Many of Detroit’s urban agriculture ventures have a down-on-the-farm feel to them, but not the CDC Farm & Fishery. If anything, with its tubes and tanks, the business seems downright futuristic. You see, the Farm & Fishery is among the first aquaponic operations to set up in Detroit following the passage of an urban agriculture ordinance last year.
Aquaponic is a term that describes enterprises where aquatic creatures are raised and their wastewater is recirculated to help grow plants that in turn filter it for reuse. Located in a two-level building in the North Central Woodward area of the city, the grow station is now raising tilapia fish and cultivating herbs and microgreens to sell to area businesses.
One of the most tech-savvy areas of the sustainable agriculture revolution is indoor agriculture – growing in warehouses, containers and greenhouses using hydroponic, aquaponic and aeroponic systems. The industry has seen a wave of new technology commercialized of late, here’s some of the coolest:
The cynical view of the LED lighting that many indoor farms use to encourage plant growth is that it’s too expensive to buy and run, and too tricky to adjust the lighting to your plants’ needs. Yet, LED prices are forecast to halve by 2020, according to market research firm Lux Research, and tech geeks are now making lights cheaper and easier to run.
Most, if not all, gardeners have experienced frustration over the amount of waste involved with gardening. Examples include unused soil, dead plants and compulsive purchases that don’t take root.
Wanting to address this problem, hobby gardener and computer science engineer Nicolas Cadilhac of Montreal, Quebec decided to mix his information technology acumen and love for gardening by creating a web site that would match gardeners to a surplus of unwanted plants and other garden materials. Thus in 2012, Cadilhac launched PlantCatching.
About a year ago, Gabe Blanchet and Jamie Byron, both students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, started kicking around the idea that people could feed themselves in a healthy and sustainable way by growing their own food in their homes. They envisioned this method as a kind of home “grove” that would work for urban environments and also for those who live where winters inhibit growing food outdoors year-round.
That idea developed into co-founding a company called Grove Labs. Blanchet and Byron are now CEO and CTO, respectively.
Years of observing and assisting his father on his family’s farm in Croatia informed Matija Kopic about the intricacies of running a dairy farm. The problem Kopic identified is not a shortage of data, dedication or diligence – but time. After leaving the farm and gaining information technology expertise, Kopic set out to remedy the problem with powerful software and a start-up he named Farmeron.
Founded in Osijek, Croatia, the capital of the country’s well-known farming region Slavonia, Farmeron is a cloud-based comprehensive management tool for dairy farmers.
Farmeron’s American presence includes a headquarters in Palo Alto, California and offices in Columbus, Ohio and Minneapolis, Minnesota, with plans to expand into the southeast and southwest.
Agriculture is an ecosystem and needs to be treated as such.
That was the conclusion reached by business partners and former college roommates Tyler Gaudet and Jackson McLeod, who grow greens and raise fish at Fluid Farms.
Fluid Farms grows in a 5,000-square foot aquaponics greenhouse in North Yarmouth, Maine. The farm sells a variety of greens to area restaurants, and will sell their first fish (tilapia) this year.
The pair avoids the “sustainability” moniker, due to their belief that no form of production agriculture is 100 percent sustainable. Instead, they strive for a system that is not strictly dependent on inputs and outputs.
In a world where it seems technology and the natural world are at odds, Lafayette, Indiana’s Advanced Ag Solutions is finding common ground by coupling technology and agriculture in its mission to make farming more efficient for the modern farmer.
Founded in 2006 by Daryl Starr, the agronomy software company helps farmers to build viable businesses with data and integrated crop management tools, with a simple mission to equip farmers to feed the world.
“Our primary services revolve around soil, seed and weather data management and the resulting recommendations,” he says. “We do everything from pull GPS soil samples to aggregate weather data for each field to help refine crop scouting observations.”
Mitch Hagney is Chief Executive Officer of LocalSprout, a hydroponic farm based in San Antonio, Texas.
The seed has been planted for agriculture in space.
We’ve grown Swiss chard and zucchini on the space station, and next year NASA hopes to grow the first crops on the moon in a can.
As space travel becomes more feasible, scientists have found that agriculture will be just as foundational to actual spaceships as it is to “spaceship earth,” an old concept that calls for our planet’s inhabitants to view themselves as a single harmonious crew.