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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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agriculture startup

Startup Utilizes Social Media to Fight Food Waste, Feed the Hungry and Increase Revenue for Farmers

November 5, 2013 |
cropmobsterlogo

Source: CropMobster

It all started with a Facebook post.

Nick Papadopoulos was working as acting general manager of Bloomfield Farms, his wife’s parents’ 45-acre organic vegetable farm located in Northern California. One day, he found himself alone in the cooler after a farmer’s market, sipping on a beer and observing all of the unsold food that would soon become part of the farm’s chicken feed and compost bins.

Suddenly, he had an idea. Instead of giving premium organic produce to the chickens, why not give it to hungry people? So, he went online to Facebook and started typing. The original Facebook post offering leftover produce that started the cropsourcing website known as CropMobster can still be seen on the site today.

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Startup Co. Targets Small Indoor Farmers; Aims to Make Hydroponic Control Systems More Accessible

October 24, 2013 |
Sustainable Microfarms aims to make hydroponic systems cheaper and more cost-effective.

Sustainable Microfarms aims to make hydroponic control systems cheaper and more cost-effective.

Sanjay Rajpoot, founder of hydroponic nutrient control system firm Sustainable Microfarms, was an early starter when it came to sustainable agriculture. Fascinated by Singaporean rooftop gardens at an age when most of his peers were more interested in X-Boxes, Rajpoot began researching his business at the age of 16, and was spending time with greenhouse automation expert Dr. Heiner Lieth at his UC Davis lab by the age of 19.

“One of my mentors growing up is an embedded systems researcher, so I was fascinated by the idea of creating better, cheaper controls for hydroponic systems,” says Rajpoot.

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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

Startup Seeks to Build Better Farmers Market By Providing Year Round Online Access to Food

July 15, 2013 |

startup nation homepageWhat if you had access to a fresh farmers market seven days a week, knew exactly what they would be offering so that you can plan your meals, were able to contact your preferred vendors with a shopping list and could pay for everything in advance, with your fresh veggies being delivered directly to your door?

That’s exactly what Antony Lee, founder and CEO of Fresh Nation, has put together.

“The idea was to build a network of farmers markets across the country so that it’s a win for the vendors and a win for the customers,” Lee said. “We don’t necessarily need more farmers markets, we need better farmers markets.” Read More

To Help Small Farmers Meet City’s Demand, Online Startup Directly Connects Local Farms to Buyers

March 27, 2013 |

Farmers Web is an 18-month-old start-up that aims to link local farms with local buyers through a wholesale “management tool,” and vibrant online marketplace that allows you to “shop and sell local online, anytime.”

The brainchild of co-founder and CEO, Jennifer Goggin, Farmers Web was born in downtown Manhattan from decidedly non-bucolic roots.

“I went into finance after college (Columbia University – political science), but my heart just wasn’t in it,” Goggin said. “So we decided that promoting small agriculture was something we could grab hold of.” Read More

Water Conservation, Passion for Great Food and Sustainability Fuel Family’s Foray into Hydroponics

February 27, 2013 |

Amelia and Ben Von Kennel, owners of Amelia’s Farm in front of their 6,000 square-foot, commercial, hydroponic greenhouse. Photo Credit: Amelia’s Farm.

A simple passion for great tasting food and sustainability fueled the founding of Amelia’s Farm, a hydroponic farm based in Bells, Texas. Amelia Von Kennel, co-founder and executive vice president, and Ben Von Kennel, co-founder and chief executive officer, established the Farm in October 2011. The couple sold their house in Dallas, Texas, and moved their family ranch to Bells, Texas. Since the move, the Von Kennel’s focus has concerned strengthening the Amelia’s Farm brand, and building a 6,000 square-foot, commercial, hydroponic greenhouse. The Farm grows pesticide-free, non-GMO produce all year round.

I recently had a conversation with Amelia Von Kennel. She discussed how the couple started farming, why she and Ben value healthy food and how the Farm stays sustainable. Read More

Rather than ‘Figure Out More Ways to Blow People Up’, Former NASA Engineer Seeks Solution to Feed World

February 21, 2013 |

When NASA ended its space shuttle program in 2011, a lot of the engineers and systems technology staff ended up heading to defense industry contracting firms. But Douglas Mallette, founder and CEO of Cybernated Farm Systems, says he wanted to help feed the world rather than “figure out more ways to blow people up.”

So he founded Cybernated Farm Systems with the idea of building a fully self-generating and sustainably-operating greenhouse growing system that could feed precisely 634 people for 30 years, leave a small carbon footprint and provide nutritious, organic, fresh food in a world of rising poverty and hunger. Read More