The award-winning documentary They Say It Can’t Be Done wants to blow the lid off groundbreaking technology. The potential for these innovations to change the world is massive, but many are “gathering dust on the shelves” due to government red tape. Rather than pit science against policy, the film makes the case for collaboration and understanding as the best path forward.
In the film, producers Patrick Reasonover and Andrea Fuller of Just Add Firewater focus on several scientific marvels that already exist. These inventions tackle some of the world’s toughest problems, including food insecurity, organ shortages, ocean pollution and, of course, the ever-present climate crisis.
They Say It Can’t Be Done (Official Movie Trailer)
“We, like almost everyone, are concerned about the global challenges faced by our society. We wanted to make an optimistic film that looked at how practically these problems can be solved without arguing about politics and without fear-mongering, Reasonover and Fuller told EcoWatch. “Human beings are amazing and can do amazing things… if we let them. We want people to walk away from the film with the feeling that the future will be better than the past, that we can overcome the problems we face.”
In order to inspire, the pair chose to showcase digital innovations that are changing the way we eat, breathe and live.
Take Primary Ocean, for example. Focused on regenerative ocean agriculture, the startup farms giant kelp (Macrocystis Pyrifera) to use in a variety of ways. The primary is as an organic biostimulant they call Organikelp™. This liquid extract is used in agriculture to improve the growth, yield and quality of crops and to improve soils.
“Humans need to eat and agriculture has been a major part of our story for the past 5,000 years so our inventions make farming regenerative and improve the health of plants, animals, and people with the power of nature,” co-founder Brandon Scott Barney told EcoWatch.
Primary Ocean produces a seaweed extract rich in micronutrients, phytohormones, and cations from kelp.
“Organikelp’s formulation… has been found to increase plant growth, yield and overall crop performance at every stage of the growth cycle. Early application to the soil is proven to support the rooting of juvenile clones or seedlings, making plants healthier,” Barney explained.
According to the company website, seaweed can also be used as a high protein food source, refined into marine degradable bioplastics that can replace petroleum-based plastics or used as an extremely productive renewable energy source — biofuel.
Barney explained how all these solutions are possible because of how fast giant kelp regenerates itself. Giant kelp is the largest seaweed and the largest of all marine algae. Turns out, it is also the fastest growing organism on the planet, gaining an average of 11 inches a day and up to 24 inches in ideal conditions, he said. And, it doesn’t need freshwater, terrestrial land, fertilizer or pesticides to grow. That makes it perfect for farming, as it can replenish what is harvested quickly.
Because it photosynthesizes and absorbs nitrogen, phosphorous and carbon dioxide, kelp could also be a tool to draw down gigatons of carbon, Barney added. While it grows, it also cleans the oceans and helps to fight against “dead zones” in the ocean. These are areas with low oxygen where nothing can live, caused by nutrient runoff into the oceans, Barney told Leafscore.
Primary Ocean’s MacroSystems research team with giant kelp from their offshore farm near Santa Barbara, CA. Primary Ocean
Eat Just, Inc., another solution-minded company featured in the film, works on land to build a healthier, safer and more sustainable food system. The food tech company excels in functionalizing plant proteins and culturing animal cells. They’re credited with creating America’s fastest-growing egg brand, which is made entirely of plants, and the world’s first-to-market meat made from animal cells instead of slaughtered livestock.
Cultivated meat is “real meat made in a whole new way,” CEO and co-founder Josh Tetrick explained. It doesn’t require factory farming or killing any animals. The cells are cultivated into fillets and other products that we are accustomed to.
“Our cultivated meat subsidiary, GOOD Meat, is creating a better way to make meat. We feed cells in a clean, sterile environment, mirroring how an animal grows,” said Tetrick.
While addressing food insecurity, Tetrick and his team keep the environmental impact of food in mind. He said, “Our health and our planet’s health are deeply connected, and we think it’s time we nurture both… GOOD Meat is offering a new way forward.”
He added, “By only producing the meat we eat, GOOD Meat has a smaller impact on our planet and avoids slaughter, antibiotics or hormones.”
So, what is happening to these inventions? If they already exist, why aren’t we seeing them on our shelves?
The producers explained, “Practical solutions require innovation and, in a market system, a regulatory platform that enables them to be created and deployed. The question of the film was: Is regulation helping our modern innovators or is it standing in their way?”
Tetrick added, “Believe it or not, GOOD Meat is here today, and you can buy it and eat it — if you’re in Singapore.” That country is the only in the world to have granted regulatory approval for cultivated meat, and that happened just last year. Eat JUST is also the only company that has been greenlighted to sell and serve cultivated meat to consumers in Singapore, and their chicken is available in just a few, limited restaurants. The company is working on regulatory approvals in the U.S.
A trio of GOOD Meat dishes at Madame Fan restaurant in Singapore. Eat JUST, Inc.
Throughout the documentary, Reasonover and Fuller explore the relationship between innovators and regulators, hoping to show that “they are working toward the same goal, a better future, even if they are not working very well together right now.”
Rather than find fault in “evil” regulators, the producers advocate for modernization. “Our regulatory system is itself decades old, built to work in an era of industrial capitalism,” they point out. We are now in a world of digital capitalism where the speed of innovation has accelerated to a breakneck pace. Our regulatory system, like any system, must evolve its practices and methods to our new era. We believe it will.”
To find a compromise sooner that would allow these and future innovations to develop and scale, the film highlights some practical changes to undertake.
“The number one change is in mindset,” the producers say. “The film tries to show that pessimism and fear from regulators, competition and voters is what is truly shutting down innovation. If people adopted an optimistic, collaborative view and were more open to experimentation and change, then the world would reflect that.”
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