What exactly is a food desert? What causes a food desert? What are the secondary and tertiary problems that are created by a food desert? How can this problem be solved? Who are the leaders helping to address this crisis?
In many parts of the world, there is a crisis caused by people having limited access to healthy & affordable food options. This in turn is creating a host of health and social problems.
In Authority Magazine’s interview series, called “Food Deserts: How We Are Helping To Address The Problem of People Having Limited Access to Healthy & Affordable Food Options” the editors interviewed business, and non-profit, leaders who are leading to address and solve the problem of food deserts.
As a part of this series, Marita Mestey interviewed Frank Qin of Mary Agrotechnologies (Mary AG).
Mary Agrotechnologies Inc. is in the business of developing affordable, automated, yet aesthetically appealing technologies for communities to grow all kinds of produce regardless of the local climate.
The Company’s signature product, Mary Model Z (“Model Z”), is a grow box, a small enclosed system for growing plants indoors or in small areas.
The Mary Model Z is designed for consumers and features a stylish Wi-Fi-connected growing system that is automated by cloud-based artificial intelligence, with built-in air conditioning, an active filtering system to control odour and mould, immersive multidirectional lighting, pre-made nutrient packs, and a smartphone app that can monitor and control the unit from virtually anywhere.
The following is an excerpt of that interview.
Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Ialways wanted to make a difference in the world. To me, it meant creating startups that have the potential to be socially impactful. However, after making a few attempts in university and right after graduation that failed epically, I realized that I lacked some skills. So I joined other startups, hardware and software, in different industries, to learn what those founders did and how and why they did what they did, to understand better the thought processes behind their decisions and a whole bunch of things that I knew I missed.
The entrepreneurial fire in my heart was re-lit in 2017. I’d always been fascinated by plants and long believed agriculture was vital to our society’s equality and prosperity in this century — a big difference waiting to be made. When a wave of speculations of Canada legalizing cannabis gave me a light bulb moment that cannabis could be a sexy foot in the door to something fundamental to people’s lives — food security.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career? Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Development of every product needs a “this is it” moment, where even you as the creator of the product — who has seen countless iterations of the product — think, “holy sh*t, this is it.”
For a consumer-facing product, the form factor matters a lot. As huge Apple fans, we naturally wanted to make our product like that. We tried numerous designs, but none of them would have stood out from other players in the space that all tried to “think different.” Who knew everybody wanted to be Apple. Plus, they all looked like 50-year-old Soviet fridges — with big, white parts. Who would want that? Then it hit us. We all spend too much energy on making our products look like Apple, but we almost forgot that Apple always values function over form. They look that way because Apple believes the designs speak best of the easy, elegant lifestyle Apple envisions. Then what does Mary believe?
Mary, or specifically, our first product, the Model Z, exists to help de-stigmatize the act of growing cannabis at home and help people understand the plant so that they can grow with ease. Plants of the same variety differ from one seed to the next and become even more unique as they grow and respond to their environments. Cannabis, like all plants, is a complex life form, but people mostly think of them as something that is only valuable in that it yields crops. That’s why Model Z looks the way it does today — it is a living thing wearing a helmet that can express (through huge RGB lights) their feelings electronically. Like Daft Punk!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
No one can do it alone. So many people were instrumental in Mary’s story, but I’m particularly grateful to my cofounders David and Roger. Mary was just some drawings on a piece of paper that I kept bugging them for advice on for free. They both had a full-time job or school, at least until they came on board to turn Mary into reality. There were moments all of us thought the company was about to go down the next week, that we couldn’t afford just a few more days of staying afloat. But they stayed and kept on, even when our bank accounts had negative signs in them. This unspoken trust and faith are what make Mary where we are today.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
1. Finding someone who’s much better than you are in their field.
2. The belief that your team members can take care of their battlefront without you micromanaging them.
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When I was a kid, I first read this proverb, “A little fragrance always clings to the hand that gives the roses,” and realized there was such a pretty way to describe being a kind person, and it stuck with me. While growing up, altruism always seemed to be an important part of life, and it even applies to what Mary does now.
Food security is a fundamental challenge the world is facing, and we are trying to find a solution to it. When we succeed while technology advances, it goes without saying that we as individuals will benefit from it immeasurably too. It would be a beautiful sight where every part of the planet can grow whatever, wherever, whenever, as long as there’s electricity. Then we can rise above food self-sufficiency and hunger and focus on other, more essential things in life for everybody.
Mary CEO, Frank Qin, is ‘Not Too Concerned’ About China’s CBD Cosmetics Ban
Mary Agrotechnologies CEO Frank Qin says he is “not too concerned” about China’s recent CBD cosmetics ban, despite his company’s plans to build a 150,000 square-foot cultivation and extraction plant in Yunnan, with the aim of supplying the domestic CBD market and exporting overseas.
Until recently, the use in cosmetics of cannabidiol (CBD), and the fruit, seed oil and leaf extracts from the cannabis sativa plant, was allowed inChina.
However, following a decision in May by China’s National Medical Products Administration, retailers have been told to remove CBD cosmetics products from their shelves – though products already imported or manufactured prior to 28 May could still be sold, the NMPA reportedly said.(Also see “China’s CBD Cosmetics Shutdown Not Harshing Yooma’s Mellow” – HBW Insight, 22 June, 2021.)“We are not too concerned,” said Mary Agrotechnologies CEO Frank Qin, despite the firm’s plans to build a 150,000 square-foot cultivation and extraction plant in Yunnan, with the aim of supplying China’s booming CBD cosmetics market, as well as exporting across the world.
“Other markets have faced similar challenges before their governments finally embraced a more open policy,” he told HBW Insight, in an exclusive interview.
“From the outside, it may seem like a setback for producers,” he continued. “But we have also noticed some progress, for example new patents being granted on pharmaceutical use of cannabinoids.”
“We view it as a necessary step to put the industry on a healthier track,” he added.
Interested in solving for food deserts too? Call us—we’re here to answer your questions.
Are you starting a new cannabis business, or preparing to tackle the global issue of food deserts with your innovative technology? Call us at +1 (844)-4-WEED-PR or fill out our contact form to book a call with the team at Alan Aldous.