London scientists want to revive plants buried in ‘ghost ponds’

July 24, 2017 by  
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Life will find a way, even if that way is winding and submerged under layers of organic matter and water . According to a recent study by a scientific team at University College London , uncovering hidden habitats buried under so-called “ghost ponds,” ponds that have been filled in with soil and vegetation but not fully drained, could prove decisive in restoring ecosystems and may even hold the key to reviving extinct plant species. “We have shown that ghost ponds can be resurrected, and remarkably wetland plants lost for centuries can be brought back to life from preserved seeds,” declared lead researcher Emily Alderton. To the untrained eye, a potential treasure trove of ecological richness that is a ghost pond may go unnoticed. They manifest as damp areas of land, on which plants have difficulty growing and the soil may appear discolored in contrast to the ground around it. Ghost ponds are usually created by farmers who apply plants and soil to small ponds as they seek to create more arable land. “Small ponds were not drained, but were filled in while they were still wet. We think this is likely to have contributed to the survival of the seeds buried within the historic pond sediments,” said Alderton. Related: Scientists Bring Extinct Mouth-Brooding Frog Back to Life After 30 Years Researchers at UCL analyzed survey maps and historical records in order to track down nondescript ghost ponds of interest. “We also suspected that ghost was the right word as it hints at some form of life still hanging on and this is exactly what we have,” said Carl Sayer, study co-author and director of the UCL Pond Restoration Research Group. “The species that lived in the past pond are still alive, dormant and waiting!” From three sites in the UK, the team has so far recovered and revived eight different plant species. Researchers are now urging conservation groups and policymakers to place greater emphasis on ghost ponds and their role in ecological restoration. “For plants to grow back after being buried for over 150 years is remarkable,” said Christopher Hassall of the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the study. “Ponds are often neglected compared to lakes and rivers because of their small size, but they punch above their weight in terms of the number of species that they contain.” Via ScienceAlert Images via University College London/Carl Sayer and Felix Neumann

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London scientists want to revive plants buried in ‘ghost ponds’

Vertical farming startup raises $200M from Alphabet, Jeff Bezos

July 21, 2017 by  
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Indoor vertical farming is on the rise, if a recent funding round for San Francisco startup Plenty is any indication. The company just scored what they say is the largest agriculture technology investment in history. Plenty has attracted attention – and quite a lot of money – from well-known tech greats like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. Plenty is utilizing technology to improve agriculture. The startup draws on big data processing, micro-sensor technology, and LED lighting in an effort to make affordable, local food available for people around the world. Their system uses less water and space than conventional farms, and grows food more efficiently. Plenty says they can yield as much as 350 times more crops per square foot than a typical farm. Their recent Series B funding round, led by Japanese media corporation SoftBank ‘s Vision Fund, turned out to be quite fruitful at $200 million. Related: 40-foot shipping container farm can grow 5 acres of food with 97% less water SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said in a statement, “By combining technology with optimal agriculture methods, Plenty is working to make ultra-fresh, nutrient-rich food accessible to everyone in an always-local way that minimizes wastage from transport. We believe that Plenty’s team will remake the current food system to improve people’s quality of life.” Plenty will use the $200 million to start expanding, and plan to bring their first produce to market later this year. They plan to grow two to five acre indoor farms, which the BBC said is around the size of a Walmart or Home Depot. The company already employs 100 people working in three facilities in Wyoming and San Francisco. Initially, Plenty will provide mainly leafy greens and herbs for distributors that have already signed on, according to co-founder and CEO Matt Barnard. He said in a statement, “The world is out of land in the places it’s most economical to grow these crops. After a decade of development driven by one of our founders, our technology is uniquely capable of growing super clean food with no pesticides nor GMOs while cutting water consumption by 99 percent…We’re now ready to build out our farm network and serve communities around the globe.” + Plenty Via Plenty and the BBC Images via Plenty Facebook

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Vertical farming startup raises $200M from Alphabet, Jeff Bezos

These African farmers carved an important message to the world – into the soil

July 20, 2017 by  
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Most people in Western countries reflect on Africa as a continent in which poverty is rife and economic opportunities are lacking. While this may be true in some cases, it’s a fixable problem. This is the message a group of farmers and villagers in Zambia seeks to share with the world – in the most unusual way. They spent 5 days last December carving data into a field to demonstrate that African farmers can enjoy independence too. The series of graphs in the soil, called the Field Report, outlined key data revealing why investment in agriculture is essential. At present, an increasing amount of young people are moving away from rural communities to urban locations in the prospect of a job. This is a problem, as Africa presently has a quarter of the world’s arable land yet only produces 10 percent of the world’s food. If action is not taken, a food shortage beyond what we’ve already witnessed is imminent. The farmers drew attention to this fact with a giant “11”, pointing out that agriculture is 11 times more effective at reducing extreme poverty than other sectors. Gilbert Houngbo, president of IFAD, which has support from the UN, said: “The Field Report makes the case for investment in agricultural development in the very land that needs it the most. We were inspired by the sheer power and potential land holds to reduce poverty and hunger, contribute to vibrant, self-sustaining communities and dramatically increase agricultural outputs capable of feeding a growing population.” As FastCompany reports, four-fifths of the world’s poorest people live in rural locations and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. If the initiative is taken to improve production and access to markets, families can increase their incomes while at the same time offering more food to society. Related: The Great Green Wall of Africa could fight desertification and poverty Africa spends $35 billion importing food rather than growing all its population needs; with the right tools, its economy could be transformed. “Rising prices and demand hold tremendous promise for the people who work the world’s 500 million small farms to grow and sell more food, lifting themselves out of poverty and food insecurity ,” said Houngbo. “When connected to markets, smallholder farmers can generate an income and create a multiplier effect–sending their children to school and stimulating the economy in order to help lift their community out of poverty for the long term.” IFAD’s main argument is that investment is needed to improve productivity in rural locations and to connect young farmers with technologies that can “connect them with experts and the information needed to best grow food.” Reportedly, what young African need most is access to finance . Once this is accomplished, a new generation of “agripreneurs” can be fostered. Later this week, the Field Report will be presented at a sustainable development forum in New York City. + IFAD Via FastCompany Images via IFAD

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These African farmers carved an important message to the world – into the soil

Surprisingly modern hut in the Scottish Highlands is insulated with heather, moss and stone

July 20, 2017 by  
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This small hut nestled in the Scottish Highlands combines the influences of Le Corbusier’s iconic Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut and those of the region’s vernacular architecture . The building, designed by Moxon Architects , is covered with heather, moss and stone gathered from local hillsides, which provide both camouflage and additional insulation. The Culardoch Shieling hut sits in the grounds of the client’s Highland estate in the mountains of Cairngorms National Park in Scotland . Its rectangular windows reference Le Corbusier’s famous Ronchamp cathedral, while its overall form and materials establish a connection with the area’s vernacular architecture, livestock holdings and Scottish farming crofts in particular. Related: A green-roofed Hobbit home anyone can build in just 3 days The choice of natural materials and construction technique reflects the client’s request that the building have minimal impact on the terrain. Exterior walls made from unprocessed larch wood envelop the interior lined in spruce. A large dining table and wood-burning stove dominate this cozy space and facilitate social gatherings. + Moxon Architects Via Dezeen

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Surprisingly modern hut in the Scottish Highlands is insulated with heather, moss and stone

Tesla rival Faraday Future’s trippy space-age campus will blow your mind

July 20, 2017 by  
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Beijing-based MAD Architects just unveiled designs for Faraday Future’s new campus—and it looks like something straight out of the Jetsons. The electric car company, once hailed as the “Tesla Killer,” plans to relocate its headquarters from Los Angeles to Mare Island, north of San Francisco. The stunning campus features sleek and sci-fi-esque buildings that reference the aerodynamic shape of Faraday Future’s recently unveiled FF91 , a self-driving vehicle said to be the world’s fastest-accelerating electric car. Faraday Future’s new Northern California campus will be set along the Napa River on Mare Island’s former navy base, which was recently positioned as a “ zero-emission base in California.” MAD Architects’ low-energy campus will cover approximately 130,000 square meters, while the building area will take up approximately 15 percent of the site. The focal point of the campus will be the user experience center marked by a sculptural reflective tower and an exposed winding ramp. Clients will be able to watch the cars move from the warehouse along the elevated light rail down to the exhibition hall. Related: Faraday Future’s FF91 smashes speed record of Tesla Model S in ludicrous mode “MAD’s proposal consists of two low, metallic structures embedded within the site’s prairie landscape, suggesting extraterrestrial objects capable of de-familiarizing employees and prospective clients with the status quo of the contemporary automotive market,” wrote the architects. “In addition, MAD hopes to provide a flexible, and ductile working environment for the growth of its employees and the advancement of the company’s high-tech innovations.” Large roof overhangs, internal courtyards, and operable glass facade systems will help passively reduce solar gains and allow for natural ventilation . There will be an abundance of natural light and easy access to indoor and outdoor social spaces. Modular rooftop solar panels and wind turbines are expected to produce enough energy to support the entire campus’ daily operational demands. + MAD Architects

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Tesla rival Faraday Future’s trippy space-age campus will blow your mind

40-foot shipping container farm can grow 5 acres of food with 97% less water

July 11, 2017 by  
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Communities that have to ship in fresh food from far away could start getting local produce right from their parking lots or warehouses thanks to Local Roots ‘ shipping container farms . The 40-foot containers house hydroponic farms that only draw on five to 20 gallons of water each day to grow produce like lettuce, strawberries, or kale. Popping up all around the United States, these scalable farms “grow far more produce than any other indoor farming solution on the market” according to co-founder Dan Kuenzi. Local Roots is even talking with SpaceX about using their farms in space . Local Roots’ 40-foot shipping container farms, called TerraFarms, grow produce twice as fast as a traditional farm , all while using 97 percent less water and zero pesticides or herbicides. They can grow as much food as could be grown on three to five acres. They’re able to do this thanks to LED lights tuned to specific wavelengths and intensities, and sensor systems monitoring water, nutrient, and atmospheric conditions. Related: Pop-up shipping container farm puts a full acre of lettuce in your backyard The process from setup to first harvest takes only around four weeks. TerraFarms can be stacked and connected to the local grid. CEO Eric Ellestad said in a video 30 million Americans live in food deserts , and their farms could be placed right in communities that most need the food. Los Angeles is already home to a farm with several shipping containers, and a similar one will be coming to Maryland this year. It could offer local food like strawberries in January. And Local Roots’ technology could one day allow astronauts to consume fresh produce in space. Their growing systems could offer a food source on long-term, deep space missions. Ellestad told The Washington Post, “The opportunities are global and intergalactic at the same time.” + Local Roots Via The Washington Post Images via Local Roots Facebook

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40-foot shipping container farm can grow 5 acres of food with 97% less water

Ontario greenhouses could lose $10M because of new cap-and-trade rules

July 6, 2017 by  
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Ontario , Canada has 2,900 acres of greenhouses that export over $1 billion of cucumbers, tomatoes, and green peppers to the United States. But greenhouse growers are saying they’ll suffer under the province’s new climate action plan. Their industry doesn’t only produce carbon dioxide (CO2) but consumes it as part of plants ‘ photosynthesis process, but unlike in British Columbia and Alberta, Ontario growers won’t receive a rebate for the carbon consumption, which could cost them around $10 million in 2017. In January Ontario put in place cap-and-trade rules in an effort to combat climate change . But greenhouse growers say the rules are unfair to them, since they consume CO2 instead of just emitting it. They’ll be charged $18 per metric ton of carbon. Related: Wind-powered vertical Skyfarms are the future of sustainable agriculture Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers chair George Gilvesy told Financial Post, “We aren’t happy at all. We are using CO2 and the plants need CO2. Cap-and-trade is very bad policy . We are competing against the U.S. and Mexico, who do not have a carbon tax .” What would they prefer instead? A rebate, such as that given to growers in Alberta and British Columbia. Lawmakers in those provinces recognize greenhouses consume CO2 and offer a carbon tax rebate. BC Greenhouse Growers’ Association executive director Linda Delli Santi said British Columbia’s carbon tax used to cost her five-acre greenhouse $50,000 yearly and helped put it out of business. So growers successfully lobbied the government for a rebate. British Columbia’s then finance minister Michael de Jong said at the time, “Greenhouse growers are distinct from most others in that they need carbon dioxide and purposely produce it because it is essential for plant growth.” Ontario environment ministry spokesperson Gary Wheeler said the province knows greenhouses will be an important source of local food as the climate changes. He told Financial Post, “Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan has committed up to $115 million to support the retrofit of agricultural facilities, including greenhouses. The investment will help the industry expand the use of innovative technologies and practices to reduce emissions .” Via Financial Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

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Ontario greenhouses could lose $10M because of new cap-and-trade rules

Study reveals where climate change is most likely to induce food violence

June 12, 2017 by  
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Much has been written about the affect rising temperatures will have on climate and sea levels, but global warming is expected to dish up a host of other catastrophes as well. According to a new study published in the Journal of Peace Research , the first ever to take into account climate change-induced weather patterns on violence and the strength of governments around the world, certain locations will be more susceptible to food violence than others. Take a closer look after the jump. The study was conducted by Bear Braumoeller, associate professor of political science at Ohio State University, and former doctoral students Benjamin Jones of the University of Mississippi and Eleonora Mattiacci of Amherst University. Together, they concluded that extreme weather, such as droughts and floods, could hurt agricultural production, which will likely lead to violence in affected regions or elsewhere by those who are desperate for food. “We’ve already started to see climate change as an issue that won’t just put the coasts under water, but as something that could cause food riots in some parts of the world,” Braumoeller said. The researchers used data recorded about the effects of food insecurity and state vulnerability on the occurrence of violent uprisings in Africa between the years 1991 to 2011. Measurements for food shocks and the vulnerability of countries were also taken into account. For food shocks related to climate change , the team analyzed rainfall, temperature and the international prices of food — including sudden spikes in prices. To determine which countries are most vulnerable, the researchers analyzed the country’s dependence on agricultural production, its imports, its wealth, and the strength of its political institutions. Related: Solar-Powered Floating Greenhouse is an Off-Grid Solution to Food Scarcity In the report, Braumoeller explained that the countries that imported food would be most affected by climate shocks as prices increase — even if they weren’t experiencing “significant weather impacts themselves.” “We found that the most vulnerable countries are those that have weak political institutions, are relatively poor and rely more on agriculture ,” said Braumoeller. “Less vulnerable countries can better handle the problems that droughts or food price fluctuations create.” This data is important because it provides insight as to how more developed countries, such as the United States , can respond to these challenges. It is “crucial” to break the links between food insecurity and violence, said Braumoeller, and countries can help accomplish this in a number of ways. A short-term solution is to provide food aid to offset shortages, whereas long-term efforts include strengthening government institutions and helping them invest in “green growth” policies aimed at improving the economy. Braumoeller said, ”Development aid is important now and it is likely to be even more important in the future as we look for ways to increase climate resilience.” + Journal of Peace Research Via Phys Images via Pixabay

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Study reveals where climate change is most likely to induce food violence

China subverts pollution with contained vertical farms – and boosts yield

May 26, 2017 by  
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Around one fifth of arable land in China is contaminated with levels of toxins greater than government standards, according to 2014 data. That’s around half the size of California, and it’s a growing problem for a country that faces such levels of pollution they had to import $31.2 billion of soybeans in 2015 – a 43 percent increase since 2008. Scientists and entrepreneurs are working to come up with answers to growing edible food in a polluted environment, and shipping container farms or vertical gardening could offer answers. The toxins in China’s environment have made their way into the country’s food supply. In 2013, the Guangdong province government said 44 percent of rice sampled in their region contained excessive cadmium. Around 14 percent of domestic grain contains heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium, according to research from scientists in 2015. Related: Arctic town grows fresh produce in shipping container vertical garden Could shipping container farms offer a way around this contamination? Beijing startup Alesca Life Technologies is testing them out. They turn retrofitted shipping containers into gardens filled to the brim with arugula, peas, kale, and mustard greens, and monitor conditions remotely via an app. They’ve already been able to sell smaller portable versions of the gardens to a division of a group managing luxury hotels in Beijing and the Dubai royal family. Alesca Life co-founder Stuart Oda told Bloomberg, “ Agriculture has not really innovated materially in the past 10,000 years. The future of farming – to us – is urban .” And they’re not alone in their innovation. Scientist Yang Qichang of the Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences is experimenting with a crop laboratory, testing which light from the visible light spectrum both helps plants flourish and uses little energy . His self-contained, vertical system already yields between 40 and 100 times more produce than an open field of similar size. He told Bloomberg, “Using vertical agriculture, we don’t need to use pesticides and we can use less chemical fertilizers – and produce safe food.” Via Bloomberg Images via Alesca Life Technologies

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China subverts pollution with contained vertical farms – and boosts yield

Atelier Space turn a 1925 nursery into a daylit solar-powered residence in the Netherlands

May 26, 2017 by  
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Smart adaptive reuse can do wonders with old, abandoned and disused buildings. Dutch firm Atelier Space breathed new life into this 1925 nursery in Leiden, the Netherlands by converting it into a beautiful, daylit residence with amenities, technology and polish worthy of a modern urban home. The architects preserved much of the original 1925 nursery, turned the former gym into an airy, open-plan living, dining, and kitchen area. They also divided a large classroom into three separate bedrooms. Related: Patalab Architects transform dank mechanics garage into light-filled London home The entire residence features 13-foot-high ceilings with restored skylights and windows that bring natural light into the interior. A guesthouse occupies the floor above the living room, and the toilet, technical area, and storage room are all placed on one side. The converted schoolhouse also includes sustainable design features such as rooftop solar panels , improved building insulation, and centrally controlled lighting, climate, shading and security systems that allow occupants to control every aspect the interior environment. To top it all off, a heat pump heats and cools the house. + Atelier Space Via Curbed Photos by Brigitte Kroone

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Atelier Space turn a 1925 nursery into a daylit solar-powered residence in the Netherlands

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