Can vertical farming feed the world and change the agriculture industry?

May 18, 2018 by  
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Year after year, cities expand and pristine natural habitats are turned into farms and pastures to support the world’s growing population . But despite our encroachment into the environment, we still struggle to feed everyone. Vertical farms could offer a solution by producing higher crop yields year-round in less space than conventional agriculture. What is vertical farming? With land for crops and pastures growing scarce — plus the threat of pesticides and herbicides taking a toll on our health and the environment — people are exploring new ways to grow food, such as urban agriculture. In general, this is the process of growing food within city limits – whether on rooftops, in backyards or on balconies. The goal is to provide families with fresh, healthy food that isn’t laced with chemicals — and when you grow your own crops, you can control these elements. Vertical farming is a type of urban agriculture – but vertical farms are often constructed indoors in extremely controlled environments. Crops are grown on shelves that extend upward instead of outward, and the environment is carefully monitored, so crops grow year-round. In addition to growing crops, some vertical farmers have developed ways to grow fish in a self-sustaining system. Water from the plants is recycled into fish tanks, and the waste from the fish becomes fertilizer for the plants. Then, both the plants and fish can be harvested for food. The benefits of vertical farming The benefits of vertical farming are numerous. Farmers can control the crops’ environment in vertical farms, so the plants aren’t subjected to nasty weather conditions or droughts . Humidity, nutrients and water are administered to growing plants to achieve optimum growing conditions. Because of the controlled environment, crops can be harvested more than once a year, resulting in higher yields than traditional farming. Related: The GCC’s first commercial vertical farm launches in Dubai Vertical farms are more sustainable than conventional farms because they use less water (which is often recycled through the system), they take up less space and they use less fossil fuels because they don’t rely on heavy machinery such as tractors and harvesters. Technology helps vertical farmers get the best output from the farm. Tailored lamps help plants get more light exposure, which encourages them to grow faster than crops that rely on the sun. Vertical farms also provide greater protection from insects, thus decreasing the need for harmful chemical products. Downsides to vertical farming While vertical farms can help with local hunger issues and sustainability, there are some barriers that may keep them from gaining worldwide traction. The cost of setting up a vertical farm can be prohibitive. Conservative estimates put the initial start-up cost at around $110,000 , but there are estimates upward of millions of dollars. Finding an abandoned warehouse or building in an urban setting for a reasonable price might be difficult. Since vertical farms rely on electricity for growing lamps and strict environmental controls, the location has to have reliable power — not just any old abandoned building will do. Vertical farms also depend heavily on technology, which can be costly. Keeping the lights on and the environmental controls running will impact energy use — and your budget. Related: The “most technologically-sophisticated commercial indoor farm in the world” will grow 30X more produce Not every crop that is grown traditionally can be raised successfully in a vertical farm. Leafy greens and herbs do the best in an indoor environment, while staple crops like wheat and potatoes are difficult to grow indoors, as are some fruits and vegetables. The crops that can be harvested from a vertical garden are limited. Growing food to feed the hungry is a noble gesture, but it also has to be profitable, especially when the initial cost to set up a vertical farm is so high. If there isn’t a market in your area, it’s a waste of time to grow large amounts of food that you won’t be able to sell. The verdict Despite the downsides, the positives are plentiful. In addition to embracing sustainability and helping combat hunger , vertical farms can also encourage support for local economies. These farms can create jobs, turn a profit and provide a healthy source of food for locals. As technology continues to advance, new approaches will improve the efficiency and productivity of vertical farms. If nothing else, the idea sparks the conversation about changing the agricultural industry and gives us a place to start for finding better, more sustainable ways to grow food. Images via Depositphotos , Aqua Mechanical and Mike Chino for Inhabitat

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Can vertical farming feed the world and change the agriculture industry?

One-third of the world’s protected areas face ‘shocking’ human impact

May 18, 2018 by  
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Bad news for wildlife: 2.3 million square miles of protected areas around the world face human pressure from activities like road building, urbanization, or grazing, according to a new study . Lead author Kendall Jones, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland , said in a statement , “We found major road infrastructure such as highways, industrial agriculture, and even entire cities occurring inside the boundaries of places supposed to be set aside for nature conservation .” Millions of square miles “have this level of human influence that is harmful to the species they are trying to protect,” University of Queensland professor James Watson told the BBC . “It is not passive, it’s not agnostic; it is harmful and that is quite shocking.” Scientists at the University of Queensland, University of Northern British Columbia , and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) teamed up for the study, described as a reality check, that was recently published in the journal Science . Related: Chile creates five new national parks from 10 million acres of land in historic act Watson said that governments claim the areas are protected “when in reality they aren’t.” Even though more land has been protected in the last few decades, the lack of real protection is a major reason for  biodiversity ‘s continued, catastrophic decline. There was a ray of hope in the study’s findings: protected areas that have strict biodiversity conservation objectives in place tend to experience less human pressure. WCS listed the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia, the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve in Ecuador, and the Madidi National Park in Bolivia as examples. Watson said, “We know protected areas work — when well-funded, well-managed and well placed, they are extremely effective in halting the threats that cause biodiversity loss and ensure species return from the brink of extinction . There are also many protected areas that are still in good condition and protect the last strongholds of endangered species worldwide. The challenge is to improve the management of those protected areas that are most valuable for nature conservation to ensure they safeguard it.” + Wildlife Conservation Society + University of Queensland + Science Via the BBC Image via Depositphotos

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One-third of the world’s protected areas face ‘shocking’ human impact

Bering Sea ice is "at record low levels for this time of year"

May 18, 2018 by  
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Arctic sea ice is low, with the Bering Sea’s ice extent “the lowest recorded since at least 1979,” according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). This reflects a larger overall trend: in April, Arctic sea ice covered an area 378,400 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average. According to Alaska-based meteorologist Rick Thoman, Bering Sea ice extent “is five percent of normal” for the middle of May, and “there is almost nothing left except for near shore ice in protected areas.” The worrisome part of all this? There are still four months to go in the Arctic’s melt season. NSIDC provided information on Arctic sea ice extent in April of this year, and said 2016 and 2018 essentially tied “for lowest April sea ice extent on record.” Barents Sea and Bering Sea ice extent was below average, as it was during the 2017 to 2018 winter. According to Earther , the Bering Sea has been something of a ground zero for crazy ice, with sea ice disappearing when it was supposed to be growing in February, rebounding slightly in March, and then plummeting in April. Bering Sea ice extent is 5% of normal for mid-May and there is almost nothing left except for near shore ice in protected areas. Chukchi Sea ice extent also at record low, with open water now north of 71N. #akwx #Arctic @Climatologist49 @ZLabe @lisashefguy @amy_holman pic.twitter.com/Ur7UmoptgL — Rick Thoman (@AlaskaWx) May 17, 2018 Related: Extreme Arctic warmth deeply concerning, scientists say Warm oceans have played a role in the dive of Bering Sea ice levels; University of Alaska Fairbanks climate researcher Brian Brettschneider told Earther that “Bering Sea SSTs [sea surface temperatures] have been at record or near record levels for months now. This represents a strong positive feedback. Warm waters are hard to freeze, which then allows for more solar absorption.” And Bering Sea ice typically protects Chukchi Sea ice. When Bering Sea ice disappeared in February, open water seeped into the Chukchi Sea — an event that has probably only happened in one other winter on record. + National Snow and Ice Data Center Via Earther Images via Depositphotos and the National Snow and Ice Data Center

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Bering Sea ice is "at record low levels for this time of year"

Incredible Algae Dome absorbs sun and CO2 to produce superfood and oxygen

September 5, 2017 by  
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Industrial agriculture is blamed as a major cause of greenhouse gas, but what if there was a way to sustainably produce food that could help solve some of the world’s toughest environmental problems? That’s what the folks at SPACE10 , a Copenhagen-based future-living lab, tackled with the futuristic Algae Dome, a four-meter-tall food-producing architecture pavilion that pumps out oxygen in a closed-loop system. Powered by solar energy, the Algae Dome offers a sustainable and hyper-local food system that can pop up almost anywhere with minimal impact on the environment. Architects Aleksander Wadas, Rafal Wroblewski, Anna Stempniewicz, and bioengineer Keenan Pinto created the Algae Dome, which was presented at the CHART art fair in Copenhagen last week. Although SPACE10 has experimented with growing microgreens before, the team targets an even smaller food with the Algae Dome—micro-algae. Praised as a future “superfood,” micro-algae is said to contain twice as much protein as meat and is packed with vitamins and minerals, with more beta carotene than carrots and more iron than found in spinach, according to SPACE10. Even better? Micro-algae are among the world’s fastest-growing organisms and can be grown with sunshine and water almost anywhere, all while sucking up carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen in the process. Related: SPACE10 creates an open-source Growroom you can build at home During the three-day CHART art fair, the Algae Dome produced 450 liters of micro-algae and provided an interactive architectural experience that was part food system, part furniture, and wholly educational. The large amount of food was produced in a surprisingly small amount of space thanks to the design that featured 320 meters of coiled tubing, showing off the flow of emerald green micro-algae. Visitors were invited to sit inside the pavilion and enjoy a “breath of fresh air” created by the micro-algae as it converted carbon dioxide into oxygen. Packets of delicious spirulina (a type of blue-green algae) chips, created by SPACE10’s chef-in-residence Simon Perez, were placed around the pavilion to give passersby the chance to try the superfood. “In the future, different species of microalgae could be used as a form of nutrient-rich food, as a replacement for soy protein in animal feed, in the development of biofuels, as a way to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and as a method of treating industrial wastewater,” said SPACE10. “In other words, microalgae could help combat malnutrition, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels , help stop the destruction of the rainforest, improve air quality, and reduce pollution. Little wonder that microalgae has been dubbed the future’s sustainable super crop.” SPACE10 sees the Algae Dome as the prototype for food-producing architecture that could pop up virtually anywhere, from bus stops to apartment complexes. + SPACE10 Picture credit: Niklas Adrian Vindelev

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Incredible Algae Dome absorbs sun and CO2 to produce superfood and oxygen

Urban Farm Pod’s brilliant plug-in ecology could revolutionize urban farming

March 2, 2016 by  
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South Africa is relaxing restrictions on GMOs to fight drought-related food crisis

February 25, 2016 by  
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Food supplies have grown so unstable in South Africa that the government may soon allow imports of some genetically modified foods , which were previously under tight restrictions, in order to fend off a food crisis. GM corn maize crops from the United States and Mexico may soon be crossing the borders to make up for 3.8 million metric tons of corn crops that South African farmers are unable to grow due to severe drought. Amid fears of cross-contamination of GM crops, the government is considering making exceptions to tough regulations in order to continue to feed people. Read the rest of South Africa is relaxing restrictions on GMOs to fight drought-related food crisis

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This element, essential to all life, is rapidly disappearing from the planet

February 15, 2016 by  
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Of the many things threatening the world’s food supply, the element with the ability to wreak the most havoc hasn’t made many headlines. Researchers are now warning that waning phosphorous levels could devastate food production around the globe. A nonrenewable resource with no synthetic substitute, phosphorous is an essential nutrient and it’s disappearing faster than anyone realized. Read the rest of This element, essential to all life, is rapidly disappearing from the planet

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Amazing sunken SubZero Pavilion for Floriade 2022 boasts a rooftop greenhouse

January 5, 2016 by  
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Light Walk: interactive LED-studded tunnel celebrates UNESCO’s International Year of Light

January 5, 2016 by  
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David Heaton and Sandra Linton Huezo designed the Light Walk, an interactive light installation that changes its appearance as users move through the space. Installed at the entrance of the Carl Zeiss eG in Germany, the Light Walk was created in celebration of the UNESCO 2015 International Year of Light Festival . Sensors captured user movement and then displayed as a ‘data ghost’ of light through a 3D light matrix to create an augmented reality where users can see their own data visualized. + David Heaton The article above was submitted to us by an Inhabitat reader. Want to see your story on Inhabitat ? Send us a tip by following this link . Remember to follow our instructions carefully to boost your chances of being chosen for publishing!

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Chicago’s FarmedHere plans to expand vertical indoor farming to 20 new locations across the country

December 31, 2015 by  
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Serious indoor agriculture used to be reserved for people who were into black lights and excessive incense burning, but the times are definitely changing. Now, a number of savvy business folk are investing in vertical indoor farming as a means of serious food production. One such startup, FarmedHere , hopes to lead the charge to turn us all into farmers. We’ve written about the company’s efforts in the past, but the new CEO Matt Matros has plans for the future that could bring vertical indoor farming to every corner of the country. Read the rest of Chicago’s FarmedHere plans to expand vertical indoor farming to 20 new locations across the country

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