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Bayley Pilling

Bayley Pilling may be only 18, but his sense of drive would put most older adults to shame (or at least make them rethink why they’re on this earth). Growing up among the plants and passion of his family’s nursery business ePlants, he knows a lot about two things vital to the future of this planet: fungi, and finding your purpose.

‘We have a lot more power and access than we think’: a chat Bayley Pilling

Bayley Pilling may be only 18, but his sense of drive would put most older adults to shame (or at least make them rethink why they’re on this earth.). Growing up among the plants and passion of his family’s nursery business ePlants, he knows a lot about two things vital to the future of this planet: fungi, and finding your purpose.

Q: One thing I know about you is your passion for agriculture. How did that come about?

A: It really happened because I was raised in this environment, with ePlants. It came about from my parents’ frustration with the way the natural world was treated. ePlants comes from the term ‘enviro-replace’ which is a term my father made up, but it sums up the path I’ve been raised with. It’s about the difference we can make.

Climate change is all this doom and gloom, but we can actually do a lot through carbon sequestration, simply through having plants in the soil – even in our backyards.

Q: Talk me through the importance of the soil – and how we’ve lost track of its importance.

A: Well, we’ve been led right away from the soil beneath us. We know less of the ground than we do of the cosmos.

If you account for all the fossil-fuelled carbon emissions since the industrial revolution, there’s actually double that amount of carbon emitted from the soil.

It’s so interesting. I’m really interested in the mycorrhizal fungi. They’re one of the oldest life forms on earth. These guys are responsible for 30% of the carbon that’s been sequestered from the air into the soil – they interact with the roots of trees and form a kind of network between them. Through this network a tree can actually pass nutrients into the soil and transfer it to a sapling that could be kilometres away, or tell other trees to produce biochemicals to combat pests and diseases.

We think it’s just the tree sitting in the dirt, but the dirt is everything. The tree actually gives away 30% of all the sugars it produces through photosynthesis to the soil.

Q: Wow. So, from a technology point of view, what can we learn from nature?

A: Think of us humans as custodians of the land, we need to get back to what science is really about: adherence to natural laws and principles. Nature is a perfect cycle. It doesn’t have inputs and outputs that make all this money.

How old are you? How many young people of your age have a purpose like you do?

Eighteen next week. I think yes, we can easily be led astray from our abilities and our purpose, but at the same time it is quite difficult to be able to burst through the fear of failure. We need a resource where we can network to achieve what we want to do in life.
This generation is probably one of the most eager to change the world form the way our grandparents have left it. We want to make a difference. We just need a spark.

Why? Why do you think that is? Is it the information access?

We feel very empathetic for our future generations. We need to work together – all generations – to make this a good outcome.

I think we have a lot more power and access than we think we do.

Even if you’re just supporting the organic farmers at your local market – by doing so you’re cutting out the 25% of fossil fuels needed just to get the food to your dinner plate, and helping that farmer sustain the soil. Food scraps is also one of the largest sources of methane – bigger than cows. We can almost all be composting in our backyard, and all make a difference.

We’ve got to get rid of our inputs and our waste, and learn from nature, which has no waste and no inputs – everything just works like a song, like an orchestra.