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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Posts By David Sands

Women in Food: From Theatre to Tech, Erika Block Helps Build a New Food Economy

October 9, 2014 |
Ericka Block, founder of Local Orbit. Photo Credit: Local Orbit

Erika Block, founder of Local Orbit.
Photo Credit: Local Orbit

This piece is the part of a Seedstock series profiling women who are leading change in sustainable agriculture and local food. Read more profiles here.

You might call Erika Block something of a web weaver for the local foods economy.  As CEO of Local Orbit, a company dedicated to providing sales and business management software and services to entrepreneurs, farmers, food hubs and others involved with local foods, she’s intricately familiar with the logistics that make the movement possible.  With clients in 16 states and Canada, her 8-person team provides local food producers and aggregators with cloud-based tech tools and coaching so they can sell their products more efficiently to restaurants, grocers, and institutional buyers.

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Nonprofit Gets Flashy With Local Food, Employs Disadvantaged

October 8, 2014 |

postFarmtoFreezer_InnFader-01Sometimes it takes a little flash to make a good idea happen. Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan (GINM) has been taking this approach to heart with their Farm to Freezer program, a job training initiative that flash freezes produce for the benefit of participants and local farms.

The Traverse City-based  organization is part of an international network of independent nonprofits that provide services and support for people with barriers to employment. Proceeds from Goodwill retail outlets help to finance their work. Read More

RecoveryPark Urban Farm Launches, Employs Recovering Detroiters

October 6, 2014 |
Image courtesy of RecoveryPark

Image courtesy of RecoveryPark

“Detroit has too much vacant lands, and too few jobs,” reads a statement on RecoveryPark’s website.  “We have a solution to both.”

The Motor City-based nonprofit venture seeks to use urban agriculture to revitalize neighborhoods and create jobs for recovering addicts and others with barriers to employment

Founded by former financial consultant Gary Wozniak, the initiative has big ambitions: an urban farm, a food processing center and possibly an indoor fish farm. Originally pitched as a network of gardens stretching out over a 2,475-acre area on on the city’s east side, the farming zone has since been scaled down to a  narrower 110-acre footprint. Plans call for a hybrid season with plants growing in the ground, in high tunnels for season extension and inside a hydroponic system. Construction is expected to take five years. Read More

Why You Should Worry: Five Unhappy Truths about the U.S. Food System

September 24, 2014 |
Photo by David Sands

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative Photo by David Sands

While Seedstock regularly profiles those who are taking a sustainable and local approach to creating a new food economy, the fact remains that industrial farming and distribution methods still reign supreme in America. So we are taking a step back to remind ourselves why their work is so important.

The convergence of processed foods, chemically intensive farming and a gas-guzzling supply chain have created a food system in the United States that would have seemed fantastical—and quite possibly nightmarish—to folks who lived in this country just a century ago.

Here are five worrisome facts about the U.S. food system to keep in mind the next time you go grocery shopping.

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Urban Farming Co Takes Aquaponic Farming to Europe’s Rooftops

September 18, 2014 |
Concept of future rooftop aquaponic farm in The Hague. Image courtesy of UrbanFarmers

Concept of future rooftop aquaponic farm in The Hague. Image courtesy of UrbanFarmers

UrbanFarmers is on a mission to bring commercial-grade urban farming to consumers hungry for fresh locally-grown produce, and it’s doing so from the rooftops.

Based in Zürich, Switzerland, the company offers a brand of rooftop-based and modular growing systems to client businesses. It does so using aquaponics, a technology that combines plants and aquatic life forms into a harmonious recirculating habitat.

“At present, UF operates the only commercial aquaponic food production system in the EU,” Urban Farmers’ Director of Business Development Tom Zöllner tells Seedstock. “Although there are numerous initiatives and projects in almost every city, almost all of them are socially driven community-based, small-scale projects. We are not aware of anyone else that has been able to implement a large-scale, high-tech aquaponic system that sells year round into a major retailer.” Read More