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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Posts By Melonie Magruder

Vertical Farming Operation Takes on Challenge of Providing Local Food to Urban Communities

January 17, 2013 |
Photo Credit: Local Garden.

In a world where climate change continues to wreak more and more havoc on growing seasons and arable land becomes increasingly scarce and expensive, viable farming alternatives are the Holy Grail of sustainable agriculturists.

Local Garden of Vancouver, BC, a subsidiary of the vertical farming technology company Alterrus, is the latest challenger to the intractable problem of providing local fresh produce for future urban communities.

The company (they only launched production three months ago) is using the VertiCrop™ growing system created by Alterrus to raise baby greens, arugula, basil, spinach, kales and bok choy in a system that cultivates 10 times the amount of crops as traditional agriculture in the same amount of space, but uses 90 percent less water and terrain. And it does so on top of a parking garage in the middle of downtown Vancouver. 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

Green Waste Recycler Finds Profit in Organic Compost and Big Picture Thinking

January 2, 2013 |

Photo: Agromin

When our second American president, John Adams, visited England on a diplomatic mission, he famously walked right to the compost pile of his distinguished host’s barnyard, plunged in his hands and said, “Well, this may be good manure, but it’s not equal to mine.”

Like our early forefathers – who were farmers before they were politicians – companies like Ventura, California-based Agromin recognize the importance of good dirt to our nation’s ongoing health and prosperity. For some 20 years, Agromin has been taking municipal and county green waste from Orange County to Santa Barbara and converting it into a variety of soil amendments that are organic, nutrient-rich and friendly to the earth. Read More

A Head of Lettuce from 1,000 Miles Away, or a Sack of Greens from the Vertical Urban Farm Across Town?

January 2, 2013 |

Photo: FarmedHere

In a perfect world of competitive business, twenty-first century startups have some high hurdles to overcome: the ideal is to offer a product that is beneficial for the consumer, leaves a negligible carbon footprint, has a sustainable operating model and contributes socially and economically to the community at large.

FarmedHere might be the poster boy for such a business.

The two-year-old startup grows salad greens, herbs and fish in a multi-stack, vertical agriculture setup, using aquaponic and aeroponic cultivation methods in an abandoned industrial warehouse about seven miles from downtown Chicago. Read More

Embrace of Sustainable Ag Tech & Practices Enables 3rd Gen Farm in Orange County, CA to Survive Urbanization

December 12, 2012 |

When Matt and A.G. Kawamura’s grandparents first came to California from Japan at the beginning of the 20th century, they worked as seasonal fruit pickers and, eventually, sharecroppers in an Orange County that was mostly about orange trees and maybe a couple of other crops.

Within a few years, however, the founders of what became Orange County Produce had created a fertilizer and farm supply company. After World War II, during which they were relocated to an internment camp in Arizona, the Kawamuras launched a company that grew and shipped fresh produce like lettuce, cabbage and cantaloupes. Read More