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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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City of Atlanta to Host Inaugural ‘Aglanta Conference: Where Growing Opportunity Meets Thriving Community’

December 9, 2016 |

aglanta-conference-atlanta-controlled-environment-agricultureATLANTA – The Aglanta Conference is a gathering to showcase urban and controlled environment agriculture (CEA) innovation in the City of Atlanta. The City of Atlanta has partnered with Blue Planet Consulting to bring together restaurateurs, grocers, architects, entrepreneurs, technologists, business owners, and urban farmers for this premium networking and knowledge sharing opportunity. Our goal is to foster Atlanta’s growth as a central hub in the nation’s $9 billion a year indoor farming industry.

The Aglanta Conference will be an intimate and invaluable environment for participants to engage with a local, national, and international audience. Through workshops, lectures, and networking sessions, the conference will cover issues across the spectrum of urban agriculture business models and technologies, with a particular focus on the emerging field of vertical/indoor farming. We will spotlight local champions already doing incredible work growing food as means of ecological restoration, social cohesion, cultural preservation, economic development, and biopharmaceutical development. Read More

Weekly Stories of Food Systems Innovation from Around the Country

December 8, 2016 |

Arizona Urban Farming Startup Embraces Aquaponics to Increase Access to Healthy Food

BY VANESSA CACERES

Merchant’s Garden operates a 10,000-square-foot greenhouse; that utilizes an aquaponics system to grow lettuce, various other leafy greens, basils, … Read More

‘Insurgent Architecture’ Students Built a Mobile Greenhouse to Overcome Urban Farming Challenges

December 7, 2016 |

It is believed to be a world first: a fully functioning greenhouse on wheels that plugs in much like an RV and that could offer up solutions to some of urban farming’s biggest challenges. The mobile greenhouse prototype, which goes by the name GrOwING GREEN, was born of a collaboration between architecture students at Ball State University and Butler University’s Center for Urban Ecology (CUE). It has already been recognized by the American Institute of Architects with a state award for excellence in architecture.

Timothy Gray, a professor of Architecture at Ball State, whose fourth year students designed and constructed the mobile greenhouse, points out that the mobility aspect opens up a world of possibilities, including the idea of bringing the farm to the people. As stated on their website, the prototype, “lends itself to the shifting and temporal nature of the urban farm.” Read More

Arizona Urban Farming Startup Embraces Aquaponics to Increase Access to Healthy Food

December 6, 2016 |
(From left to right) Chaz Shelton and Bill Shriver, co-founders of Tucson, AZ-based Merchant's Garden, an urban farming enterprise utilizing hydroponics and aquaponics to increase access to healthy food in cities. Photo Courtesy of Merchant's Garden.

(From left to right) Chaz Shelton and Bill Shriver, co-founders of Tucson, AZ-based Merchant’s Garden, an urban farming enterprise utilizing hydroponics and aquaponics to increase access to healthy food in cities. Photo Courtesy of Merchant’s Garden.

Farmers need to be good at a little bit of everything—from growing and marketing to strategic planning. Chaz Shelton of Merchant’s Garden in Tucson, Arizona, approaches farming from a slightly different angle. He earned his MBA at Indiana University-Bloomington and is using that broad business knowledge to manage his hydroponic and aquaponics operation with co-founder Bill Shriver.

Shelton’s interest in farming began more out of an interest in public health. While working with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health in Pennsylvania several years ago, he often saw how poor eating led to adverse health outcomes. He solidified his idea that instead of shipping food from faraway farms into urban environments, he could bring farming into the city.

That led two years ago to the formation of Merchant’s Garden, an urban farming enterprise whose mission, according to the company website, is to “make fresh food accessible and affordable to everyone using the science of aquaponics and hydroponics.” The farm was started with the help of investors and the business accelerator organization Startup Tucson. It launched just as Shelton was finishing up his MBA. Read More

LA Compost Breaks through Concrete Jungle to Connect People with Soil

December 5, 2016 |

For LA Compost, responsible food use and consumption doesn’t end with farm-to-table practices. The Los Angeles-based non-profit organization supports maintaining the total loop within the story of food, which largely includes compost.

“Healthy soil translates into healthy food, and healthy food leads to healthy people. Composting is just as valuable as any of the other processes,” says Michael Martinez, the Executive Director of LA Compost.

In early 2013, Martinez and other founding members started LA Compost as a food waste diversion service, transporting organic waste from four different cities to composting centers by bike. Read More

Sustainable Agriculture Institute Arms Returning Veterans with Tools to Become Farmers of the Future

December 1, 2016 |
colin-and-karen-archipley-of-archis-acres-and-aisa

Colin and Karen Archipley, the co-founders of Archi’s Acres and Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (AISA). Photo Courtesy of Archi’s Acres.

Returning military often find themselves struggling to return to normality after serving overseas. Colin Archipley, co-owner of Archi’s Acres in Escondido, CA knows exactly how they feel. He served three tours of duty during the Iraq War that began in 2003. Between his second and third deployment, Colin, along with his wife Karen, bought an inefficiently run avocado farm. Besides starting their own very successful living basil hydroponics farm on the site, the empathetic couple created a sustainable agriculture training center called Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (AISA) to help ease the transition of service members from military to civilian life. The courses offered at the institute are open to civilians as well as veterans giving everyone a way to serve their local community while building a sustainable business that will support their family.

The AISA learning center is based in Valley Center, California, near San Diego, and offers its students instruction in everything from sustainable agribusiness and farming production methods to business development and planning during a six-week course on founders’ Colin and Karen Archipley’s farmland. Read More

USDA Awards $6.7 Million for Research to Support Healthy Agroecosystems

November 30, 2016 |

post_usdalogoNews Release – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recently announced 18 grants totaling more than $6.7 million for research to discover how components of the agroecosystem from soil, water and sun to plants, animals and people, interact with and affect food production. These awards are made through NIFA’s Bioenergy and Natural Resources Program, Agroecosystem priority area of the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).

“Population growth, along with environmental factors, including the growing threat of climate change, are putting increasing demand on the land, water and other resources that produce our food,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These investments will help us understand how we can farm more effectively and sustainably to feed the growing global population.” Read More

Master Gardener Program Grows Food and Community Across L.A. County

November 29, 2016 |

Since University of California Cooperative Extension established the first Master Gardener Programs in the state in 1981, its army of certified volunteer gardeners, who are today spread across more than 50 counties, have supported programs aimed at educating California residents, especially those living in low-income communities, about growing their own food.

In Los Angeles, one such program that Master Gardener Program volunteers supported was the Common Ground Garden Program, which was established in 1976 with funds from a Congressional appropriations bill to support a national Urban Garden Program. Working in collaboration with the Common Ground Garden Program, the Master Gardener volunteers played a pivotal role in helping to set up several community and school gardens across the county.

After funding from the Urban Garden Program ceased, the Los Angeles County branch of the Master Gardener Program formally took over the task of training community gardeners.  Read More

In Collaboration with Underserved Community an Outsider Helps Establish First Urban Farm in Dallas

November 28, 2016 |

In what some might describe as a midlife crisis and others an epiphany, Daron Babcock, the executive Director of urban farming organization Bonton Farms, quit his all-consuming job in the corporate world and moved to Bonton, an impoverished inner city community in Dallas, Texas. He had already been volunteering there once a week, meeting with a group of men who had been in prison and were struggling to get their lives back on track. But two hours on a Saturday was not enough, so he decided to work full-time with the men.

After moving to Bonton, he noticed that many people were sick and dying at a rapid rate. He also learned that Bonton was a food desert, with the nearest grocery store a three hour return trip on public transportation. Daron recognized a correlation between the lack of access to healthy food and the high rate of cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes – Bonton had a 300 percent higher death rate from diabetes than the county rate.

It was a collaboration between six men, three of whom suffered from diabetes and cancer, that led to a decision to plant a garden. Read More

Twin Cities Coop Unites Diverse Coalition of Farmers in Shared Pursuit of Economic Viability

November 23, 2016 |
Emily Hanson

Emily Hanson, co-founder of Shared Ground Farmers’ Coop, which brings together farmers from diverse backgrounds to help them achieve economic viability and increase the supply of healthy, local food to communities in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Photo Courtesy of Emily Hanson.

Straddling the rural urban divide, Shared Ground Farmers’ Coop in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota seeks to unite minority and immigrant farmers and help them gain access to local food markets, achieve economic viability, and enhance leadership skills all while emphasizing sustainable farming.

“Our coop aims to bring together farmers from diverse backgrounds to work towards a better living and more healthy food for folks in the city,” says Emily Hanson, co-founder of Shared Ground and co-owner of Amery, WI-based Whetstone Farm, a 40 acre property that is primarily in pasture with approximately five acres of vegetables is one of the founding farms of the cooperative. “We strive to help make farm ownership possible, especially for immigrants and others who struggle with land tenure.” Read More