Scoring in the green-tech boom

With the internet-based boom behind us, it's time for the age of the green-tech explosion, but this time the stakes, and price, are higher.

Weaver Opt(1) Headshot

I frequently talk about environmental issues and how they affect our industry. What I've been reading lately are some comparisons by venture capitalists of the current â€˜green-tech boom' with the infotech boom that preceded it.

What are they saying? For starters, unlike the web companies we saw launch overnight, the new start up green-tech companies are not likely to be launched by college students out of a garage. As has been said in mainstream media, while the web-based boom sought to bring us all a little closer and put a new spin on commerce, it did not set out to save the planet. Stakes are much higher as we in business seek to go green, along with the price tag for real change.The price to completely reindustrialize the planet will run far into the trillions, dwarfing the cost to usher us into the internet age. Energy is the biggest business in the world and demand for environmentally friendly alternative sources is exploding.

Most are concluding that, like the savviest players in the web boom, there is wealth to be made in going green, and the planet can be saved at the same time. Unlike the massive missteps of web-based upstarts that tripped up the infotech boom, experts predict that the next big thing, the green industrialization, is not a bubble waiting to burst. Analysts say businesses that think green is a fad and stay on the sidelines will see their market pass them by.

As editor of Feed International, I can't help but notice an increasing number of news items sent to me that have some 'green' appeal.

Green construction

Novus International's new headquarters will be built to some of the highest environmental standards in the United States. When asked why the company is putting so much effort into achieving such levels, the attitude of management seemed to be one of, "Why would we not?" And they are not alone, not in the feed industry and certainly not in the broader corporate world.

In the U.S. alone, where the new Novus headquarters will be built, the value of green building construction starts will exceed $12 billion in 2008 and is projected to soar to $60 billion by 2010. By 2009, 80 percent of corporate America is expected to be engaged in green at least 16 percent of the time, and 20 percent will be engaged in green 60 percent of the time (Source: McGraw Hill Construction, Greening of Corporate America SmartMarket Report, 2007).

Witness, too, the upcoming Alltech Symposium. The company, whose tagline has been 'naturally' perhaps longer than it has been in vogue to be so, has built its 24th annual international symposium around the theme, "The Greenest Generation," and will focus on the question, Can we be remembered as the greenest generation?' Being green, Alltech's leadership suggests, is a 'brand' for agriculture and the animal feed business to develop and embrace.

Scoring green

There are other examples in the industry. Taking the proactive approach is smart business. As I noted, with trillions of dollars at stake in the â€˜green-tech' boom, you can bet that it's only a matter of time before someone tries to make some green off of putting our performance under a microscope to see just how green we are up close.

It's happening already in other industries., an online travel agency, has become the first to offer online corporate â€˜Green Score' ratings and information on every hotel search worldwide.

Is it so far-fetched, then, to think that down the road, perhaps not so far, we in the animal feed industry will be â€˜green scored' in ways we have not in the past? If consumer demand can lead to changes in how livestock are cared for, it is not difficult to see how consumer demand can lead to changes in what mark we leave on this planet and how much energy, and in what form, we are using to feed the world.

If the â€˜green-tech boom' is all it's expected to be, there will be plenty of businesses out there to lend a hand in our quest for the green.

Along the way, I have to think that an increasing number of you will not only be looking for innovations, but giving rise to a few of them as well. And if we succeed in that, we as an industry can score the riches of the green-tech boom.

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