Growing Power, Inc., a non-profit urban sustainable agriculture organization based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has been awarded $425,000 to erect 150 hoop house gardens on vacant lots in the city of Milwaukee. Hoop houses are inexpensive greenhouses constructed using a plastic roof that is wrapped over flexible PVC piping. Growing Power has promised to match the $425,000 contribution from the City of Milwaukee’s Common Council with its own funds. Growing Power’s hoop house initiative called “Growing Capacity for the Green Economy” will create 150 new jobs over the next 3 years in the emerging field of urban sustainable agriculture for unemployed residents in Milwaukee. The initial phase of the project will focus on hiring around 20 people to construct the hoop houses.
UPDATE – 05/10/2011 – Biochar Engineering Corporation has sold its IP and R&D facility to a private company that has the capital necessary to rapidly scale biochar technology. All other company activity, including research support services, biochar sales, and the commercialization of the existing pilot-scale technology has been spun off into a new company, Biochar Solutions Inc.
ORIGINAL STORY – 04/09/2011 – What if I told you that charcoal could remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and act as a carbon sink. Or that charcoal has the potential to play a major role in the future of agriculture through its ability to restore and invigorate topsoil that is essential for all crop growth. You’re probably rolling your eyes right now.
It wasn’t too long ago that making car fuel out of corn seemed like a brilliant idea. It’s local and abundant — American farmers have planted more than 85 million acres of corn a year since 2007. And unlike petroleum, it’s renewable: use corn, plant more. No drilling required.
Turns out, though, that using corn to make ethanol, the fuel source that is blended into gasoline, has some serious unintended consequences. At the end of 2005, the front-month contract for a bushel (56 pounds) of corn was about $1.86. When the U.S. government started pushing corn-based ethanol production in 2006 and 2007, demand for corn increased, pushing prices to over $4 in early 2007. Today, the price is $7.62 a bushel.
It appears that China loves cassava, the carbohydrate laden tuberous root that is grown in such tropical and sub-tropical regions as Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America. According to the article “Rush to Use Crops as Fuel Raises Food Prices and Hunger Fears” that appears in today’s New York Times, China is not making the massive quantities of cassava that it imports into consumable stews, dumplings, or tapioca pudding, but is instead using it as an input for biofuel. In 2010, Thailand, the world’s largest exporter of cassava, sent nearly 98% of its stock to China.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, or ATTRA, recently had its $2.8 million funding allotment for 2011 zeroed out. The unfortunate shearing of the ATTRA allocation resulted from its inclusion in the $6 billion federal budget cutting measure that Congress recently undertook in order to keep the federal government funded through April 8th. However, as Congress is now in the midst of debate surrounding funding for the remainder of the fiscal year, there is still time to push for the restoration of ATTRA funding.