Rooftop farms in Gaza provide lifeline to the community

August 17, 2017 by  
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Meeting even basic needs in Gaza can be a challenge for the nearly 2 million people that live in the territory’s 141 square miles. Under  Israeli blockade, which prevents vital supplies from reaching Gaza and inhibits international trade, the Palestinians living there rely on resilience and innovation to survive with the resources they have. Squeezed out of arable land, many Gaza residents are farming upwards, on the rooftops of the dense urban Mediterranean territory. Rooftop farming is fairly new in Gaza. Starting in 2010, an urban farming project by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization equipped over 200 female-headed households with fish tanks, equipment, and supplies to build and maintain an aquaponics growing system, in which fish provide both edible protein and fertilizer for vegetables with roots growing into water, without soil. This initial design was adapted by others to suit their available resources and needs. The current model, designed and built by Palestinians, involves recycled plastic and wood being used to create garden beds, which are then planted with seeds from local farmers. Related: Gaza man’s DIY solar desalination machine can produce 2.6 gallons of fresh water every day The growing rooftop farming scene in Gaza is helping to met the needs of a population increasingly threatened by food insecurity. However, a garden is often more than simply the food that it produces. “There are many useful benefits with this project,” said Dr. Ahmad Saleh, an agricultural consultant, former professor, and community organizer who is helping to promote urban farming in Gaza. “Rooftop agriculture enables and empowers people. It allows them to find effective ways to confront environmental problems and helps create a healthier population.” Muhyeddin al-Kahlout, a former school director, sees his gardens as a social gathering spot. “We are experiencing severe power shortages and there is already a scarcity of recreational places,” he said. “Many of my friends liked the idea. Now they are starting to think about doing the same on their rooftops.” Via Sondos Walid / Electronic Intifada Images via  Mohamed Hajjar  and  David Berkowitz/Flickr

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Rooftop farms in Gaza provide lifeline to the community

6 Surprising uses for garlic you probably didnt know about

August 17, 2017 by  
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It’s garlic harvesting season, and those glorious, aromatic bulbs are now adorning farmer’s market stalls just about everywhere. Garlic isn’t just good for flavoring bread and warding off vampires: it has many great uses for your health, as well as around your home and garden. Read on to find out some of its more surprising uses, and develop an even greater love for this fine and fragrant bulb. 1. Ear Infection Remedy The ancient Egyptians used garlic for its many medicinal purposes, as did the Romans and Greeks, and it’s safe to assume that it was used for thousands of years before anyone decided to commit such knowledge to papyrus. Olive oil’s polyphenols are anti-inflammatory, while the allicin in garlic is anti-microbial, as well as anti-viral and anti-fungal properties, so they work well together to treat bacterial as well as viral infections… much like the type that likes to nestle inside damp ear canals. What you’ll need and how to prepare it: The ratio of garlic to olive oil is 1:2, being 1 clove of garlic, minced (organic is preferable), to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. The allicin in garlic stabilizes best in a liquid, but loses its potency quickly: be sure to use this pretty much immediately after being made. Step 1: Heat the oil in a small saucepan on medium-low heat, and once warmed, turn the heat down to the lowest setting and add the minced garlic. Keep this on low heat for 20-30 minutes to draw the garlic’s healing properties into the oil without cooking it. Step 2: Remove from the heat and allow to cool a bit. You should be able to dip a fingertip into it without flinching. Step 3: Strain through cheesecloth or muslin, then use an eyedropper to administer 2-3 drops in the affected ear. Stop up the ear with a cotton ball and ask the sufferer to remain lying down for a few minutes to allow the oil to seep down through the eustachian tube.* Note: Garlic olive oil is also an effective treatment for ear mites in pet cats and dogs. Dip a cotton swab into the oil and apply to the affected ear, wait about 10 minutes, then use a clean swab to clean it away. The mites and eggs will be sloshed out, and remaining oil will help to treat the inflammation caused by their bites. Related: Researchers discover how nature makes powerful antibiotics that defy resistance 2. Topical Treatment for Cold Sores and Acne Those anti-just-about-everything properties mentioned above also work wonders for skin issues like acne breakouts and cold sores. You can just take a raw garlic clove, slice it, and rub the cut side on the affected area a couple of times a day to speed its healing. Another approach is to crush a couple of cloves through a press, and mix the garlic juice with an equal amount of apple cider vinegar. Apply with a cotton ball and allow to dry on the skin. 3. Disinfecting Spray Cleaner Ideal for cleaning countertops in your kitchen or bathroom: fill a spray bottle with plain white vinegar, and add 5 or 6 finely chopped garlic cloves. Let this steep for about an hour, then spray any surfaces you’d like disinfected. Feel free to add a few drops of grapefruit, orange, or lemon essential oil to both boost the cleansing properties and improve the scent overall. 4. Cough Syrup Garlic-infused honey is a startlingly effective cough syrup, especially for those dry, hacking coughs that can keep you up all night. Keeping in mind how quickly allicin’s potency dissipates, make this about 10 minutes before you’re ready to take it as a remedy. What you’ll need and how to make it: 3 or 4 garlic cloves, crushed 1 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional) 1/2 cup honey (raw is preferable) 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice Mix everything together and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain, and take a spoonful of it immediately. Related: DIY throat drops and cough syrup 5. Organic Pesticide for House and Garden Plants This wonderful allium’s anti-fungal and pesticidal properties means that it can work wonders as a wide-spectrum treatment for all kinds of plant-related issues. What you’ll need and how to make it: 1 large garlic bulb: remove the skins from all its cloves 2 liters of water 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap Step 1: Crush the garlic cloves well with a garlic press, and mix with the water. Let this steep for 8 to 12 hours. Step 2: Strain well, and then add the castile soap, like Dr. Bronner’s unscented. Step 3: Pour into a spray bottle, and spray your affected plants. This should help to eliminate aphids, borers, caterpillars, white flies, and slugs, and deter them from returning. Repeat every couple of weeks as needed. 6. Glass Repair This only works if you have a tiny, thin crack in glass. Have you ever noticed how sticky garlic is? Well, it’s a natural adhesive! If you drop your iPad and it develops a thin crack, slice a piece of raw garlic and rub it into the break. It’s sticky enough that it’ll keep the broken sides together, at least until you can get the glass replaced properly. *As with any other home remedy, this is not guaranteed to cure advanced infections, and can possibly cause more damage if the eardrum is ruptured. If the infection seems serious, or if the sufferer is in a significant amount of pain, consult a healthcare professional. Images via Unsplash and Wikimedia Creative Commons

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Inspiring urban farm teaches kids how to grow their own organic food

August 14, 2017 by  
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A tree may grow in Brooklyn, but an amazing urban farm flourishes on Governors Island . An inspiring GrowNYC initiative is teaching inner city kids how to plant, water, harvest, and cook pesticide-free fruits, herbs, and vegetables. Located on Governors Island just a quick ferry ride from lower Manhattan, the Teaching Garden is a 21,000-square-foot urban farm that offers free educational field trips to NYC students—many of whom have never seen how food is grown. Now in its fourth season, the half-acre Governors Island Teaching Garden comprises raised planters, a fruit orchard, an outdoor kitchen with a large solar oven , high-tunnel greenhouse, and even an aquaponics system housed inside a converted shipping container . The Teaching Garden currently has 69 individual planting beds built from recycled plastic lumber with over 40 plant varieties during the summer season. Although the urban farm isn’t certified organic, all the fruits, herbs, and vegetables are grown with all-natural and pesticide-free practices. Earth Matter NY supplies the compost. “There are students here every day of the week so we want to encourage students to be able to eat straight from the plant so we don’t want to put anything harmful in the plants,” said GrowNYC to Inhabitat during a farm tour. “But we do have natural pest management such as introducing ladybugs to eat the unwanted insects.” Related: Project Farmhouse community space with wall of edible plants coming to Union Square The majority of students who visit are from immigrant families, such as the group of fourth graders from PS 503 present on the day we visited. The educational journey begins with an introduction about the fruits and vegetables the participants harvest as well as a lesson on their nutritional value. The group is then led to the different planting beds and orchard to pick ingredients, followed by a trip to the outdoor kitchen for a lesson on cooking what they harvested for a true farm-to-fork experience. The students also plant seeds for future harvests and learn about sustainable initiatives ranging from renewable energy to recycling and composting. “We feel that young people in the city don’t have the same opportunities to experience the natural world,” said GrowNYC. “So we want to provide that for them and hope that when they leave they feel a connection and feel more comfortable with eating healthy fruits and vegetables, or even in cooking. Almost all the food we grow here the students eat. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t have to bring more food onto the island so we made an expansion to grow more food to reach self-sufficiency . Now we only bring on olive oil and spices. Expansion also lets us to bring more students out here and slightly larger classes. It also shows students what a small scale farm would look like.” In addition to expansion, the Teaching Garden is in the process of building a solar-powered aquaponics system designed by Harbor School students and housed inside a shipping container. The nitrate-rich water taken from the tilapia holding tanks will be pumped up to the roof where it’ll be used to irrigate vegetables. Other sustainably minded projects are being built with the help of corporate volunteers. CSR programs help subsidize most of the costs of the Teaching Garden to keep the educational program free for students. In addition to school visits, the urban farm is open to the public on weekends during Governors Island’s open season that runs until mid-autumn. + Governors Island Teaching Garden Images © Lucy Wang

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Sustainable solar housing with urban farming to take root in Eindhoven

July 14, 2017 by  
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A sustainable green design is taking root in the Dutch city of Eindhoven. The city just selected MVRDV and SDK Vastgoed (VolkerWessels) as the winners for the redevelopment competition of the inner city area around Deken van Someren Street. The project, called Nieuw Bergen, comprises high-quality and sustainable residences topped with green roofs and powered by solar. Billed as a contemporary and hyper-modern development, Nieuw Bergen will add 29,000 square meters of new development to Eindhoven city center. The project’s seven buildings will comprise 240 new homes, 1,700 square meters of commercial space, 270 square meters of urban farming, and underground parking. The sharply angled and turf-covered roofs give the buildings their jagged and eye-catching silhouettes that are both modern in appearance and reference traditional pitched roofs. The 45-degree pitches optimize indoor access to natural light . “Natural light plays a central role in Nieuw Bergen, as volumes follow a strict height limit and a design guideline that allows for the maximum amount of natural sunlight, views, intimacy and reduced visibility from street levels,” says Jacob van Rijs, co-founder of MVRDV. “ Pocket parks also ensure a pleasant distribution of greenery throughout the neighborhood and create an intimate atmosphere for all.” Related: The Sax: MVRDV unveils plans for a ‘vertical city’ in Rotterdam Each of Nieuw Bergen’s structures is different but collectively form a family of buildings that complement the existing urban fabric. Gardens and greenhouses with lamella roof structures top several buildings. A natural materials palette consisting of stone, wood, and concrete softens the green-roofed development. + MVRDV

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BIG hides an invisible museum beneath Denmarks sand dunes

July 14, 2017 by  
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Don’t be fooled by these gentle sand dunes—hidden in the landscape is an “invisible museum.” Bjarke Ingels Group designed TIRPITZ, a recently opened museum embedded into Denmark’s protected Blåvand shorelines, also a historic war site. The TIRPITZ museum offers a unique experience within a building that skillfully camouflages into the dunes, providing a sharp contrast to its neighbor, a monolithic German WWII bunker . Developed by Varde Museums , TIRPITZ is a cultural complex comprising four exhibitions inside a renovated and expanded wartime bunker. The 2,800-square-meter “invisible museum” is mostly buried underground and looks nearly imperceptible from above until visitors draw close to the heavy bunker and see the walls cut into the dunes from all sides. An outdoor courtyard provides access to the four underground galleries—illuminated with a surprising abundance of natural light let in by 6-meter-tall glass panels—that connect to the historic bunker. “The architecture of the TIRPITZ is the antithesis to the WWII bunker,” said Bjarke Ingels , Founding Partner at BIG. “The heavy hermetic object is countered by the inviting lightness and openness of the new museum. The galleries are integrated into the dunes like an open oasis in the sand – a sharp contrast to the Nazi fortress’ concrete monolith. The surrounding heath-lined pathways cut into the dunes from all sides descending to meet in a central clearing, bringing daylight and air into the heart of the complex. The bunker remains the only landmark of a not so distant dark heritage that upon close inspection marks the entrance to a new cultural meeting place.” Related: Century-old WWI bunker is reborn as a contemporary alpine shelter Dutch agency Tinker Imagineers designed the exhibitions to showcase permanent and temporary themed experiences that adhere to a storyline, from the Hitler-related ‘Army of Concrete’ to the exhibition of amber in ‘Gold of the West Coast.’ The building is built mainly of concrete, steel, glass, and wood—all materials found in the existing structures and natural landscape. The groundbreaking museum is expected to attract around 100,000 visitors annually. + BIG Images by Mike Bink Photography, Laurian Ghinitoiu,  John Seymour, Rasmus Hjortshoj, Colin John Seymour, Rasmus Bendix

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BIG hides an invisible museum beneath Denmarks sand dunes

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

Chic, minimalist hydroponic garden makes growing your own veggies a snap

July 6, 2017 by  
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Hydroponic systems let you grow fresh produce indoors, but they can be a pain to set up. Fortunately, Seedo just unveiled a modern hydroponic garden that takes all the fuss out of harvesting your own fruits and vegetables. The device looks like a typical mini fridge, but don’t let its simple exterior fool you – the Seedo is an amazingly high-tech system that can help just about anyone grow the urban garden of their dreams. Especially useful for those who aren’t blessed with a green thumb, Seedo’s high tech system comes with a number of features that make urban gardening possible in just about any environment. The system comes with a sterile hermetic ecosystem that keeps insects away and built-in cartridges that automatically release CO2 during the photosynthesis phase. To create a healthy growing environment on the inside, a full spectrum LED system controls the lighting and an automated temperature control function keeps the interior temp and humidity at precise levels. Related: Start an Organic Garden Anywhere Using Fizzy Farms Compact Hydroponic Grower The Seedo is a great option for almost any type of plant profile , from veggies and herbs to flowers and medicinal plants. In order to monitor the system from the comforts of your own home or while on the road, the Seedo system also comes with its own app and an internal HD camera in order to closely monitor your garden. + Seedo Lab Via Geeky Gadgets Save

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Chic, minimalist hydroponic garden makes growing your own veggies a snap

This amazing farm in a box can pop up on any city street

June 26, 2017 by  
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It’s sometimes difficult to find fresh, local produce in urban environments. To solve this problem, Finnish enterprise Exsilio Oy has developed the EkoFARMER – an urban farm in a box. With a little bit of water and electricity, the EkoFARMER can sprout a flourishing veggie farm on any city block. Over the past decade, urban farming and community gardening have grown in popularity, with small gardens sprouting on top of skyscrapers – but they can be complicated and require elaborate supplies. EkoFarmer is a 13-meter long farming module that can be installed where there is a water and electrical supply. Containing ecological soil developed by Kekkilä, EkoFARMER was designed to produce optimal yields and be used for both commercial and scientific purposes. Related: Incredible rooftop farm takes over Israel’s oldest mall to grow thousands of organic vegetables Exsilio is currently on the lookout for co-creation partners that are interested in developing their own farming modules based on their own requirements. Restaurants and institutional kitchens can benefit from EkoFARMER, which can also function as an excellent complementary solution for farmers to expand their traditional greenhouses . Related: Boston’s Higher Ground Farm Will be the Second-Biggest Rooftop Farm in the World “EkoFARMER is an excellent option for business fields in need of salads, herbs, (edible) flowers or medicinal plants, for example. The social aspect of urban farming is also prominent. For this reason, our solution is suitable for associations wanting to earn some extra income, or societies wanting to offer meaningful activities for the unemployed, for example. This is an opportunity to create new micro-enterprises”, said Tapio. + Exsilio Oy

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This amazing farm in a box can pop up on any city street

German community bands together to convert old WWII bunker into a ‘green mountain’

May 29, 2017 by  
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Hamburg residents are taking their community’s urban design into their own hands – and the results are amazing. A team of local residents and architects are planning to convert a WWII bunker into Hilldegarden , a mixed-use community space topped with a rooftop garden covered in lush greenery. The massive bunker was originally used to launch anti-aircraft fire at enemy planes, but has since been occupied by a number of businesses. The space has been home to a popular nightclub, a music school, retail spaces, offices, etc. The new project would see the space continue its mixed-use atmosphere, but topped with a massive public rooftop garden with walking trails. Related: Century-old WWI bunker is reborn as a contemporary alpine shelter Working with a number of local design studios, the community has created a proposal that would extend the bunker by almost 200 feet to add space for more facilities such as a kindergarten, community center, and even a hotel. A building permit was recently issued that approved the proposed additional space. However, the most spectacular part of the proposal is the massive, terraced roof top. The greenery would be staggered into a winding walkway that leads up to the roof, creating an artificial hill that would provide a beautiful 360-degree view of Hamburg. The green space would be open to the public, inviting people to stroll around the “green mountain.” The garden would use a number of sustainable techniques to operate, including a grey water-collection system for irrigation. Part of the public garden will be dedicated to urban food production where residents can apply to run their own garden plots. According to the organizers behind the project, “The Hilldegarden will offer a view to all. For a new, more symbiotic city. Housing plants, trees, bees, birds. Symbolizing reunion, learning and collaboration. And a bit of plain hedonistic pleasure. Funded by investors. Made for everyone.” + Hilldegarden Via Archdaily Images via Hilldegarden

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German community bands together to convert old WWII bunker into a ‘green mountain’

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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