Sustainable Agriculture Startup Profiles
The collision of technology and agriculture might be just what the world needs to respond to an impending food crisis if global food production does not double by 2050, according to Robert Tse, State Broadband Coordinator and Chief Strategy Officer for Agriculture Technology and Innovation for USDA CA Rural Development.
According to Tse, the world’s population will grow by approximately 2 billion people by the half-century mark, and the current rate of increase in food production globally is less than half of what is needed every year to account for it.
“The application or development of technology applied to agriculture is critical,” says Tse. “There are only two ways to increase food production: increase acreage or increase yield. There is no more exploitable land for farming around the world, so one of the ways we’re going to reach the percentage increase we need is through ag technology that enables us to increase production across the board and reduce waste.”
San Francisco-based Farm From a Box supplies all the components needed to create a two-acre off-grid farm, packed in a shipping container that will then serve as a farm building. It recently announced a new partnership with Netafim, an Israel-based irrigation firm with offices in 120 countries, to supply the irrigation components.
Farm From a Box is the brainchild of partners Scott Thompson and Brandi DiCarli. Their kits include renewable power systems, internet connectivity, basic farm tools, micro-drip irrigation systems and water pumps that can be adapted to fit either a ground well or municipal water supply.
When consultant Richard Conlin attended the inaugural GrowRIVERSIDE conference in 2014, he talked to people about the many ideas involving Riverside’s Greenbelt that never materialized. Conlin, who has a history of helping members of a community and stakeholders hammer out policies, offered to help make some of these ideas a reality. They accepted his proposal, which resulted in the Riverside Food Systems Alliance (RFSA).
The RFSA started meeting last September, and on April 16, it will present its action plan to the Riverside City Council for formal adoption.
“We have a lot of employees,” says Bryan Spangle, co-owner of Organic Solution. Not many businesses only in their third year could make such a boast, but in this case his claim is justified. Organic Solution has millions of employees, all working around the clock to create the product. Those employees just happen to be worms.
Organic Solution came to life when Spangle and George Keossaian went through what Spangle calls a “mid-life crisis thing” and decided to transition from their current careers into “something else that was good.”
Dan Horan had a notion back in 1989 that started with a college essay and turned into a business plan: enlist the cooperative efforts of various small farms in the region to supply supermarkets with locally produced foods. The idea of bringing the farmers’ market to the local supermarket was planted, he says.
“Fast-forward to 2010,” says Horan. “I sold the company I was involved with and hired my first employee.”
The name for Horan’s new venture, Five Acre Farms, came from the principle of small, local agriculture serving its local communities, according to Horan.
“Our focus was on the mainstream customer,” says Horan, “improving their access to local food where most of the shopping is happening—in the supermarkets. Less than 10 percent of people can support the farmers’ market. We wanted to be in the mainstream shopping centers.”