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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Posts By Abbie Stutzer

Public and Private Groups Foster Thriving San Francisco Urban Ag Movement

April 22, 2014 |
Heart of the city farmers’ market. Photo by Sergio Ruiz

Heart of the city farmers’ market.
Photo by Sergio Ruiz

It’s no surprise that San Francisco has a strong urban farming community—and it’s one borne of the efforts of local government working closely with community groups.

San Francisco has implemented supportive city plans, policies, and codes that help facilitate urban agriculture within the city, according to Eli Zigas, Food Systems and Urban Agriculture program manager at SPUR. SPUR, a non-profit organization, promotes good planning and government in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Tech Firm Builds App to Help Busy People Succesfuly Grow Organic Food

April 18, 2014 |
Smart Garden Layout Image courtesy of  Smart Living Studios, Inc.

Smart Garden Layout
Image courtesy of
Smart Living Studios, Inc.

Smart Living Studios, Inc. was co-founded by Kristee Rosendahl, chief product officer, and Carl Alguire, CEO, in 2012. This was the same year the company introduced its first product, Smart Gardener, a free online application that’s designed to help people plan, grow and harvest their own organic food.

Since the company’s inception, private individuals who care about the future of the food system have funded the business.

“They learned about us through word of mouth, presentations or press about what we were doing and then reached out to us,” says Rosendahl.

Smart Gardener keeps gardening simple and makes recommendations for the right plants, where to plant them, how many to plant, and then sends a list of what to do that week. Tasks can include planting, mulching, feeding, thinning, watering, and more. The planner keeps records, too. Read More

North Carolina Firm Expands Efforts to Replace the Can With Healthier, Greener Carton Packaging

April 15, 2014 |
Image courtesy of Wright Foods/Aseptia

Image courtesy of Wright Foods/Aseptia

In early March, 2014, Raleigh-based food processing technology company Aseptia secured $28 million in Series C-Preferred Stock financing to support the growth of Wright Foods Inc., the manufacturing subsidiary of Aseptia. Lookout Capital, SJF Ventures, Prudential, and F.B. Heron Foundation provided the financing.

As a leading aseptic food manufacturer, Aseptia has developed an aseptic, sustainable, shelf-stable carton that can maintain a higher-quality food product, according to Michael Drozd, president and CEO of Wright Foods. The packaging can be found in most every grocery store. Read More

Milwaukee Leads Nation in Urban Agriculture Development

April 7, 2014 |

Milwaukee Public Market. Photo source: Wikipedia

The City of Milwaukee is rife with urban farming organizations, like the venerable Growing Power, non-profit groups like Walnut Way and for-profit organizations like Sweet Water Organics and Central Greens. All of these groups have have helped shape Milwaukee into a national leader in the local food and urban agriculture movement.

According to an Urban Agriculture Code Audit  recently conducted for Milwaukee by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Milwaukee’s urban agriculture scene has grown to a point where there is now an immediate need for expanded processing centers.

The audit also found that while the city’s Building and Zoning Code provides a good foundation for facilitating urban agriculture, the code should be updated to allow for beekeeping aquaculture, and chicken keeping, and should be further developed to create standards for and accessory structures and uses like food processing and composting. Read More

From ‘Music City’ to ‘Food City’: Nashville Grows Urban Farming Community

March 20, 2014 |
Urban Green Labs strives to encourage sustainability through local food cultivation. Photo courtesy of Urban Green Labs.

Urban Green Labs strives to encourage sustainability through local food cultivation. Photo courtesy of Urban Green Labs.

Nashville’s urban agriculture scene continues to grow.

in 2009, Nashville’s zoning ordinance was amended to allow both commercial and noncommercial community gardens as a permitted use or special exception use in certain residential districts.

And in early 2014, the Metropolitan Council, which governs the city of Nashville and Davidson County, approved an ordinance to expand the ability of county residents to keep backyard hens. The measure removed a previously attached sunset provision and expanded the legislation to be effective countywide and to include all districts.

“The 630,000 residents of Metro Nashville now have the opportunity to keep hens and enjoy fresh, local eggs,” says Jennifer Tlumak, executive director of Urban Green Lab,  a Nashville nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and well being of the city through sustainability.   Read More

New York Nonprofit Builds On-site Greenhouses in City Schools

March 3, 2014 |
An inside shot of one of the Greenhouse Initiative Projects. Credit: Ari Burling

An inside shot of one of the Greenhouse Initiative Projects.
Credit: Ari Burling

NY Sun Works, a non-profit organization that builds innovative science labs in urban schools, partnered with a small group of parents at PS 333, The Manhattan School for Children, to found The Greenhouse Project Initiative in 2008.

“Through our Greenhouse Project Initiative, we use hydroponic farming technology to educate and teachers about the science of sustainability,” says Manuela Zamora, NY Sun Works director and director of education programs.

The Greenhouse Project was founded because parents and educators within New York City’s K-8 public school system were concerned about what they perceived to be shortcomings in the systems’ environmental science program. Read More

Pennsylvania Farming Startup Grows Business by Trial and Error

February 28, 2014 |
Landon Jefferies catches a break in the shade at Root Mass Farm. Photo credit: Albert Yee

Landon catches a break in the shade. Photo credit: Albert Yee

Landon Jefferies knew he wanted to pursue farming as a career, but the options in the city were limited.

So after spending a year working farmers’ markets for The Food Trust, a Philadelphia organization that works to ensure access to affordable, nutritious food and information, and three seasons as the manager of Wyck Home Farm, a Philadelphia historic home, garden and farm, he and partner Lindsey Shapiro set about launching Root Mass Farm in rural Berks County, Pennsylvania in the summer of 2011.

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Montreal Hydroponic Farm Raises Rooftops With Produce

February 19, 2014 |
Lufa Farms’ second greenhouse is in Laval, Quebec, which opened August 2013. The greenhouse houses tomatoes and eggplants.

Lufa Farms’ second greenhouse, located in Laval, Quebec, opened August 2013. The greenhouse houses tomatoes and eggplants. Photo credit:
Lufa Farms

When room to farm in a city is scarce, look up.

Montreal-based Lufa Farms built Canada’s first commercial hydroponic urban rooftop greenhouse in 2011. In the late summer of 2013, Lufa opened a second, larger rooftop greenhouse in Laval, Quebec.

Although Lufa always intended to add another greenhouse to its operation once the 2011 site opened, the company wanted to observe how the first project did first, says Lauren Rathmell, greenhouse director and founding member.

“The goal was to have by the end of our first year of production 1,000 subscribers, which is about what our first site can support by itself,” she says. “The trajectory from there was to have a goal of having 3,500 subscribers by the end of 2013.”  Read More