Seedstock Digest: A Farm in a Backpack, Software to Empower Sustainable Farmers, Affordable Drip Systems for Smallholders and more!
July 2, 2011 | seedstock
Start your weekend off right and grab a coffee, donut, or maybe some eggs and settle in for a healthy helping of Seedstock. Today’s digest features a farm that fits in a backpack, local food systems software that gives sustainable farmers greater access to the larger food supply chain, an affordable drip irrigation system for smallholder farmers, and a unique 30 acre greenhouse operation that profits from and promotes organic growing.
Standing on a dirt track runway in Southern Sudan watching Dinka Women lug 90kg bags of food aid back to their homes in the middle of nowhere, an idea occurred to Rachel Zedeck, Founder and Managing Director of Kenya-based startup Backpack Farm (BPF): “If these women can carry these huge bags of maize and beans back to their villages, why can’t we package something that they can carry back to their village to help them farm.”
Software that provides local sustainable farmers with the ability to supply their products to larger customers such as food hubs or institutions has the potential to play an outsize role in delivering healthier, sustainably grown food to a wider pool of consumers. One company at the forefront of software development for the local food sector is Philadelphia, PA-based software startup Local Food Systems. The company is developing a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that automates business processes and facilitates transactions between all of the participants in the local food value chain from farmers and food hubs to institutions and food warehousing operations.
Drip irrigation is not new technology, but up until now it has been out of reach for the nearly 600 million small-plot farmers in the developing world. It’s adoption in the coming years by small-plot farmers particularly in India, Africa and China where water scarcity issues continue to grow more acute will play an outsize role in sustaining agriculture and food security. To drive this adoption, Driptech, a for-profit Silicon Valley, CA-based social enterprise startup has developed a high quality, yet low-cost drip irrigation system.
At first, Mark Elzinga, President of Southwest Michigan-based Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses, doesn’t sound like your typical organic farmer. “Why did we go into organics? For the money,” he says right off the bat.
While his attitude toward organic has changed over the years, his conviction that organic farming needs to be profitable to truly become mainstream has not.