The ugly truth about the imperfect food movement

September 11, 2018 by  
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The imperfect food movement continues to rise in popularity as companies, like Imperfect Produce in Silicon Valley, capitalize on a growing trend to fight food waste around the country. Imperfect Produce and similar companies offer boxes of ugly and misshapen produce to customers, saving a lot of food that would otherwise be discarded. While the movement is cutting down on food waste , small farmers are worried that it might have a negative affect on their livelihoods. Origins of the imperfect food movement Startups like Imperfect Produce are not the first to sell discarded produce at a discount. Farmers around the country have been doing it for years with the support of local communities. Many farmers engage in community supported agriculture ( CSA ), selling boxes of imperfect produce on a subscription basis and providing fresh food that is locally sourced. Although trends like the imperfect food movement are on the rise, small farmers have seen a decline in their sales as larger companies and grocery stores branch out into the organic marketplace. It is estimated that small farms throughout the country have seen a 20 percent dip year over year in CSA sales ever since the imperfect food movement took off in 2014. Related: New study finds food waste will increase to 66 tons per second if left unchecked An imperfect food movement on the rise Selling ugly and misshapen produce has really taken off over the past three years, and the movement is still going strong. Imperfect Produce sells produce in a growing number of cities across America. This past summer, Imperfect Produce started another round of financing that generated upward of $30 million, a clear sign that investors are interested in the growing movement. But as companies like Imperfect Produce benefit from the imperfect food movement, small farmers are struggling to keep up. The decline in sales has even forced some smaller farmers to shut down and seek work elsewhere. How are small farmers affected? The main problem with the imperfect food movement, at least as it relates to small farms , is that the market has become too large for these farmers to compete. Imperfect Produce is doing its best to help small farms by sourcing produce from farms across the Midwest — the company currently works with 25 small farms throughout the area — but the demand is higher than what these farmers can meet. To help fill the gaps, Imperfect Produce has turned to larger farms, which supply all of the demand and do so at a cheaper price. In fact, the majority of the produce the company sells actually comes from Mexico and California , especially when winter hits the Midwest. For all of the farmers who are not associated with the company, competing with them at that scale is nearly impossible. Related: Walmart introduces line of “ugly” fruit to combat food waste The ugly side of the imperfect food movement Small farmers are not the only ones hurt by the imperfect food movement. With most of the produce coming from California and Mexico , customers outside of these regions aren’t always getting local or seasonal foods — instead, more emissions are emitted as these companies try to get enough food to customers. Critics also point out that companies like Imperfect Produce are making money from food that would normally be donated to non-profit organizations, like local food banks. This in turn hurts local communities and low-income families who have used these resources for decades. That said, Imperfect Produce has made an effort to help out food banks in cities where it operates. In Chicago , for example, the company has gifted more than 130,000 pounds of produce to the city’s food bank, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which gives this food to homeless shelters and food outlets. Benefits of the imperfect food movement The impact on small farms aside, the imperfect food movement is cutting down on overall food waste, which is a big issue in this country. As the movement rises in popularity, more and more produce will be rescued from the trash heap, a benefit that should not be overlooked. The imperfect food movement also teaches consumers — and farmers — that produce can look imperfect but still taste amazing and have nutritional value . It can also open the door for people to look into other programs, like CSA, that offer imperfect produce at a discount. Should you support the imperfect food movement or small farmers? The imperfect food movement has created a difficult problem for small farmers throughout the country, an issue that will likely worsen in the coming years. For consumers, picking between supporting local farmers or the imperfect food movement is a tough decision. On one hand, buying imperfect produce helps cut down on food waste. On the other hand, buying that produce from larger companies hurts small farmers who cannot compete with the growing demand. As the movement continues to grow, we can only hope that companies like Imperfect Produce will partner with more small farms. After all, helping small farms not only keeps their doors open, but it also boosts local economies and provides fresh food with a smaller environmental impact. Images via Alexandr Podvalny , Gemma Evans , Rebecca Georgia , Sydney Rae , Anda Ambrosini , Caleb Stokes and Shumilov Ludmila

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The ugly truth about the imperfect food movement

Trends in agriculture show organics on top

April 30, 2018 by  
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‘Organic doesn’t mean what it used to — it’s not just an “alternative” system to conventional agriculture anymore.

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Trends in agriculture show organics on top

Scientists harvest the first ever Antarctic vegetables

April 5, 2018 by  
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Fresh, local produce might have seemed like an impossibility in Antarctica — until now. The experimental greenhouse EDEN-ISS at Alfred Wegener Institute ‘s Neumayer-Station III recently harvested their first crops: 18 cucumbers, 70 radishes, and nearly eight pounds of lettuce. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) described this achievement as the “first harvested Antarctic salad.” The EDEN-ISS indoor farm serves two purposes: first, to provide fresh produce for the Neumayer-Station III’s wintering crew. Second, to act as a test run for growing food in harsh climates, not just on Earth, but for missions to the Moon and Mars in the future. Scientists planted the seeds in the middle of February, and the first harvest was a success. Related: Arctic town grows fresh produce in shipping container vertical garden There’s no soil necessary in this indoor garden , where scientists grow plants with a closed water cycle and optimized light. DLR engineer Paul Zabel, one of the few people on Earth who can now add ‘Antarctic gardener’ to their resume, said they had to overcome some unexpected issues like minor system failures and the “strongest storm for more than a year,” but he was able to solve the problems and harvested the first crops. EDEN-ISS is around 1,312 feet away from Neumayer-Station III, and DLR said Zabel spends around three to four hours a day in the greenhouse . He’s also able to communicate with a DLR Institute for Space Systems control center, located in Bremen, which can remotely monitor plant growth — and can monitor it entirely on stormy days when Zabel can’t make it to the farm. DRL said this “bridging is possible for up to three days.” Scientists wintering at the station had used up their vegetables from their last delivery near February’s end, so they welcomed fresh produce from EDEN-ISS. Station manager Bernhard Gropp said in DLR’s statement, “It was special to have the first fresh salad of the Antarctic…it tasted as if we had harvested it fresh in the garden.” + EDEN-ISS + German Aerospace Center Images via DLR and DLR German Aerospace Center on Flickr ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 )

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Scientists harvest the first ever Antarctic vegetables

"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

Green walls are great, but they need to work efficiently

March 1, 2018 by  
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You may have heard about green walls or even seen a few. Also called living walls , live walls, eco-walls and vertical gardens , these structures are essentially walls covered in vertically grown plants, and they can appear either inside or outside. The idea has been around for a while, and it’s really caught on lately due to their environmental and health benefits, as well as appealing aesthetics. But not all green walls are made equal. Read on to learn how a green wall should be designed in order to be useful and friendly to the environment. How Do They Work? There are several types of green walls. Some might consider regular walls covered in ivy as a green wall, while others would limit the definition to walls specifically designed to hold vegetation. The latter type can be constructed in various ways . They might consist of panels with pre-planted vegetation, or replaceable trays that fit into slots in the wall, enabling easy removal if necessary. Vertical gardens also vary in terms of how they function. The simpler models require hand watering, while others have self-watering pipe systems. Many green walls rely on hydroponic systems that use drip irrigation. Based on the desired aesthetics and effects, you might choose different types of plants. You can include many varieties of plants, including groundcover, ferns, shrubs, flowers and more. Benefits Green walls have become popular in urban areas where people want to make their space greener but don’t have a lot of room to do so. Vertical gardens ensure the benefits of green space without taking up too much space. They also improve air quality, which is advantageous for people as well as animals and the overall environment. Plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen. They also filter out various contaminants, creating cleaner air, and can remove up 87 percent of airborne toxins inside a home within just 24 hours. This helps people breathe easier, especially indoors where air quality is notoriously bad. Ecowalls can reduce the urban heat-island effect and improve thermal insulation, reducing a building’s energy costs. They can also absorb noise and provide mental health benefits. Research has shown that having plants around can reduce stress and increase productivity by up to 15 percent. Challenges Critics have identified several potential issues with green walls. If the designer doesn’t adequately plan for their project, they say, the costs might outweigh the benefits. Maintaining a green wall requires more work and resources than a regular wall, especially if it doesn’t have a self-watering system. You’ll have to manually water the plants, and even with a self-watering system, the plants will need care at some point. Green walls typically require large amounts of water, which can be unsustainable if supplies are low and the wall isn’t equipped with water recycling equipment. Operating a living wall also requires energy. Producing this energy can have a negative impact on the environment if derived from fossil fuels. How to Make a Green Wall More Efficient A green wall’s efficacy depends on how it’s constructed, operated and maintained. Drip irrigation systems appear in walls that use panels and hydroponic systems, while walls with replaceable trays use tank systems. Drip irrigation tubing is typically about 85 percent more efficient than tank systems. They connect to the building’s plumbing system, while tray systems require manual watering. Drip irrigation systems can also automatically recycle water. You could use recycled water in a tank system from an air conditioning system or another source, but you’d have to do so manually. Because tray systems require more water and use soil, they can attract bugs and form mold, fungus and even introduce pathogens. Due to this possibility, they don’t comply with strict health, safety and hygiene codes in places such as healthcare facilities. These buildings would need to use a hydroponic system. For these reasons, the soil in tray systems must be replaced about every month, which can be costly. Panel systems don’t require this and therefore don’t need as much maintenance. Another factor that can impact a green wall’s efficiency is the type of vegetation with which it is populated. Drought-resistant and local plants need less water than other types of vegetation, so they’re more water-efficient. Plants also, of course, require sunlight. Placing a living wall in an area with a lot of natural light will reduce the amount of artificial light needed and, therefore, the amount of energy it requires. The Importance of Truly Green Green Walls For a green wall to be truly beneficial, you need to use an efficient watering system, put it in the proper place (with ample natural light), and plant vegetation that’s easy to maintain and requires minimal irrigation. Anyone interested to install a green wall, as well as the architects and engineers in charge of designing them, ought to consider the efficiency of the system in addition to their benefits and aesthetics. Photos via Depositphotos , Scott Webb on Unsplash , Mike.dixon.design  via Wikimedia Commons , Kaldari via Wikimedia Commons , AlejandroOrmad via Wikimedia Commons , and Terry Robinson via Wikimedia Commons

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Green walls are great, but they need to work efficiently

Startup fights food waste with travel companions for fruits and veggies

November 22, 2017 by  
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Hazel Technologies borrows from nature’s chemistry to tackle supply chain spoilage.

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Startup fights food waste with travel companions for fruits and veggies

Should hydroponic veggies be labeled organic?

November 20, 2017 by  
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Does produce grown hydroponically deserve the organic label? Some organic farmers don’t think so, and they gathered at a National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting where the board voted on a ban on hydroponic practices in organic farming, reports NPR . Hydroponic farmers fought back, saying they can produce food with less water . Organic farmers turned out at the NOSB meeting in Jacksonville, Florida in an attempt to have the organic label removed from hydroponic vegetables . Vermont farmer Dave Chapman of Long Wind Farm , who’s the National Organic Coalition executive director, said the founding principles of organic farming center around “ soil health, regenerating the soil” as opposed to simply providing plants with nutrients. Related: 40-foot shipping container farm can grow 5 acres of food with 97% less water Hydroponic farmers disagree. Wholesum Harvest marketing manager Jessie Gunn told NPR, “We can grow our tomatoes organically with three to five gallons of water, per pound of production, as opposed to growing tomatoes in open fields, which can use anywhere from 26 to 37 gallons of water.” Cultivating crops in fields “uses more water, more land, destroys more natural habitat. I mean, what is the true essence of organic?” Hydroponic vegetables are taking over a growing share of sales to grocery stores . Chapman said already, most organic tomatoes you’d find in a supermarket today never touched soil. He said soon virtually all organic tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, and most berries and lettuce, will be grown hydroponically, which he considers tragic. Other people, such as members of the Recirculating Farms Coalition , consider hydroponic farming to be sustainable, a sensible choice “especially for a planet with a changing climate , and assorted challenges in reducing use of water, energy , and space.” The 15-person NOSB, a federal advisory board for the United States Department of Agriculture, voted against the ban, eight to seven. Via NPR Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Should hydroponic veggies be labeled organic?

This simple gadget could extend the life of your produce up to 3 times as long

February 23, 2015 by  
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We’ve all done it – you purchase a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies, only to lose track of the time and find them languishing in the back of the crisper, covered in a layer of fuzz. This one simple gadget could change that by extending the life of your produce. Environmentally friendly , safe and kind of adorable, the Green Heart is so simple, it’s genius. It’s filled with potassium, which absorbs all of the gasses that cause your produce to rot, extending the life and nutrition of your food. The Green Hearts is on Kickstarter right now, and early adopters can get 2 hearts with a six month supply for $9, which practically pays for itself in saved fruit alone in no time. + Green Hearts at Kickstarter 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! Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: extend the life of produce , extending the life of fruit , fruit rot , Green Hearts , Green Hearts Kickstarter , keeping food fresh , kickstarter campaigns , preventing mold , preventing rot , produce rot , reader submission , The Green Hearts , veggie rot

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This simple gadget could extend the life of your produce up to 3 times as long

This solar-powered device keeps fruits and veggies fresh without a fridge

January 2, 2015 by  
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If you’re in the produce business , getting your goods to the market while they’re still fresh is imperative. In some countries where the climate is fairly warm, that can be a daunting, if not almost impossible task, but the Wakati might be an ideal solution. Using a 3W solar panel and a top-loading tent, the device uses a solar-powered ventilator to create a humid environment. A week’s worth of water held within the device is then turned into produce-saving humidity: for most fruits and vegetables , keeping them wet is the essential key to their longevity. Read the rest of This solar-powered device keeps fruits and veggies fresh without a fridge Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “solar energy” , alternative energy , alternative power , farming , fruits , fruits and vegetables , Gardening , humidity , humidity condensor , market , off grid business , off grid farming , off-grid power , Produce , produce life , refrigeration , solar panel , Solar Power , vegetables

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This solar-powered device keeps fruits and veggies fresh without a fridge

Four generations live under an energy-efficient and bioclimatic roof in France

January 2, 2015 by  
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Read the rest of Four generations live under an energy-efficient and bioclimatic roof in France Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: 2 in 1: Intergenerational House , Bioclimatic Architecture , bioclimatic design , cross laminated timber , energy efficient architecture , france , french architecture , geothermal energy , south-facing rooms , TICA Architecture , Vaux-sur-Mer

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Four generations live under an energy-efficient and bioclimatic roof in France

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