Central New York Nonprofit Builds Thriving Hydroponics Operation, Provides Jobs to Those With Employment BarriersDecember 10, 2013 | Jenny Smiechowski
In 1998, Cornell University launched a hydroponic greenhouse to explore the possibility of using controlled-environment agriculture to grow crops year-round in the state of New York. By 2006, Cornell decided to end its foray into hydroponics and sold the greenhouse to Challenge Workforce Solutions, an Ithaca-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities or other employment barriers find jobs.
Challenge Workforce Solutions has since developed Finger Lakes Fresh, a thriving local agriculture business in Ithaca, New York. The business is centered on hydroponic greenhouse production and a soon-to-be launched food hub. According to General Manager Steven Holzbaur, Finger Lakes Fresh is one of the most productive hydroponic leafy-green producers in the country and has been highly successful in marketing its product.
In 1994, Mickey Lynch was working on a project in Florida to turn waste products from landfills into usable materials. This project brought him into contact with many farmers, including Blake Whisenant, who had recently lost a large tomato crop due to flooding and was developing a raised system to protect the crop and offer more control over the growing environment. The pair began a collaboration that resulted in EarthBox, a container farming system that reduces waste and takes the guesswork out of farming.
Frank DiPaolo, general manager of EarthBox, credits much of the success of the product over the years to its simplicity. Water is reserved at the bottom of the container. Layered over the water is an aeration screen, which prevents root rot and mold, and over that is a peat-based growing media, which draws up the water as it is needed. The EarthBox also works with a fertilizer strip and a mulch cover, which prevents weeds and conserves water. The system requires about a third of the water and half of the fertilizer as in-ground methods, according to DiPaolo.
Food Leaders to Gather Dec. 15 at ‘EatingLA Food Fair and Forum’ to Create Plan for Local Food System in L.A.December 9, 2013 | seedstock
News Release — LOS ANGELES, December 9, 2013 — Prominent food leaders from across the Los Angeles region will gather on December 15 at the inaugural EatingLA Food Fair and Forum to create a plan for a local food system. The spectrum of panelists includes urban gardeners, permaculturists, gleaners, foragers, restauranteurs, chefs, food truck advocates, urban planners and food policy experts. The event will also include a family-friendly holiday artisanal food market with cooking demonstrations and a film screening. The EatingLA Food Fair and Forum will take place on Sunday, December 15, from 12-5PM at the EarthWE Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, and is a collaboration between Homemade1616, EarthWE, Project Butterfly, and Rhyzotek.
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.
When Ross Cordio and Elias Kolsun started Bloombrick Urban Agriculture in Cambridge, Massachusetts six months ago they shared a common vision.
“We both really wanted to do something that was going to help the community and, at the same time, something that was new and cutting edge,” says Cordio.
Cordio and Kolsun became enamored with urban agriculture models like rooftop gardening and vertical farming, but wanted to approach their journey into urban agriculture gradually.
While many large cities are successfully implementing urban agriculture initiatives, smaller towns often lack the knowledge, direction and financial resources they need to get started. The Distributed Urban Farming Initiative aims to remedy this issue.
The program was launched in 2012 by community tourism and development firm Advent GX to help spur economic and community development in the small, historic town of Bryan, Texas. The program seeks to achieve this goal by converting vacant space into urban farms and gardens, operating in partnership with the Downtown Bryan Association.
How can cities leverage unused agricultural land to increase the supply of locally available and create new jobs and farmers? What small scale urban agriculture solutions are bearing fruit? Is it possible to create an economically viable farming business on one or two acres of land? How can the USDA help? What are innovators in the sustainable urban agriculture space doing? What policy needs to be put into place to facilitate an active agricultural economy in a city and on its fringes?
These and other questions will be the focus of Seedstock’s upcoming Grow Riverside: Citrus and Beyond! conference, which is set to take place on March 19 – 20 at the Riverside Convention Center in Riverside, CA. The event will feature urban agriculture innovators, key policy makers, nutrition experts, and investors, who will partake in a two-day, outcomes-based conference to examine solutions to help cities, Riverside in this particular case, to galvanize their citizens, growers, advocates, government officials and other major stakeholders around the economic opportunities that can result from employing sustainable urban agriculture.
Not many hydroponic farms are established in the middle of an orchid nursery, but for South Coast Orchids’ owner Dennis Keany and his family, hydroponic vegetables were the answer to the question: what do you grow when you can’t use much water?
The family’s 4.5-acre orchid nursery located just North of San Diego now shares greenhouse real estate with butter lettuce, kale, and bok choy that is sold under the brand name Sundial Farm.
In Southern California, water is a precious, highly regulated resource. According to Sundial Farm manager Sean Keany, state regulations began changing about ten years ago to conserve the area’s aqueduct-fed water source. Water conservation and access to fresh, clean produce are Keany family values and when the state advised going hydroponic, the decades-old orchid farmers were ready to move forward.
With almost a decade’s worth of aquarium design, filtering technique and fish tank science under their belts, Eric Suen and Kevin Liang, co-founders of Aqua Design Innovations, feel confident they have the experience, knowledge and vision to offer a sustainable aquarium that utilizes aquaponic growing techniques at an affordable price.
Their product, the EcoQube, is a desktop-size, self-regulating aquaponic ecosystem complete with plants, fish, and lighting. The pair launched a Kickstarter campaign on Nov. 30, 2013, hoping to raise $39,000 by Jan. 12, 2014. If funded, the money will enable the company to start production.
After ten years as an electrical engineer in Indiana, Randy Butts knew he wanted to be his own boss. Traditional farming tempted him, but he knew that launching a corn or soybean operation from scratch would be a struggle.
Friends of his were growing tomatoes using hydroponic farming, a process that intrigued him. Plants grown hydroponically use a small fraction of the water, land, and nutrients that conventionally-grown agriculture requires, and they produce abundantly in a shorter amount of time than conventionally grown vegetables. They can also be grown year-round.