Is the future of farming vertical?

April 6, 2018 by  
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Companies including AeroFarms aim to narrow the farm-to-table gap.

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Is the future of farming vertical?

4 reasons fewer employees are engaged in sustainability, and what to do about it

April 6, 2018 by  
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It’s a troubling trend, but reversing it should be fairly straightforward.

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4 reasons fewer employees are engaged in sustainability, and what to do about it

Simple genetic modification causes crops to need 25% less water

March 9, 2018 by  
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Scientists have discovered that a simple genetic modification may result in crops needing up to 25 percent less water than unaltered plants to produce the same yield. An international team led by scientists at the University of Illinois identified a specific protein called Photosystem II Subunit S (PsbS), which can be altered to encourage a plant to partially close its stomata, the small pores that facilitate gas exchange between plants and their environment. The scientists hypothesized that the closing of stomata would allow plants to retain more water without sacrificing its need for carbon dioxide, the atmospheric concentration of which has increased by 25 percent in less than a century. Stephen Long, study co-author and director of Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), the international research project behind the study, said in a statement: “Evolution has not kept pace with this rapid change, so scientists have given it a helping hand”. As the world adapts to climate change , less water-intensive crops could be a game changer. “This is a major breakthrough,” explained Long. “Crop yields have steadily improved over the past 60 years, but the amount of water required to produce one ton of grain remains unchanged—which led most to assume that this factor could not change. Proving that our theory works in practice should open the door to much more research and development to achieve this all-important goal for the future.” Related: How fungi made Earth’s atmosphere livable – new study Approximately 90 percent of the world’s freshwater supply is used for agricultural purposes. As populations grow and resources become strained, more efficient plants could be a simple yet effective tool to sustain healthy communities. The research team published their positive results on the modification of a tobacco plant; their next step is to do the same for food crops. “Making crop plants more water-use efficient is arguably the greatest challenge for current and future plant scientists,” said study co-author Johannes Kromdijk in a statement . “Our results show that increased PsbS expression allows crop plants to be more conservative with water use, which we think will help to better distribute available water resources over the duration of the growing season and keep the crop more productive during dry spells .” Via New Atlas Images via University of Illinois

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Simple genetic modification causes crops to need 25% less water

"Most technologically-sophisticated commercial indoor farm" to grow 30X more produce

March 1, 2018 by  
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As our technology is advancing, so are our farms. Indoor farming company Bowery is constructing what they describe as the “most technologically-sophisticated commercial indoor farm in the world.” It’s their second, but this one (also in Kearny, New Jersey ) will far outpace the first, churning out 30 times more produce and growing more than 100 kinds of herbs and leafy greens. Bowery is drawing on technology to get the job done: that is, to grow what they describe as post- organic produce. They control the entire growing process indoors without pesticides , utilizing their fully-integrated technology system BoweryOS to generate ideal conditions, and said in information sent to Inhabitat this new farm will be “the most automated and precisely-controlled farm yet.” On their website , they describe their method as precision farming, saying they meticulously monitor growing, gathering a huge amount of data so they can give plants exactly what they require in terms of light, nutrients, and purified water. Sophisticated analytics let them harvest crops right when flavor is at its best. Related: Local Roots shipping container farms achieve cost parity with traditional farming Bowery’s produce is cultivated with 95 less water than traditional agriculture , and their crop cycles are twice as fast, according to the company. Their goal is to grow food close to the people who will be eating it — so they can deliver to stores or restaurants within one day after the produce is picked. That’s in contrast to produce grown in a traditional manner, which they say can take weeks to hit stores. They also say they can offer their greens at competitive prices since they own the process from seed to store. After opening in the late spring or early summer of this year, they’ll sell greens cultivated in their second farm to stores like Foragers and Whole Foods, with goals to expand. Currently they send produce to those two companies as well as restaurants in New York City. Bowery’s certainly not the only company pursuing indoor farming relying on technology; Inhabitat has covered others like Farm One and Local Roots . But as 70 percent more food will be necessary, according to Bowery, to feed the nine to 10 billion people who could reside on our planet by 2050, it will be intriguing to see what they can bring to the table with this second farm. + Bowery Images courtesy of Bowery

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"Most technologically-sophisticated commercial indoor farm" to grow 30X more produce

How farming with rocks could improve global food security

February 20, 2018 by  
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Scientists at the University of Sheffield have learned that farming with crushed silicate rocks mixed into the soil could improve global food security, increase crop yields, promote soil health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Human societies have long known that volcanic plains are fertile, ideal places for growing crops without adverse human health effects,” study lead author David Beerling told Phys.org , “but until now there has been little consideration for how adding further rocks to soils might capture carbon.” As the rocks slowly dissolve in the soil, they release nutrients while absorbing carbon dioxide. Most importantly, crushed silicate rocks can be amended into existing farmland, offering a non-disruptive, less intensive carbon capture service. The research published in the journal Nature Plants  could have a dramatic applied impact on farming throughout the world. “This study has transformed how we think about managing our croplands for climate, food and soil security,” said Beerling. “It helps move the debate forward for an under-researched strategy of CO2 removal from the atmosphere – enhanced rock weathering – and highlights supplementary benefits for food and soils .” Through enhanced rock weathering, carbon absorption can be achieved without competing for additional land and water. The crushed rock method also reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides and decreases the cost of food production. Related: 6 places where soil-less farming is revolutionizing how we grow food Farming with crushed silicate rocks offers a simple but powerful action to improve environmental health. “The magnitude of future climate change could be moderated by immediately reducing the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere as a result of energy generation,” explained Beerling. “Adopting strategies like this new research that actively remove CO2 from it can have a massive impact and be adapted very quickly.” Via Phys.org Images via Depositphotos (1)  

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How farming with rocks could improve global food security

The farmers growing food across frigid northern latitudes

December 22, 2017 by  
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Although frost has arrived in most subtropical regions of the Northern Hemisphere, farmers still carry on even in the most extreme cold climates with the help of innovative technology and thoughtful design. Polar Permaculture Solutions of Norway  and the Inuvik Community Greenhouse of Canada are outstanding examples of defiant, determined agriculture in the Arctic. With features such as hydroponic systems, insulated greenhouses, and compost-warmed geodesic domes, these farms are far from frozen despite their high latitude locations. Benjamin Vidmar, founder of Polar Permaculture Solutions , was inspired to make a change through observations of his home, Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen, the Svalbard archipelago’s largest island. “This whole island is about extraction: whales, coal, animals, fish, gas, oil,” Vidmar told Mic . “Everything here is based on taking things from the Earth . I feel like I have to do something for this town.” Vidmar, a chef, began researching methods for growing food in harsh, frigid climates and started growing microgreens for home and restaurant use in an insulated geodesic dome. Since then, Polar Permaculture Solutions has opened its doors for tours and classes for those interested in the challenge. Vidmar hopes to acquire a biodigester, which would create heat and fertilizer from food waste and quail droppings. Related: New Antarctic farm will grow produce despite temperatures of -100 d Across the Atlantic, then again across the most northern regions of North America, communities in Canada’s Northwest Territories are also implementing innovative systems to grow food despite the short season. In the small town of Inuvik, the Inuvik Community Greenhouse , which was converted from an old hockey rink, is now a cherished community space for all ages. The Greenhouse has 250 members, 149 community garden beds, and 24 smaller beds that grow a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and flowers. During the growing season, which lasts from May to September in the greenhouse, community members donate 100 pounds of food to the local food bank. The Greenhouse also offers a compost collection service for town residents, which reduces local food waste, helps to build greenhouse soil, and financially supports the greenhouse’s growth. Via Mic Images via Polar Permaculture Solutions and Inuvik Greenhouse

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The farmers growing food across frigid northern latitudes

NexLoop unveils water management system inspired by spiders, fungi, bees and plants

November 3, 2017 by  
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In its quest to sustainably serve the needs of urban farmers , NexLoop  found inspiration for its water management system in the natural world. Seeking to create a system that is self-sufficient and adaptable to local needs, the NexLoop team observed the ability of cribellate orb weaver spiders to craft webs that capture water from fog in the air. The team then incorporated this design into their system, called the AquaWeb, to passively capture water from the atmosphere. The biomimetically-designed AquaWeb incorporates ideas from fungi, bees, and plants to create a naturally-inspired solution to the complex human problem of growing food. For its work, NexLoop was awarded the 2017 Ray of Hope Prize from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation and the Biomimicry Institute. After determining how water capture would work, the team looked at drought-tolerant plants such as the crystalline ice plant to learn how it effectively stores water to survive in dry areas and applied these lessons to the AquaWeb’s storage system. As for distribution of this water, the team studied fungi , which are essential organisms in places like forests where mycorrhizal fungal networks transport water and nutrients to trees that need them. As for a solid structure, the team incorporated the hexagonal shape of honey bee nests. Related: 6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry The AquaWeb seeks to meet the needs of a global community that is increasingly urban . The global population is expected rise to at least 9 billion by 2050, 70 percent of which will live in cities. This historic shift towards urban living will require adoption of food systems that are locally based, resilient, and efficient in its use of resources. AquaWeb’s passive capture and storage of rainwater is a key feature for stability in a world increasingly plagued by extreme weather. As part of the 2017 Ray of Hope Prize, the NexLoop team received $100,000 to promote and refine its design. The second place prize was awarded to Team Windchill, which designed an electricity-free refrigerator based on animal temperature regulation, while the third place prize went to Team Evolution’s Solutions, which invented a food waste nutrient recycling and supply system aimed to help hydroponic farmers . + Biomimicry Institute Images via NexLoop and Depositphotos

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NexLoop unveils water management system inspired by spiders, fungi, bees and plants

Richard Branson’s plan to help rebuild the Caribbean with clean energy

November 3, 2017 by  
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Renewable energy could help islands in the Caribbean be more resilient in the face of future hurricanes – and billionaire Richard Branson wants to make that happen. He’s spearheading a plan for recovery centering on renewable energy. Replacing fossil fuel power grids with clean energy sources like solar and wind could also promote economic development. Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Caribbean islands. Now, Branson aims to help them rebuild. He has spoken with lenders and foundations about a fund to pay for a Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan, a name that nods to the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe following World War 2. His efforts, which focus on renewable energy, could also include debt relief negotiations in which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) might be involved – Branson met with IMF managing director Christine Lagarde and said she was willing to facilitate meetings between creditors and Caribbean nations. He also said in a blog post he met recently with over 50 representatives from Caribbean governments and utility companies. Related: Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy He told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “We want to move the Caribbean countries into clean energy and make them more sustainable, which will make dealing with hurricanes much easier. The Caribbean heads of state agree with one voice that this is a good idea.” Branson rode out Hurricane Irma in a cellar on Necker, his private island in the British Virgin Islands. The island’s solar-powered microgrid weathered the storm well, he said, with the solar panels running again just 24 hours after the hurricane. In a blog post, Branson said people interested in helping could donate to the BVI Community Support Appeal , which aims “to raise money for the long term reconstruction” of the British Virgin Islands. Via the Thomson Reuters Foundation and Richard Branson Images via Caribbean Buzz Helicopters/Virgin and Ricardo Rossello on Twitter

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Richard Branson’s plan to help rebuild the Caribbean with clean energy

Colorful Peoples Pavilion in Eindhoven is made from 100% borrowed materials

November 3, 2017 by  
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All the materials needed to build this temporary pavilion in the Netherlands are borrowed. bureau SLA and Overtreders W built the People’s Pavilion – a centerpiece of the Dutch Design Week (DDW) taking place in Eindhoven – using materials from suppliers and Eindhoven residents which will be returned after the event closes. The only exception is the faceted upper façade, which is made of plastic household waste materials collected by Eindhoven residents. The People’s Pavilion will function as the main pavilion of the World Design Event in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, which provides a platform for future makers from all over the world. It will also be used as a meeting place and hang-out for visitors and serves as a venue for music and theater. Related: Spectacular origami pavilion made of recycled plastic pops up in Columbus, Indiana The 269-square-foot (25-square-meter) building can accommodate 200 seated or 600 standing people. Its structure is based on 12 concrete foundation piles and 19 wooden frames, designed in collaboration with Arup. Steel straps hold together wooden beams , while concrete piles and frames are connected with 350 tensioning straps. The glass roof resembles those used in the greenhouse industry. Related: The Folkets House is an inclusive space where refugees can learn skills and find jobs Colorful plastic tiles cover the upper façade of the building and are made from recycled plastic household waste . Leftovers from a refurbishment of BOL.com’s headquarters were used for the glass portion of the façade on the ground floor and will be reused for a new office space after the Dutch Design Week concludes. All the materials, including concrete slabs used for the podium, lighting, heating and bar are borrowed. + bureau SLA + Overtreders W + Dutch Design Week 

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Colorful Peoples Pavilion in Eindhoven is made from 100% borrowed materials

1-acre permaculture farm in Australia feeds 50 families

September 4, 2017 by  
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This family in Australia completely shifted the way they source their food – with remarkable success. When wife Nici suffered an illness, the Coopers decided to start growing their own produce at home in Newcastle, and now their one-acre Limestone Permaculture Farm supplies dozens of families with fresh food . They also offer permaculture education and internships, sharing what they’ve learned with the greater community . The Coopers have been farming at Limestone Permaculture Farm for close to a decade. They grow organic produce , and raise sheep, goats, and chickens. They also keep bees and build with recycled materials , and The farm is powered by energy from wood, water, and the sun – pretty much every greenie’s dream come true. TreeHugger said co-owner Brett suggested they can feed 50 families from the one-acre farm . Related: Man leaves rat race to grow dream permaculture farm – and it’s flourishing after 3 years Swales, a chicken tractor, and self-seeding edible ground cover are among the permaculture techniques the Coopers employ at Limestone Permaculture Farm. Brett discovered permaculture over a decade ago. He told the Newcastle Herald , “I was a builder and had done architectural drafting. When I found permaculture, it was less about one form and more about following nature’s design . It blew my mind.” The Coopers offer farm tours, workshops, internships, and a permaculture design certificate at their New South Wales farm. They still have jobs and only work the farm part-time, but are hoping to transition to permaculture farming full-time. “We feel there has been an awakening across our beautiful country, self-reliance is on the rise again; urban and rural homesteading has people taking their food and energy supply back into their own hands,” the Coopers say on their website. “With each passing day we are transitioning to a more wholesome life, creating a more fulfilling and positive future, not just for ourselves but also for our family, friends, and community.” + Limestone Permaculture Farm Via Happen Films and TreeHugger Images via Limestone Permaculture Farm Facebook

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1-acre permaculture farm in Australia feeds 50 families

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