Perspectives

Entrevista con Julien Roberge

July 04 / 2019

What does the term, “Circular Economy” mean to you?

Today, we live in a world where our processes create dependencies on natural resources exceeding the planetary boundaries. What if we could implement a system that allows us to live within our planet ́s limits and support the wellbeing of all ecosystems? We spoke with Julien Roberge, founder and CEO of Resyn.io to learn more about his path to empowering a circular economy.

Can you explain a bit in the most basic terms what a circular economy is?

Our current existence as a civilization is linear and wasteful. To shift the paradigm to sustainability, we must adapt “back” to the way nature works: circularily. Our ecosystems have evolved such that one organism’s waste is another’s food. For example, plants use sunlight and carbon dioxide to grow, and release oxygen as a byproduct. We humans, along with billions of organisms around the world, use oxygen to breathe and release carbon dioxide as a byproduct, which in turn is used by plants. The concept of “waste” doesn’t exist in nature. We envision an ideal application of natural principles to human economic activity through a viable circular economy which regenerates instead of degenerates our environment.

Landfill, an example of how linear our society has become.
Image by prvideotv from Pixabay

Most of society’s regular operational needs can be met by renewable resources: food, biomass, energy, and water. These constitute the elements of the natural loop in the circular economy. When these resources cannot meet design and usage requirements, technical materials are necessary. The perfect circular economy will be based on the sustainable use of renewable resources and fully recyclable materials, all facilitated by renewable energy.

How did you come up with Resyn?

Resyn is the organic evolution of my formal education, training, philosophy, tech research, and experience working with  communities around the world. As a problem solver trained in engineering, experience has shown me that most generic ways to solve problems actually create many more. Plugging a technological solution directly into a complicated mix of on-the-ground technical, economic, social, and environmental factors often does not go as expected. Realizing this triggered a fundamental change in mindset; I started reflecting on what could be an empowering and accessible solution that aims to enable people in their transition to sustainability. The combination of working in the field with small scale producers, and technical engineering experience, made me realize that our modern society needs technological innovation deeply rooted in natural principles.

The global effort to decarbonize our economy necessitates the distribution of comprehensive project implementation knowledge via information technology. Having experienced the success of permaculture principles in action, the purpose for Resyn is to create an accessible ecosystem that propagates the understanding of regional resiliency “know-how” based on the local capacity to sustain their own natural capital – Food, Biomass, Water, Energy.

How does Resyn.io achieve the goals of a circular economy?

Achieving a fully circular economy requires the global community to structure and implement a path to getting there, and Resyn is designed to enable this transition by providing the required knowledge and tools. The first step to achieving local circular economies is having a clear map of resource abundance and pathways. Understanding resource flows allows us to help close the loop. The emphasis on natural principles is to make sure that the concept of “waste” is phased out and replaced with regenerative economic opportunities.

Resyn’s technological base layer organizes information to expose the resources flows and untapped opportunities within the circular economy. Additionally, Resyn facilitates and democratizes access to these resources so that communities can have autonomy over their local renewable resource loops. Overall, Resyn supports small scale producers to secure reliable inputs on their supply chains, benefit from valuable previously unknown outputs, and establish new market dynamics for local and regional resiliency.

Local Markets, Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay

How did your own background lead you to the path of creating Resyn.io?

As a mechanical engineer, my personal and professional years were spent immersed in problem-solving related to materials and energy. Most engineering is efficiency-focused and aimed at symptom-fixing solutions. It became obvious to me that the path to address problems at their source is significantly more complex and systemic. A solution that can be defined in a few spec sheets is likely to have limited transformative impact – and we are not aiming at niche impacts with Resyn.

Over the years, I gained a more complete picture of economic externalities by studying sustainability theory and dove into topics like natural capital, socio-economics, renewable energy, etc. I also developed a personal interest in resilient communities, driven by my own desire to achieve self-sufficiency at home. I discovered fascinating practices in permaculture and agroecology – in which the use of natural principles guides design, planning and implementation. While working in communities in Honduras, Nicaragua, rural Canada, and Nepal, I learned first hand how our current system of centralised production disempowers small scale producers.

From these communities, I started thinking about how to scale and accelerate the spread and uptake of these principles across boundaries. Resyn is founded on the idea of creating an accessible toolkit designed to build and sustain local circular economies for small-scale producers; the toolkit self-improves by allowing producers to learn from one another around the world, gain technical insights about how to improve their utilisation of renewable resources, and through this – help each other to thrive. The ultimate goal is for every region to supply itself with the majority of its essential resources – food, biomass, water, and energy. By creating decentralized, resilient, and regenerative communities around the world, we can tackle many of the global crises that we are facing.

What is one of the hardest parts of being an entrepreneur and how do you deal with this?

Entrepreneurship is a fascinating occupation. The list of hardships is long and changes as the business evolves. This startup era is being defined by fast venture capital and exit strategies planned well before any kind of success is met. The trickiest part is having to balance impact for purpose and financial success and we are taking extra care to focus on the long term best interest of our stakeholders.

Financial gain is not the end-goal, but generating a healthy level of sustainable means to compensate those involved in solving the world’s most important problems is fundamental. Despite this difficult balancing act, I believe redefining the model of business for purpose is the most likely medium to instigate meaningful transitions globally. Focusing on the potential for change – highlighted by the needs of those we aim to help – is the ultimate motivator to push through difficult times.

How do you think it is different from other platforms out there?

As the concept of a circular economy is gaining global attention, attempts at disruption will result in a spectrum of outcomes, ranging anywhere from distributed and participative economies to centralized and disenfranchising monopolies. Current supply chains are strongly tilted to advantage a few industry gatekeepers, and they are certainly incentivized to keep it that way. Participants in this current economy either own resources and/or land from their activities and have the power to be compensated fairly for their assets, or they are the temporary holders of those assets that others possess. Either way, our economic system does not fairly compensate or incentivize regenerative, local, and  circular systems.

The foundational principle of Resyn is to create an empowering ecosystem that welcomes multiple types of citizen participation towards the circular economy with the goal of spreading opportunities. We are not aiming to fill a temporary gap in the marketplace, but rather lay down the foundations for a permanent shift in distributed supply chains. We are implementing an iterative process to meet current needs of resource producers with tangible features while creating a clear picture of the pathways that will support them, step by step, in their transition to resilient and circular systems. No other digital service currently on the market can have as concentrated of a positive global impact through on-the-ground decentralization in the way that this  integrated system of Resyn.io can.

You are starting with agriculture, why?

Agriculture is the foundation of human civilization. For a society to thrive, it must secure its basic needs and not be overly dependent on foreign production. Farmers are, in other words, our first line of defense against vulnerability. Despite common perceptions, sustainable agriculture is the economic activity with the highest tangible value creation. The amount of resources and services that well-maintained land provide is a priceless collective contribution. Similarly, unsustainably managed land has consequences beyond its boundaries and depletes natural capital of the commons.

Insert Photo Agriculture, the foundation of human civilization.
Image by Michi-Nordlicht from Pixabay

What is your dream for the agricultural value chain?

There are 570 million farms worldwide, most of which are small and family-operated. Family farms operate around three quarters of the world’s agricultural land. Many are under threat due to land speculation and industrial business models that were forced into their region or that they compete against.

Prosperity in distributed abundance is the sort of objective that cannot only be measured in narrow financial metrics. By introducing and exposing the general public to the concepts of closed-loop systems, layered and appropriate yields, natural capital, producers resiliency, etc., we can achieve our goal as co-educators in partnership with small-scale producers – amplifying their voices so that the society hears, listens, and acts.

Today’s world exists on complex supply chains. Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

The ideal transition process is where each farm becomes a node of natural capital growth through regenerative and appropriate resource production for themselves and their communities. This goal is not only one of environmental and societal contributions, but also a means for these businesses to achieve stability and resilience for decades to come. We need local, circular agricultural supply chains to be the rootstock of each community on earth, especially with the unstable climate conditions to come.

What is your advice for supporting local producers or growers?

First, we need to collectively realize that they are in an extremely difficult position, often squeezed by debt, cycles of soil depleting practices, and weakened communities. Most are aware that they could improve, but the transition requires proactive support to reduce the upfront risks of taking steps in the right direction. Each context is different, but the constants are the need to prioritize local sourcing and close the loop on volatile inputs.

The obvious step is to prioritise direct purchasing from those who take concrete steps towards transparency and resiliency. For example, producers who work on building their soil quality for the future. Convenience often trumps conscience, but we are at a tipping point in the natural environment where we need to hold the line. These efforts are long-term, and Resyn is here to drive the transition towards renewable prosperity and connect everyone to their local, circular eco-nomy.

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