Perishable Inventory!

In some businesses the inventory is perishable, for example, a produce shop. The vegetables and fruits lose their value while sitting around. If they are not sold in appropriate time, their value goes to zero and in fact the business has to pay money to get the rotted produce thrown away. In some other businesses the concept of inventory is less physical. For example, a for a passenger airline, each seat is the ‘inventory’.  Assuming that it costs very little fuel to fly the last passenger in an airplane, the inventory is basically free and flying an empty seat is thus a big loss of revenue for the business. In this case too the inventory is ‘perishable’.

The other day I was reading up on the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. One can participate in the effort by volunteering one’s internet-connected home computer to download chunks of radio telescope data and analyze it using software provided by SETI. The premise is that your computer is sitting idle anyway and assuming the costs of download of data is insignificant, you are able to participate in a global endeavor without having to spend any resources. In other words, the unused computer time is like perishable inventory that could be used productively instead. I wonder if in a somewhat similar manner, the analogy is rather loose here, one can volunteer part of one’s unused garden space to produce food that can be consumed for the alleviation of food-poverty in America or rest of the world.

Where I live, there is about 100 square feet of space that is front of the house between the curb and sidewalk. This space is owned by the city, not the homeowner and is usually used to grow trees. Sure trees look nice, support other species, and provide shade and other useful environmental functions like scribing the air of dirt and recycling carbon-dioxide to oxygen. However, not all the area is used for the trees – a lot of it is open. In other words it is perishable inventory that could be more productively used for the production of food?

I can quickly see some issues here. Unlike the zero-cost of the space on the airplane or the computer, the growing of food on public spaces takes effort, and it has costs for water, seed and fertilizers. However, if the limiting resource causing hunger is land and there is excess supply of unskilled labor – high-school students, like me, hanging out in front of screen pops up as an easily accessible example, one can put these two resources together. Add to this mix some corporate sponsorships of material supply and voila, one as a revolution in the making.

One could envision a model where a neighborhood gets together in this mission, adopts a school to get volunteers, signs up the local nursery to provide some materials and gardening expertise, and identifies a local shelter that could benefit from the produce. Or perhaps, the community pledges to give away one-tenth of the produce in one’s garden to the local shelter. People could take weekly turns going house-to-house picking produce left in bags at the curb and then drop them off at the local shelter.

Don’t know about solving world hunger, but the local food problem could be solved one eggplant at a time!

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