Can you find the urban farm in that photo? It’s right there in the center. Just one of the interesting items that surfaced this week. Sometimes, there’s nothing newsworthy in the world of hydroponic growing, and other times we’re overrun with things worth noting. This is one of those times, that sticking to one thing just won’t float.
1… Urban Farming Midwest Style
If there’s one thing commonly found around the Midwest, it’s silos. Most are not over 200 feet tall, but at a major regional farmer’s cooperative facility, the structures are enormous, and have probably stood there for many years. In urban Springfield, MO there are 21 vacant grain silos on property now owned by Missouri State University. They leased them to a urban farming startup this week, and they may soon become the site of a big urban farm growing hydroponic and aquaponic crops. The footprint may be small, but the buildings have 24,650 square feet of space.
Vertical Innovations will first have to clean out the rotting grain left behind when MFA, a farm coop, moved out, and do some repairs on the aging silos, followed by testing for lead-based paint and other possible toxin issues that must be corrected before turning them into food production towers. It’s an interesting concept, and one no one else has ever considered. If all goes well, they’ll start snatching up out-of-use silo clusters in other cities across the country and duplicate their tower farming model. From amber waves to a cascade of fresh green… think outside the box! Source — Neighborhood Tour
2… Introducing Hydroponic Farming to USDA
Not that the US Department of Agriculture isn’t aware of hydroponics, or that people in lots of places are growing food with this technology on a commercial scale… some of them on conventional farms or transitioning away from it. Still, New Jersey’s AeroFarms latest press release has them presenting hydroponic farming on a commercial scale to the USDA at this year’s conference on February 25th. It’s wonderful that someone will formally introduce the high efficiency and major water savings of soilless food production, and the importance of making that possible year around in any climate to provide us with fresher, locally grown produce. I know I’m pretty tired of smashed, already decaying lettuce from 3,000 miles away being all that’s available in local stores, and commanding a premium price.
AeroFarms grows aeroponically with a patented seed fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. Their new 70,000 square foot facility opens this spring in Newark, New Jersey. And while I was checking on when it was going to be operational, I noticed that there appears to be a problem with their crop health. Maybe it’s just me, but the roots appear unhealthy – definitely not white, like they should be! Still, they’re proud enough of them to put this image on the news wire. Nutrient deficiency? Oxygen issues? Maybe the USDA won’t notice. Source
3… The Affluence Dilemma (Again)
Journalist, Gina Lovett poses an important question in The Guardian, “Is urban farming only for rich hipsters?” It’s reminiscent of the early days of organic farming, and most of the history of CSA programs, and here we are in the era of ‘feeding the world sustainably’ through efficient methods like aquaponics and hydroponics – facing the same old problem. Good food is priced above the means of the masses.
Yes, the equipment and energy used to bring in the indoor harvest is not cheap. However, many of these urban farms have received numerous grants, and their mechanical and operational costs are not so different from conventional farmers. In fact, the cost of production may be way lower when spread over the long term. Tractor and implement purchasing, and maintenance is very expensive, and ongoing for decades. Not to mention the cost of fuel, patented seed, pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers. A single grain combine for harvesting has a base sticker of about half a million dollars in the United States. $500K for ONE FUNCTION! You can build a pretty good sized starter setup for hydroponic farming for that kind of money, and generate several harvests a year too. A combine comes out of the barn a couple weeks out of the year.
Urban farmers worldwide really should take a serious look at whether they are truly helping to make the local people healthier, and more sustainable. If the harvest is not priced within the average or low-income community member’s means, then you are only keeping food injustice alive, not changing the world. Healthy, pesticide-free food should be accessible by everyone, regardless of race, creed, color, age, education level, paycheck size, or location.
The same situation is taking place in Europe, the UK, and the US. More of the soilless urban farms market direct to restaurants and grocers – than they do to consumers. So, there’s a lot of markup between the farm and the plate blocking many from eating well. Read The Article