #25]
“Space development” describes a wide range of developments and their objectives. In this series, we will contemplate the present and future of space development with Astronaut Serika Ito, who has been appointed Chief Dream Officer of Warpspace.
In this 25th article, we welcomed Ayano Kido, CEO of sorano me, a startup that aims to contribute to well-being and sustainability using satellite data, to talk about their efforts to improve soil quality and planetary boundaries.
Aiming for environmentally friendly activities that do not hold back
Serika: Nice to meet you! What kind of business does sorano me do?
Kido: sorano me provides support for new business development using satellite data, as well as specialized research, content production, and PR support related to the space business.
Our vision is to “enrich our daily lives with space business. The word “enrich” does not mean economically enriching, but rather, enriching the lives of people in practical use and making their days more peaceful.
In order to realize this vision, we felt that every one of us must take action to address global issues. Therefore, in September 2023, we launched the “Earth Experience Lab” in collaboration with a space-themed independent research team organized by the Panasonic Design Division, to contribute to well-being and sustainability.
As a first step, we started to observe “soil,” which is essential for plants, animals, and humans to live on the earth.
Serika: Why did you choose soil?
Kido: There is an idea created by Dr. Johan Rockstrom of the Stockholm Resilience Center called the “Planetary Boundary,” which defines the boundary that prevents irreversible environmental changes from occurring. This planetary boundary includes nine items: Climate Change, Atmospheric Aerosol Loading, Stratospheric Ozone Depletion, Ocean Acidification, Freshwater Change, Land System Change, Biosphere Integrity, Nitrogen and Phosphorus, Biogeochemical Flows, and Novel Entities. The chart below shows that we have already exceeded the sustainability thresholds in six of the items.
It is important to address these issues in order to protect our rich everyday life. In this context, we decided to start with a theme that is familiar to us in our daily lives and rather started thinking about our “food”, which is why we chose soil as our theme. Without soil, it is difficult for grains to grow and for livestock to eat grass. I chose soil as my first theme because the biogeochemical cycle of nitrogen and phosphorus has already exceeded its limits and this threatens the “good food” that is essential to our daily lives.
We have already started working on “biodiversity loss,” “climate change,” and “air pollution. Ultimately, sorano me and the Earth Experience Lab would like to contribute to all nine.
<Biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus>
Nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium are called the “three elements of fertilizer” necessary for crop growth, and are also contained in chemical fertilizers. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), nitrogen and phosphorus cycles are reported to be 3.3 times and 2 times higher, respectively, than the limit values already exceeded, raising concerns about soil and water pollution.
In order to avoid exceeding the Planetary Boundary, we first need to properly understand the impact people are having on the global environment. For example, we want to be able to monitor farmland and properly assess if we are using too much fertilizer or if we may be negatively impacting biodiversity.
We are still in the process of research and development, but we are trying to see if we can use satellite data to analyze the quality of the soil. It is also said that good crops grow in soil that is properly cultivated and has sufficient water retention capacity so that it does not overflow even after heavy rainfall, and “soil water retention capacity” may be one of the indicators. If delicious and nutritious vegetables and fruits can be grown, it would seem that the cycle of nature is working well. It would be nice if all the soil in all the fields could be good, but there are various challenges in carefully preparing the soil, such as materials and costs.
I think that if we can continue monitoring using satellite data and learn more about the quality of the soil, we will be able to evaluate farmland that is working hard to improve if we can find it, and create a positive movement to add value to it.
Moreover, if good vegetables can be grown in good soil, we should be able to naturally choose soil that is good for the earth by choosing good food. If we can match good taste with protecting the global environment, the economy will turn, the global environment will move in a positive direction, and people will be happy, and we will be able to turn the economy around while balancing well-being and sustainability!
Serika: It is wonderful to match deliciousness with protecting the global environment!
The path to space began with an interest in the space debris problem
Serika: By the way, how did you become interested in satellite data?
Kido: When I was in my third year at High School, there was a news report that astronaut Koichi Wakata was staying on the International Space Station (ISS) and that space debris was about to hit the ISS. Seeing this, I started researching the space debris problem, which is when I first became interested in space.
While studying aerospace engineering at university, I founded a student organization that publishes TELSTAR, a space magazine for junior and senior high school students, and a space business media called “Sora Batake“. I wanted to create a world where people can use space in a way that increases the popularity of new space technologies by letting people know about them and getting involved in them, so I started by sending out information.
While working on Tellus, I realized how interesting satellite data is. I wanted to create a business or service using satellite data, so I founded sorano me.
Serika: So your interest in space debris brought you where you are.
What motivates you to take action?
Serika: When some people hear the term “planetary boundary” (the limits of the earth), it may sound like too big a story for individuals to take any action. What do you think is the best way to promote the initiative? Please tell us from your perspective.
Kido: I think there are two types of motivation to engage in planetary boundaries: “fear” and “choice based on positive experiences.
Fear is about presenting the risks caused by environmental changes and getting people to take action to protect themselves. For example, I traveled to Jakarta this year to measure air pollution-related data, and the air pollution was really bad, causing me to get a sore throat and fever. There is a smartphone app available locally that allows you to check the level of air pollution, so you can take actions such as refraining from going out during the times when alerts are issued.
Choices based on positive experiences are, for example, initiatives to produce delicious vegetables and fruits while protecting the soil, such as the one we are doing at the Earth Experience Lab I mentioned earlier. In other words, if we choose delicious food, we are naturally protecting the soil!
Recently, I have been paying attention to “LOVST TOKYO,” a product brand of “apple leather” made from apple juice pomace that would otherwise be discarded. Even before I heard that “apple leather” is sustainable, I thought it was cute and I wanted one myself. If the design is excellent and it is said that using it is environmentally friendly, the hurdle for purchasing it is lowered.
Serika: I think that we are in a situation now where ideas such as planetary boundaries are beginning to spread, carbon-neutral initiatives are being promoted, and society’s awareness of the global environment is changing dramatically. In such a situation, is there anything important to you in advancing your business?
Kido: Rules and regulations, including carbon neutrality, are made by the government. It is too late to start thinking about it after the rules are made; I think it is important to first predict what will happen 10 years from now, and at the same time, to set an ideal that will make everyone happy. Then we have to predict what kind of rules the government will make and think about whether our business will be accepted by the future society. Doesn’t it sound more fun to do business studies with a future that we like? Those who say “I want to create this future” will be surrounded by those who share their vision. I believe that this will change the rules of society!
The 25th guest of the series of conversations with Astronaut Serika was Ms. Ayano Kido, CEO of sorano me.
In the next article, we will welcome Mr. David Gauthier, technical advisor from Orbital Sidekick, a startup that uses hyperspectral satellite data to monitor energy-related businesses, to discuss how the company was founded and how it utilizes data. Stay tuned!