In the middle of a 72-acre apple orchard situated in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, agricultural entrepreneurship thrives. Ten emerging startup companies reside here charting paths for the commercialization of innovative agricultural products and technologies. This is The Cornell Agriculture and Food Technology Park, also known as the Technology Farm.
Students at St. Philip’s Academy, an independent K-8 school in Newark, NJ grow their own salad greens. They use an aeroponic growing system installed in a fourth-floor classroom in which they plant, harvest and package such leafy greens as Chinese lettuce, arugula and komatsuna for delivery to their cafeteria. “It’s kind of amazing – it doesn’t get more local than this,” said Frank Mentesana, a St. Philip’s Teacher and Program Facilitator.
St. Philip’s aeroponic growing system is part of a pilot project being managed and run by an urban farming startup called EcoVeggies to trial a growing system developed by AeroFarms
Mike Yohay, CEO of San Francisco-based urban agriculture startup Cityscape Farms, was raised in Brooklyn, NY where he grew up with almost no knowledge of where his food came from or how it was grown. This all changed for Yohay when he went off to study at Grinnel College in Iowa. There he saw firsthand the pollution and topsoil erosion caused by large-scale agribusiness operations. He was also troubled by the fact that despite its rich soil, Iowa exported most of the food that it produced and imported most of the food that it consumed. Yohay also worked in Costa Rica’s La Amistad rainforest, where he participated in low-impact organic farming that supported a local community.
Despite losing its federal funding and suffering staff cuts across all of its offices, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) remains committed to its goal of providing sustainable agriculture services. To make up for this budgetary shortfall, ATTRA, a 501(c)3, is exploring funding options that range from charging a small access fee for its publications to bolstering its efforts to procure donations from foundations, corporations and individuals. Kathleen Hadley, Executive Director of National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), which oversees ATTRA, says that it “cannot just abandon those individuals who have come to rely on our expertise and research-based solutions to agricultural challenges.”
(updated 04/11/12) As the push to “go green” in urban architecture has intensified over the past decade, so-called green roofs and green walls have gained in popularity. These vegetation-covered walls and roofs can reduce cooling costs, mitigate air pollution and add beauty to the neighborhood.
But the promise of green walls goes beyond just looking cool and staying cool. Green Living Technologies International, LLC (GLTi) is exploring how these architectural innovations might actually meet our growing need for food and inspire a new wave of urban sustainable agriculture.