How Do We Reshape Our American Food System? A Q&A With Union of Concerned Scientists’ Ricardo SalvadorSeptember 30, 2014 | AJ Hughes
Ricardo Salvador is the director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food & Environment Program. He believes agricultural systems must change for the health of the Earth and its inhabitants, and was the first professor to teach about sustainable agriculture at a land grant university at Iowa State.
Seedstock had the opportunity to speak with Salvador about the future of agriculture, the role of land-grant universities, and the developing science of “agro-ecology”.
Seedstock: For years, our nation’s land-grant universities have focused on crop yields and profitability. How do leading agricultural research universities need to shift their energies to adapt to a rapidly evolving agricultural industry?
Local Food Marketplace provides a software platform for food hubs that allows them to reach customers, aggregate production and compete with traditional distribution.
“We help food hubs all the way from the planning process and working with their producers to figuring out what their availability will be on a weekly basis,” says Amy McCann, who co-founded the business in 2009. “We also help with writing sales sheets, creating invoices for customers and managing the distribution to the food hub’s customers.“
McCann says her personal experience working in the food hub environment helps her offer more than just tech support to her customers.
Seattle-based farmer, chef and blogger Janelle Maiocco founded Farmstr in September 2013 as an online marketplace centered on sustainability. Through its web site, customers can purchase food and produce directly from sustainable farmers, ranchers and fishers. The young startup announced a $1.3 million capital raise in May, 2014.
Through Farmstr, customers benefit because they can buy high-quality, locally-produced food for (often) less than its retail price. And producers benefit, as local farmers who largely operate on a small scale are able to sell their offerings in a timely manner.
Maiocco, a Seattle resident, has roots in dairy farming, and agriculture played a significant role in her growing-up years. A self-professed foodie, she is a trained chef and writes extensively about food and agriculture on her blog, “Talk of Tomatoes.”
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.