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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Sustainable Agriculture Startup Profiles

Urban Farming Startup Sees Opportunity in Aeroponic Tower to Increase Local Food Production in New Orleans

December 16, 2013 |
Image Credit: VertiFarms

Image Credit: VertiFarms

Fresh produce in New Orleans usually arrives from places like California or Florida. One company wants to change that.

Vertifarms began providing aeroponic farms for New Orleans food businesses in 2011, when company co-founders Doug Jacobs and Kevin Morgan-Rothschild began partnering with Florida-based FutureGrowing to bring aeroponic tower systems to restaurants, markets, grocery stores, and non-profit organizations that want to grow their own local crops.

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Enterprising Brothers Build ‘Rowbot-ic’ Delivery System to Stem Nitrogen Waste In Corn Production

December 12, 2013 |
Image Credit: Rowbot

Image Credit: Rowbot

With each passing year, 100 million acres of corn are sown in the United States. As these acres are fertilized, an estimated 50 percent of the nitrogen applied is wasted due to runoff and other factors, so that half of the hefty sum spent annually by corn farmers to feed their fields might as well be poured down a drain or tossed to the wind.

The enormous scale and consequence of this waste is what motivated a team of three very bright brothers with expertise in environmental science, dairy farming and robotics to devise a solution called “Rowbot.” Read More

Beyond Freight: Startup Transforms Shipping Container into Turnkey Solution for Hydroponic Farming

December 6, 2013 |
LocalSprout’s Freight Farm located in downtown San Antonio. Photo Credit: Mitch Hagney

LocalSprout’s Freight Farm located in downtown San Antonio. Photo Credit: Mitch Hagney

Mitch Hagney is Chief Executive Officer of LocalSprout, a hydroponic farm based in San Antonio, Texas. 

When a hydroponic farm grows a head of lettuce, the story doesn’t start with a seed.

Every part of the environment has to be provided for the seeds before they germinate, including everything that nature usually gives away for free.

To make a plant’s conditions ideal, the farmer must also be a plumber, an electrician, an engineer, and a chemist. Even those growers with lots of experience often lack the construction expertise that building a hydroponic farm requires, so they turn to those whose sole business is building.

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Attendees of Two-day Seedstock Conference at UCLA Affirm Promise of Sustainable Agriculture Future

November 7, 2013 |
Attendees touring Houweling's Tomatoes on day one of the Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Conference.

Attendees touring Houweling’s Tomatoes on day one of the Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Conference.

From new farmers, aquaponicists and sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs to urban farming pioneers, microloan providers and crowdfunding evangelists, yesterday’s 2nd Annual Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Innovation conference at UCLA Anderson School of Management provided clear evidence pointing to the desire, will and motivation to develop economically viable and sustainable farming solutions to insure that the food system of the future not only survives, but thrives.

The two-day event, which drew an audience of nearly 250 from as far afield as New Zealand, Mexico and Korea, kicked off on November 5 with a sustainable farm field trip to Houweling’s Tomatoes in Camarillo where attendees were treated to an in-depth tour of the company’s sustainable 125-acre hydroponic greenhouse. Following the tour of Houweling’s, attendees headed over to McGrath Family Farms for a farm-to-table lunch provided by Chef/farmer Adam Navidi of Green2GO Restaurant Market. Following the lunch, farmer Phil McGrath gave the attendees a tour of his 5th generation organic farm and explained how he has used sustainable growing practices and direct marketing to remain economically viable. One of McGrath’s keys to farming successfully: “Grow a huge diversity of things and grow in season.” Read More

Focused on Growing Market for Local Food, Tech Startup Provides Tools to Increase Market Efficiency

November 6, 2013 |
Ericka Block, founder of Local Orbit. Photo Credit: Local Orbit

Ericka Block, founder of Local Orbit.
Photo Credit: Local Orbit

In 2011, playwright, theater director and technology consultant Erika Block started the company Local Orbit with the goal of facilitating more efficient local food networks. By providing sustainable food producers with sales and business management tools, Block hoped the company could help address some of the inefficient infrastructure issues in our modern-day food system.

Over the past two years, Block has watched her vision for the company gradually transform into reality.

“Our team has doubled,” says Block. “We’ve tripled the number of markets on our platform.  We currently support local marketplaces and trading networks in nine states, with over 500 food producers and 2000 buyers using the platform.” Read More