Local Roots shipping container farms achieve cost parity with traditional farming

December 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Green, Recycle

99 percent less water and 4,000 lettuce heads every 10 days: Los Angeles-based Local Roots achieves all that in their shipping container farms . And today they announced they’ve also reached cost parity with traditional farming . They plan to deploy over 100 farms in 2018. Inhabitat checked out their mobile TerraFarm in New York City and met with CEO Eric Ellestad and COO Matt Vail to hear more. We visited Local Roots’ TerraFarm in Manhattan a windy, chilly December day, but inside, green butterhead, red butterhead, green leaf, and red leaf lettuce was thriving. Vail and Ellestad started the company around four years ago on a mission to boost global health and seek sustainability in farming. A few statistics that fuel their mission? For one, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates agriculture is responsible for over 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions . And then, 52 percent of the food we do grow in America doesn’t even make it to the consumer, according to Ellestad. Related: 40-foot shipping container farm can grow 5 acres of food with 97% less water Their indoor farms address those issues. They can deploy TerraFarms right at or near distribution centers. They design, build, deploy, and efficiently operate the vertical farms , and sell the food – which they think is even better than organic produce. “In outdoor farming, whether it’s organic or traditional, there’s a lot of variability. Even across a field, there’s not going to be uniform nutrient application or soil quality. In our environment we’re able to consistently create growing conditions that optimize for flavor and nutrient density,” Ellestad told Inhabitat. “We can select varietals that are naturally more nutritious, even ones that don’t make sense to grow outdoors or are really susceptible to weather or have a short shelf life or break down in transit. We can bring those to market at scale with price parity and do that for some of the largest buyers.” They also see an accelerated growth rate in their TerraFarms. Ellestad said crops will grow two or three times as fast as they would in a field since they can create perfect growing conditions for a plant. They can reuse or recycle all of the water – their biggest use of water is actually for cleaning the farms. And since they can control the environment, they can grow local food year-round. “Instead of being constrained to a growing season, you’re growing fall, winter, summer, spring; in Saudi Arabia in the summer, in New York in December,” he told Inhabitat. “We’re over 600 times more productive per square foot compared with an outdoor farm. So suddenly you can bring commercial-scale food production into urban areas and start to bring them closer to the point of consumption.” Solar panels lined the roof of the mobile TerraFarm in Manhattan. They could generate three kilowatts, enough to operate the farm in sunny California, according to Vail. The indoor farms can go off-grid with solar or wind and batteries. Local Roots tends to evaluate the local grid before deploying a farm to see if it’s clean or if they might want to add a source of renewable energy . Now as they’ve cracked the code for cost parity with traditional farming, Local Roots will be expanding in a big way in 2018. They’ll deploy their first projects outside of the Los Angeles area, and plan to hire around 150 people. Ellestad said they’re also launching their retail brand in a new way. They hope to be on the East Coast by the end of 2018. But they’re already looking ahead to bringing nutrition to people around the world. Vail told Inhabitat, “We’re here with a mission to improve global health, so that means more than just LA and New York. It means developing countries around the world. It means the two billion people who today don’t have access to the micronutrients they need to be healthy.” Local Roots is working with the World Food Program (WFP) to deploy and field test a few TerraFarms in 2018 in a developing nation to be determined. These farms will be off-grid, likely equipped with solar power, so they will be self-sustaining; locals will just need to bring in water. Vail told Inhabitat, “We’ll educate and train the community to operate the farms, and they’ll then have ownership so they can feed their community perpetually in a really sustainable way with food that’s healthy, delicious, and local.” Find out more about Local Roots on their website . + Local Roots Images via Lacy Cooke for Inhabitat and courtesy of Local Roots

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Local Roots shipping container farms achieve cost parity with traditional farming

Scientists use banana skins to create new cancer detection technique

December 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green, Recycle

Bananas are quite a magical fruit and they’ve been used for everything from  “vegan leather” for wallets to durable  bioplastics and feedstock . Now, scientists have found yet another purpose for this versatile edible: cancer detection. As first reported by the  Huffington Post , researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) have been using banana skins in a  new study to develop a technique for locating, mapping, and killing cancer in the body. Their work focused on the black spots of an overripe banana, which they discovered to contain the same biomarkers as skin melanoma. In mainstream practice, when a biopsy is conducted, dyes and fluorescent markers (or contrast agents) are used to color any suspicious areas. By comparison, the new electrochemical microscopy instrument uses eight soft micro-electrodes, lined side by side, that are brushed across potentially-cancerous tissue samples to trigger an electrochemical response in the body. The resulting electric currents from the action are then used by researchers to construct an image that will reveal any areas producing abnormal chemicals. As the Huffington Post writes, “It gives an idea of both the physical structure of the tissue and composition.” Related: Research shows the UK tosses out 1.4 million edible bananas – a day According to Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, the researchers found that the typical biomarkers of melanoma in humans can also be found in the black spots of overripe bananas. In a press statement, they note, “Taking advantage of this similarity, they [the researchers] were able to work on the fruit to develop an imaging technique capable of measuring tyrosinase in human skin and mapping out its distribution. An important step forward has also now been made in applying the imaging technique to thick tissues – like a biopsy of human skin – in addition to thin cross-sections of cells.” In the future, the hope is the technique can be used to kill cancer cells during surgery. As Hubert Girault, head of the Laboratory of Physical and Analytical Electrochemistry at EPFLnotes in the study, they are “perfectly capable of using electrochemistry to kill cancer cells on microscope slides and in petri dishes, but doing so in thick tissue is another story.” He sees a device with interconnected microelectrodes capable of generating an image that will reveal any tumors and then electrochemically destroy the cancerous cells found with a burst of voltage.“Around two volts, that’s not much, but it’s enough to generate oxygen radicals and eliminate cancer cells,” says Girault. Via Huffington Post

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Scientists use banana skins to create new cancer detection technique

Trump signs directive to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars

December 12, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump’s administration has made overtures about sending American astronauts back to the Moon . Yesterday, he signed Space Policy Directive 1, calling for a United States-led program with private sector partners to do just that, and then send humans to Mars . Harrison Schmitt, the most recent living human to walk on Earth’s satellite, was present at the signing, which happened 45 years to the minute after he landed on the Moon. Space Policy Directive 1 says the NASA administrator should “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.” The policy halts NASA’s current work to send astronauts to an asteroid . Related: Mike Pence says America will send humans back to the moon Trump said, “The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery. It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972…This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints – we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.” In their statement on the directive, the White House said Trump is refocusing the space program on feasible goals. They also said the country isn’t the accepted leader in human space exploration any longer, but “should be a leader in space.” The White House aims to send astronauts to space aboard American-made rockets in upcoming years, and said American companies will provide rockets and engines to the Pentagon for national security payloads. The policy was inspired by a unanimous recommendation from the National Space Council , which the White House says Trump revived after 24 years. Vice President Mike Pence chairs the council. Via NASA and The White House Images via NASA/Aubrey Gemignani and NASA HQ PHOTO on Flickr

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Trump signs directive to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars

Video of starving polar bear rips your heart out of your chest

December 12, 2017 by  
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Conservationist Paul Nicklen recorded this devastating video of a polar bear struggling to survive in a warming Arctic. With now-viral footage, which Nicklen describes as so wrenching that “it rips your heart out of your chest,” Nicklen hopes to motivate action to save the bears and their polar climate. If that fails, he hopes to at least document this tragic ecological period. “When scientists say bears are going extinct, I want people to realize what it looks like,” said Nicklen in an interview with National Geographic . “This is what a starving bear looks like.” Polar bears require solid sea ice to hunt its most essential prey, seals . If there is no sea ice, the bears have nothing to stand upon as they hunt for the mostly aquatic mammals. Polar bears are adapted for a food-free season of 3 to 4 months, the period during which the sea ice has historically melted in the Arctic. However, as climate change has extended the ice-free period in the Arctic , polar bears have suffered. Although the bears are not currently considered an endangered species, they are threatened and may slip into endangered status if their population continues to decline. Related: “You had to live it to believe it” – hundreds of polar bears rush to feast on one whale carcass Commentators on Nicklen’s video have questioned why he did not step in to help the starving bear, who spends much of the video desperately searching for something to eat. “Of course, that crossed my mind,” said Nicklen, according to the New York Times . “But it’s not like I walk around with a tranquilizer gun or 400 pounds of seal meat.” Feeding wildlife is also illegal in Canada, where the footage was taken. To effectively save the polar bears, rapid action must be taken to address climate change by shifting to a clean energy economy. Still, even as polar bears suffer an existential threat from melting sea ice, life seems to be finding a way; there are reports of polar-grizzly bear hybrids that have emerged as the two species increasingly share territory. Via New York Times and National Geographic Images via SeaLegacy

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Video of starving polar bear rips your heart out of your chest

This result is of cosmic significance, says scientist of new form of matter

December 11, 2017 by  
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Physicists at the University of Illinois have announced they have discovered a new form of matter known as excitonium. Although theorized more than half a century ago, excitonium was only recently confirmed in experiments by the research team, which also included scientists from University of California at Berkeley, and University of Amsterdam. Excitonium is composed of a type of boson, a composite particle whose unique qualities enable the new form of matter to serve as a superconductor, superfluid, or an insulating electronic crystal. In this regard, it could be used to bolster existing technologies, aid the development of new ones, or help to bring clarity to some of the most vexing mysteries of quantum mechanics. Excitonium is composed of excitons, a combination of electrons and the empty “holes” left by empty electron states. When in an excited state, electrons on the edge of an energy level in an atom can jump to a different energy level , leaving a “hole” behind. This hole then acts with a positive force, trying to pull the negatively charged electron back to its original space. While scientists had envisioned such a state of matter , they were only recently able to identify it through a novel technique. Their work was documented in a study published in the journal Science . Related: Scientists locate half of the universe’s missing ordinary matter Although further study is needed, the implications of excitonium’s demonstrated existence is substantial. “This result is of cosmic significance,” said study co-author and University of Illinois Professor Peter Abbamonte in a press release. “Ever since the term ‘excitonium’ was coined in the 1960s by Harvard theoretical physicist Bert Halperin, physicists have sought to demonstrate its existence… Since the 1970s, many experimentalists have published evidence of the existence of excitonium, but their findings weren’t definitive proof and could equally have been explained by a conventional structural phase transition.” Via Futurism Images via  Peter Abbamonte/U. of I. Department of Physics and Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory and  L. Brian Stauffer/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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This result is of cosmic significance, says scientist of new form of matter

Wildfires in California now larger than NYC and Boston combined

December 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

The wildfires raging throughout Southern California are now so fierce and widespread they cover a land area larger than Boston and New York City combined. The Thomas Fire, the largest of the six blazes, covers 230,000 acres, making it the fifth largest wildfire in modern Californian history. Firefighters are struggling to make progress against the inferno, with containment of the Thomas Fire shrinking from 15 percent to 10 percent on Sunday. The fire’s spread has been aided by powerful, dry Santa Ana winds and a lack of rainfall , which are fairly typical of the Southern California coastal region. “Every single year, we have ideal conditions for the types of wildfires we’re experiencing,” ecologist Alexandra Syphard at the Conservation Biology Institute told Wired . “What we don’t have every single year is an ignition during a wind event. And we’ve had several.” Related: The fearless dog who refused to leave his goats during the Santa Rosa wildfire “The problem is not fire,” Syphard added. “The problem is people in the wrong places.” While wildfires were a normal occurrence before the development of Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California, they would typically only occur once or twice a year. Human activity in one of the most populous regions in the United States has increased the rate of wildfires, which has damaged the local ecology. “We’ve lost a lot of our natural heritage [to wildfires],” US Geological Survey research ecologist Jon Keeley told Wired . As the effects of climate change continue to become more pronounced and powerful, these ferocious wildfires may become ordinary occurrences. “With climate change, some scientists are saying that Southern California is literally burning up,” said California Governor Jerry Brown, “so we have to have the resources to combat the fires and we also have to invest in managing the vegetation and forests … in a place that’s getting hotter.” Via CNN and Wired Images via Depositphotos , US Fish and Wildlife Services  and Glenn Beltz/Flickr

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Wildfires in California now larger than NYC and Boston combined

Best Made Co. unveils hat made with synthetic spider silk

December 11, 2017 by  
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Following its release in March of the world’s first commercially available product made from manmade spider silk—a a line of snazzy neckties —California’s Bolt Threads is ready for its encore. Developed with Best Made Co. , an outdoor-lifestyle brand that the technology firm unexpectedly acquired in August, the limited-edition Microsilk Cap of Courage marries Wyoming-milled Rambouillet wool with Bolt Threads’ signature yeast-derived bioengineered silk. Despite the eye-watering price of $198, a limited-edition run of 100 hats sold out in a matter of hours on Thursday. Spider silk is one of Earth’s most valued textiles: It’s five times stronger than steel and thrice as tough as nylon or Kevlar, yet only a fraction of the width of human hair. Because spiders are territorial and cannibalistic, however, farming the fiber in significant quantities has been next to impossible. Related: First spider-silk garment to hit the market is this necktie from Bolt Threads Enter Bolt Threads. Through its proprietary technology, which leverages proteins derived from yeast to replicate spider silk’s famous tensile strength and pliability, the company has been able to “tune” its Microsilk to deliver any combination of softness, strength, and durability. The fibers are even machine-washable, which gives them a leg up on their traditional counterparts. Bolt Threads is going places, too. It recently teamed up with British designer Stella McCartney to create a couple of garments, including a gold dress for the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, Items: Is Fashion Modern? . There’s been the promise of more to come, along with forthcoming collaborations with brands like Patagonia , though details are hush-hush for now. There might even be another hat drop in the future. Keep your eyes—and heads—peeled. + Microsilk Cap of Courage $198 + Best Made Co. + Bolt Threads

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Best Made Co. unveils hat made with synthetic spider silk

Remarkable bacteria survives extremely harsh conditions by eating nothing but air

December 11, 2017 by  
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Scientists have discovered a strange new bacteria in the Antarctic that can survive the planet’s most extreme conditions just by breathing air. The discovery could help us find alien life in space. Scientists found microbes in Antarctica that exist on a diet of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen, in places where other life forms could never survive. But if life can survive in the extreme temperatures, darkness and strong radiation found in Antarctica, it stands to reason that life could survive in similar conditions in space. Related: Scientists warn thawing soil could suddenly unleash deadly pathogens unseen in centuries “The big question has been how the microbes can survive when there is little water, the soils are very low in organic carbon and there is very little capacity to produce energy from the Sun via photosynthesis during the winter darkness,” said Belinda Ferrari, lead researcher of the University of New South Wales team who made the discovery. Via Science Alert Lead image via Desposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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Remarkable bacteria survives extremely harsh conditions by eating nothing but air

VIDEO: Man saves rabbit from raging California fire

December 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Green

Fires continue to ravage Southern California . While the Thomas Fire rages in Ventura County, one man was captured on video rescuing a wild rabbit hopping near Highway 1 in La Conchita. As the animal jumped near the flames, the man followed until he was able to pick it up and carry it away. Local outlet KABC reported a news photographer captured the scene on video on Wednesday. A man pulled over and appeared to be panicking as a wild rabbit hopped near flames. The man managed to catch the animal and held it in his arms as the blaze burned close to the freeway. The man declined an interview, but KABC reported he risked his life to save the rabbit. Related: Out of control wildfires force thousands to flee their homes in Southern California The unnamed man has been hailed as a hero, but some people are questioning whether or not he made the right choice. California Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Peter Tira told SFGate , “Fire is something animals have to deal with constantly. If you encounter a wild animal in your neighborhood, leave it alone. Fire or no fire, just let the animals be.” Small animals are generally good at handling fires, according to Live Science . A rabbit that hasn’t fled a blaze might have a good reason for being there – like saving its young, according to researcher E.V. Komarek, who once observed a cotton rat run to the edge of the flames of a controlled burn to herd juveniles away. It doesn’t appear there are similar direct reports of rabbits behaving similarly, but researchers have noted cottontail rabbits are good at surviving wildfires with their young. Desert cottontail rabbits are common in Southern California, although we don’t know the species of the rabbit in the video. We also don’t know for sure why the rabbit was in the area. Live Science staff writer Rafi Letzter suggests “if you see a wild animal moving around near a fire, the best thing you can do is leave the creature to its business.” On Friday President Donald Trump declared an emergency and ordered federal aid following a request from Governor Jerry Brown. Via KABC , Live Science , SFGate , and The Washington Post Images via ABC7 on YouTube

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VIDEO: Man saves rabbit from raging California fire

Paris has a new underground – a massive farm for mushrooms and veggies

December 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

La Caverne is a unique urban farm that grows mushrooms , herbs and greens beneath the streets of Paris. Located in La Chapelle neighborhood in north-central Paris , La Caverne is owned and operated by Cycloponics, a Paris-based indoor farming start-up that has focused on growing sustainable, local food and boosting local economies. “We want to promote a new model of urban agriculture: at the same productive and virtuous,” said Cycloponics in a statement . “We also aim at creating new ways of producing, at restoring the profession of farmer, often poorly understood, at creating local jobs…, and eventually offer to the urban citizens a local and tasty production.” La Caverne, a 37,700-square-foot underground farm, is located in a previously abandoned parking garage below a 300-unit affordable housing complex. The ten-member team works together to maintain hydroponics systems used to grow vegetables, ensure the optimum growth of the farm’s mushroom crop, and sell these products at market. The farm’s oyster, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms are grown on composted manure bricks while the vegetables thrive without soil. The farmers at La Caverne also harvest chicory, a root often used in coffee , which does not need sunlight to grow. The team aims to ultimately produce 54 tons of vegetables and mushrooms per year. Related: Japan’s new mushroom solar farms produce sustainable energy and food La Caverne’s unusual location is a reflection of Cycloponics’ philosophy, which emphasizes reusing and conserving resources. “The idea is to cultivate, within the same space, different species of vegetables that interact in a positive way,” said Cycloponics in a statement. “For instance: the CO2 generated by the mushrooms is used by the microgreens to grow up, the natural materials are composted for our cultivations… Those methods are widely inspired by permaculture !” The company hopes to expand its distribution network through its own fleet electric bicycles and vehicles, for which it is currently in need of funding. As Cycloponics’ grows, it may inspire similar farmers to dig deep, get underground, and grow only the best. Via Business Insider Images via Cycloponics

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Paris has a new underground – a massive farm for mushrooms and veggies

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