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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Minneapolis Landscape Business Works to Make City Ordinances Compost-friendly

April 16, 2014 |
Images courtesy of Giving Tree Gardens

Images courtesy of Giving Tree Gardens

With a penchant for all things rotting, Russ Henry has built a sustainable business, literally from the ground up.

Giving Tree Gardens is an organic landscaping service in Minneapolis well known for its high quality compost. Specializing in native species planting, pollinator-friendly designs and organic gardening education, Giving Tree Gardens has been building a sustainable business and a positive influence in the Twin Cities since 2005.

Russ Henry, owner of Giving Tree Gardens, spent many years in the landscaping world before starting his own company. 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

A Firm Believer in the Three P’s of Sustainable Growing, Craig McNamara Talks Walnuts, Water and Waste

March 14, 2013 |

Craig McNamara, president and owner of Winters, CA-based Sierra Orchards. Photo Credit: Sierra Orchards.

When it comes to sustainable agriculture, Craig McNamara, owner of Sierra Orchards, president of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture and son of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, believes firmly in the three P’s of sustainable growing: planet, people and profit. Living in the organic walnut orchard that comprises the bulk of his farming business you could argue he’s living in and up to his principles.

McNamara began his career as a farmer in his late 20s. He began as a truck farmer, but soon found traditional produce was not right for him. “The marketing challenges of a truck farmer were very difficult. Being a small produce grower farming, harvesting, packaging and shipping my own product into the wholesale market was extremely challenging. I said ‘there’s got to be a better way.’ I’ve got to find a crop that has fewer harvests per year, is less perishable and a crop that I just have more control over and for me that was walnuts.” Sierra Orchards was founded in 1980. Read More

Ag Gains as Company Transforms 2 Million Tons of Organic Waste to 29 Million Bags of Soil

March 4, 2013 |

Anaerobic digesters at Harvest Power’s Energy Garden in Bay Lake, Florida. Photo Credit: Harvest Power.

Harvest Power is about dirt. It’s also about soil regeneration and managing the modern day intersection of waste, agriculture and energy, so that ongoing human consumption can be used as the engine to drive ongoing renewable energy.

In three and a half years, CEO Paul Sellew has created a company that diverts more than two million tons of organic waste material from landfills and turns it into some 29 million bags of soil, mulch and fertilizer products while producing 65,000 megawatt hours of heat and power-generating energy to run its facilities.

Harvest Power operates in 30 sites across the U.S. and Canada, using strategic partnerships with municipalities, haulers and state-of-the-art anaerobic digesters to create high value compost that is in turn used to create more high nutrition food that can be later be recycled into the system starting the whole process over again. Read More

TEDx Manhattan Shines Light on Sustainable Ag Issues from Seed Saving to Food Waste

February 21, 2013 |

Last weekend’s sustainable agriculture themed TEDx Manhattan was entitled “Changing the Way We Eat”.  A TEDx is an independent version of the incredibly popular TED Talks each of which is a day long series of brief presentations on “ideas worth spreading” around a specific topic.  The New York version is one of the more popular ones, with the 200 person strong live audience supplemented by a further 3,000 people at viewing parties around the country.

The subject of the day’s talks ranged from White House pastry chef Bill Yosses on “the hedonistic culture of healthy eating” to a brief excerpt from the upcoming movie, “Food Chains”, which looks at the conditions endured by farm laborers. Read More

Startup Pioneers New ‘H2H’ Process to Efficiently Convert Supermarket Food Waste into Liquid Fertilizer

February 6, 2013 |

California Safe Soil's Harvest-to-Harvest (H2H) Cycle. Image Credit: California Safe Soil.

Food waste is an enormous problem in the United States. An estimated 40 percent of all food grown here never nourishes anyone, but instead rots away in landfills. What if those nutrients could be captured, before they started to rot and returned to the soil, all in a matter of hours? That’s exactly what Daniel and David Morash say they can do at California Safe Soil, convert wasted food into a nutrient-rich soil additive. Sound like composting? It’s a similar concept but the Morash’s say that their process is faster, safer, and more effective. They have teamed up with researchers at UC Davis to try and prove it.

The concept is not entirely new. The idea of using digested food to fertilize plants is nearly as old as agriculture. Read More

Electrical Engineer Leverages Knowledge of LEDs and Green Tech to Sustainably Grow Organic Mushrooms

February 6, 2013 |

Shiitake mushrooms growing under LED light. Photo Credit: Mountain Mushroom Farm.

Being an organic shitake mushroom farmer in Malo, Washington isn’t the easiest thing to do which is probably why electrical engineer, master electrician and green technology inventor Marc Keith decided to do it. Along with his wife Vivian, Keith runs Mountain Mushroom Farm, which he claims is one of the most self-sustaining low energy organic farms around. He may be right, and he would know, having built the farm from the ground…well, underground, up.

By carving out a chunk of his hillside and burying a shipping container, Keith was able to begin an underground shitake mushroom farm on his mountain property. His design choices and mathematical mind ensured the supports were perfectly aligned and the retaining walls perfectly sealed. Read More

Gills Onions Taps Sustainable Methods to Bring Tears of Profitable Joy

January 14, 2013 |

Steven Gill, co-owner of Gills Onions in the field. Photo Credit: Gills Onions.

It’s enough to make you cry. Gills Onions is one of the largest family-owned onion farming operations in the nation. But the Oxnard-based facility doesn’t just grow the tears-provoking vegetable. They control every aspect of production from growing, harvesting, processing, packing and shipping the bulbs in handy, diced up packages to retailers, food service outlets and industrial manufacturers throughout the nation and Canada. And they do so using some surprising sustainable production practices that have lowered their operating costs over a million dollars a year.

Allen Gill had been farming in California’s Central Valley since the 1940s when he brought sons Steven and David into his Rio Farms business. Read More