Soon after I started my studies in Cambridge I identified my personal sustainability leadership goal to be focused on increasing local food production in Iceland with geothermal energy. This matter is both of high significance for the local population as well for the company I work for. The company produces around 75% of all electrical energy in Iceland, and we have a very high surplus of thermal energy that goes to waste. An energy that is perfect for food production.
Over the past year, I have managed to discuss this topic with a number of important people in my home country that can influence this on a governmental level. I have presented this case at a number of conferences and was invited to be a plenary speaker at a geothermal conference in Iceland to talk about food production and geothermal energy (https://geothermalworkshop.com/invited-speakers/).
I was elected as the chair of the Geothermal Association of Iceland in 2018, as an effort of my behalf to promote the possibilities for increased food production with local energy and I have used that position to advance this goal as much as possible. Such as presenting this subject both on international conferences as well as on special visits to other geothermal countries such as New Zealand. Where cooperation on governmental level regarding the topic has been discussed.
Within my company, I have managed to influence both my coworkers in the geothermal group as well as people in the business development department to include this in our active marketing strangely toward new customers. My focus around creating value out of energy we consider waste has become one of the focus points of my day to day job. The topic has been put on the agenda as a priority goal for my department and has reached the board of the company has one of our focus points for more sustainable geothermal operation.
I designed my final dissertation on the topic as well. The focus of the dissertation is to study the question if indoor farming can become a major industry in Iceland and become an industry that better fits with the vision of the local population about sustainable future, compared to a past focus on heavy industry. My research is designed around promoting the topic, in the sense that I interview stakeholders in Iceland about the potential of indoor farming and educate the interviewee about the topic at the same time. To really make this work I have designed my study around high-level stakeholders, such as members of parliaments, heads of institutions and CEO´s. People that really have a say when it comes to the future of energy, industry and sustainable development in Iceland.
Some believe that building up indoor-farming industry in Iceland is unrealistic and does not make sense. There point is mostly based on how expensive the cost of labour is. But Iceland probably has the highest labour cost in Europe, and to that point, I can agree. Even though energy is abundant in Iceland the cost of labour makes food production expensive here compared to places such as southern Europe. However, with the fourth industrial revolution at hand, I think this will completely change within a few years. With sensor technology, robotics and artificial intelligence the labour factor in food production is going down and then the competitiveness of Iceland will grow as a location with abundant clean energy available for food production as well as cold climate, but the plus side of that when you are growing plants is that you don’t have to use pesticides or other non-desired chemicals since the pathogeneses don´t live in the cold climate outside of the greenhouses.