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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Posts By Nina Ignaczak

This Week in Sustainable Ag: Seedstock’s Weekly News Roundup

July 25, 2014 |

seedstockHere’s a roundup of what’s new and interesting this week in the world of sustainable agriculture:

California universities to start sustainable agriculture programs
Source: Reuters
The ten-campus University of California announced a new sustainable agriculture initiative to include local food purchasing, new courses on growing in drought conditions, and more scholarships for agriculture students. Read More

In Search for Sustainable Biofuel Feed Solution, Startup Focuses on Ancient Pongamia Tree

October 16, 2013 |
Photo Credit: TerViva.

The oil from the seed of the Pongamia tree can be used in industrial applications like biodiesel and sprays, while the protein-rich seedcake can be used in the manufacture of animal feed. Photo Credit: TerViva.

To meet world food demand in the future, agriculture productivity must increase by a factor of 1-2% per year, more than doubling total output by 2050, according to the Global Harvest Initiative’s 2012 GAP Index report. At the same time, global demand for biofuels is projected to increase by 133% by the year 2020, according to Hart Energy’s Global Biofuels Outlook Report.

Intensification of unsustainable agricultural practices to meet these competing needs often harms soil, causing nutrient depletion, erosion, salinization, and chemical, and allows the introduction of crop pests. The result: significant amounts of land are removed from production indefinitely every year. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates 1-2% of global cropland is removed from production annually due to salinization alone.

That statistic got the attention of Naveen Sikka, Founder and CEO of TerViva, an Oakland, CA-based sustainable agriculture startup aimed at developing new crops for marginal or underutilized farmland. Read More

Waste-based Startup Uses Insect Alchemy to Transform Soldier Fly into Sustainable Animal Feed

October 14, 2013 |
Enterra’s animal feed ingredient products are derived from dried, pasteurized grubs of the Black Soldier Fly, a non-invasive beneficial insect. The grubs are grown in a fully controlled, artificial environment using a fixed recipe of pre-consumer food waste that is sourced from clean, traceable streams of waste fruits, vegetables, grains, and fish. Photo Credit: Enterra.

Enterra’s animal feed ingredient products are derived from dried, pasteurized grubs of the Black Soldier Fly, a non-invasive beneficial insect. Photo Credit: Enterra.

In 2007, Dan Merchant of Vancouver, British Columbia went fishing with David Suzuki, Canada’s most famous sustainability advocate, and had a life-changing conversation about fish food.

Aquaculture feed, to be more exact.

Commercial fish farming has long been criticized for its sustainability challenges; the fish feed produced from wild-caught fish, corn and soybeans is resource-intensive and competes for other uses, such as human consumption and biofuel. Grain-based animal feed faces the same sourcing and production challenges.

The conversation with Suzuki got Merchant thinking about methods of producing fish food more in harmony with nature’s design, noting that a staple food of many fishes is insects and their larvae. Read More

Urban Farm in Detroit Builds Community and Food Security

October 1, 2013 |
Photo Credit: D-Town Farm

Photo Credit: D-Town Farm

African Americans, especially children, have higher rates of obesity and type II diabetes than the general population, and are more likely to live in impoverished neighborhoods with limited access to fresh food. To address the inequities of the food system food in the African American community in the City of Detroit and establish African Americans as leaders of the local food and urban agriculture movement in their communities, the Detroit Black Food Security Network (DBFSN) pursues three avenues: policy, cooperatives, and agriculture.

To change policy, DBFSN helped establish the Detroit Food Policy Council, “an education, advocacy and policy organization led by Detroiters committed to creating a sustainable, local food system that promotes food security, food justice and food sovereignty in the city of Detroit.” Read More

Spotting Opportunity from Above, Airline Pilot Launches Rooftop Farming Startup in Hawaii

September 23, 2013 |
Rooftop farm in Waimanalo, Hawaii using FarmRoof technology. Photo Credit: FarmRoof

Rooftop farm in Waimanalo, Hawaii using FarmRoof technology. Photo Credit: FarmRoof

One day, as Alan Joaquin surveyed the landscape of his native Hawaii from his perch in the pilot seat of a Hawaiian Airlines jetliner, he had a revelation.

“I saw nothing but rooftops, and realized we could be growing food on them.”

Joaquin, an entrepreneur since his teen years with a strong interest in horticulture and environmental restoration, was looking for another place to literally “roll out” a modular urban farming system he had been developing.

Joaquin, now a commercial airline pilot, got his start in business in his teens and early twenties as a commercial landscape contractor focusing on ecological restoration, and developed an erosion blanket product to rehabilitate stream banks and facilitate native species restoration. Read More

Chicago’s NeighborSpace Preserves Urban Land in the City for Community Gardens and Open Space

September 10, 2013 |
Photo Credit: NeighborSpace

Photo Credit: NeighborSpace

Land ownership issues are a major challenge for urban community farming and gardening movements in many cities. When neighborhood groups spend time and resources to steward vacant parcels, they often do so at the risk of having their efforts wasted. An absentee landowner may at any time decide to develop or otherwise restrict access to a parcel, leaving the neighborhood group with no recourse to recover their investment in the land.

In 1996, the City of Chicago, in partnership with Chicago Park District and Forest Preserve District of Cook County, recognized this problem and took steps to solve it by forming NeighborSpace, an independent, 501(c)3 nonprofit land trust to help preserve community-managed open space. Read More

Urban Beekeeping Cooperative in Chicago Emphasizes Healthy Eating and Local Food System Education

September 3, 2013 |
Photo Credit: Chicago Honey Co-op

Photo Credit: Chicago Honey Co-op

Summertime in the city means bees in North Lawndale, an underserved Chicago neighborhood that boasts an urban beekeeping co-operative.

The Chicago Honey Co-op was founded in 2004 by a trio of urban beekeepers who saw an opportunity to develop a green jobs training program for unemployed neighborhood residents.  That mission soon expanded into a wider community development effort focused on community gardening, healthy eating, and beekeeping education.

“The three founding members thought it would be a good idea to start a beekeeping co-op, so we registered as an agricultural co-operative with the State of Illinois and recruited members, found a place to locate an apiary and got started from there,” says Sydney Barton, one of the co-founders. Read More

Two Recent College Grads Launch Michigan Urban Farming Initiative to Educate and Build Community

August 15, 2013 |
Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that implements urban agriculture as a tool for addressing structural food inequality through education and community building. Photo Credit: MIUFI

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that implements urban agriculture as a tool for addressing structural food inequality through education and community building. Photo Credit: MUFI

In 2011, then-21 year old Tyson Gersh met Darin Mcleskey at the University of Michigan. According to Gersh, who grew up in nearby college-town Ann Arbor, McLeskey was the first person who ever used the words “Detroit” and “cool” in the same sentence.

People had always told him that Detroit was a scary place.

”Ann Arbor is a bubble,” says Gersh. “I legitimately thought Detroit was the airport.”

After Mcleskey talked Gersh into taking a first road trip 50 miles down I-94, past the airport, Gersh was amazed to see skyscrapers. Read More