From Milwaukee Renaissance

EarthRenaissance: StephenKang

I hope Stephen Kang’s next 30 years will involve the marriage of the global Internet of Things(IoT) and emerging collaborative commons with the Great Work transition from an industrial, bureaucratic to an ecological, beloved community society. In my long and slow interview with Stephen, I hope to explore the possibilities of our high tech global technology platforms, peer to peer interactive communication media, and lateral peer production for aggregating social and ecological capital streams for the emerging earth friendly civilization without borders. The start-up focus will be on aquaponics. Concepts from Jeremy Rivkin’s “The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism” are helping oranize this interview.

Earth Renaissance. Might you share the story of your discovery of aquaponics and you most positive scenario re the possibilities aquaponics might provide you in your career aspirations and purpose in life?

Kang. In 2012 I first came to China to pursue my passion for environmental protection. At the time my dream was to help solve the energy problem and China just seemed like the best place to learn about the environment. I found an opportunity with a water filtration technologies company that builds plants for Samsung semi-conductor factories around China and this introduced me to grand world of water-tech. The hours were long but much of it was spent monitoring progress and so I spent alot of time continuing my research in Energy. At the time, i focused on algal bio-fuel production and through this research i began to realize that - If an energy crisis is coming in 50 years, food will come in 30. it’s a really simple thought, but it struck a cord with me and all my focus and curiosity suddenly shifted over to food production.

this is when i started exploring producing my own food and the thought process naturally drove me towards… “wow, i grew up living on A&P Supermarket food… and I honestly have no idea where that food has been coming from”.

the funny thing is, for the longest time, I laughed at people that shopped at Wholefoods (an ‘organic’ supermarket chain) because it’s expensive and to some degree, misleading. the ideas of ‘green’ ‘organic’ ‘natural’ and buzzwords of that sort had jaded me when i realized that they’re not very well defined.

anyways, while exploring different methods of food production, hydroponics caught my eye because it was similar in nature to the algae bio-reactors i was researching; long tubes laid out in ways to optimize solar energy absorption in controlled conditions… but it didn’t feel natural enough to me and thus opted to look into aquaponics… and eventually applied for a masters at Tsinghua University to pursue research in Urban Ag.

the beginnings of aquaponics-as-a-hobby started with youtube videos and a few books… the idea of creating and maintaining a (potentially) closed loop eco-system tickled my brain and i decided I’d build my mother a system when i got home. My brother, although living near home, got married and wasn’t very available, and I had basically packed my bags and moved to China, so i figured she’d enjoy being able to take care of one more thing other than our Schnauzers at home. (this might sound like a very personal story at this point, but i tell it because I think it’s symbolic evidence that people will get curious once they see an aqp system in operation and that the act of growing your own food will bring some form of joy to your life.)

I don’t personally believe aquaponics will be the solution to food systems in that it’s rather difficult to scale and could easily be beat-out in production from other higher-tech methods, but i appreciate it most because it encapsulates many fundamental ideas of energy and water consumption from an environmentalist standpoint and its ability to draw attention and interest in the issue of healthy food and thus, trigger social change. I hope to continue building larger systems and have dreams of building mid-scale systems for local community consumption and education. these experiences i hope will serve as a foundation to my career as both an advocate and a player in the development of Urban Ag systems of future cities…

and as for purpose in life, i think this gives me plenty of purpose with macro-scale impact for the global community in a healthy, environmentally conscience way. I just want to leave my mark in the world as having done something good for humanity =)

that ended up a bit longer than I expected. hope it was insightful in some way… i should probably get back to work, haha! feel free to send the next question!


Earth Renaissance. When you have time time I hope you will read the first chapter of Jeremy Rifkin’s “The Zero Marginal Cost Society,” which I will email you, and share your response to the notion that your generation is poised to rapidly develop the enabling infrastructure for the scaling up of lateral learning and production networks for collaborative commons as seedbeds for evolution of ecological cities.

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