Sustainable Ag Startup
Farmers Web is an 18-month-old start-up that aims to link local farms with local buyers through a wholesale “management tool,” and vibrant online marketplace that allows you to “shop and sell local online, anytime.”
The brainchild of co-founder and CEO, Jennifer Goggin, Farmers Web was born in downtown Manhattan from decidedly non-bucolic roots.
“I went into finance after college (Columbia University – political science), but my heart just wasn’t in it,” Goggin said. “So we decided that promoting small agriculture was something we could grab hold of.”
Growing shiitake oyster mushrooms for Michael Alt’s family’s restaurant proved to be a tricky operation in snowfall manic Syracuse, NY. Maintaining ideal conditions required a complicated set-up of seemingly endless triggers, humidifiers, fans, dehumidifiers and miscellaneous controls. At his day job, Alt was making radar technology for the US Department of Defense as a software engineer – stuff like forward facing detector installations for Afghanistan bases. It seemed far from related to his mushroom cultivating hobby, but then one of his hardware tech co-workers came in with something that had the potential to change everything for Alt’s growing operation.
It was a remote weather monitor and door controller for the guy’s chicken coop, set up through a short wave radio. This was a few years back when Alt didn’t know that something like that was even possible to rig up.
He wasn’t aware of any urban bee pollination companies, and if the idea still sounded reasonable after a night’s sleep, Corky Luster decided he would pursue such a venture. The idea still sounded reasonable in the morning, and so, the Ballard Bee Company began.
As an experienced bee keeper, Corky knew the benefits that honeybees provided: The majority of pollination in the United States is by honeybees, yet in Seattle, he “wasn’t seeing honey bees.” This absence is the reason he decided to get into urban pollination. Ballard Bee Company was the first urban bee pollination company in Seattle; “no one here was doing it” when I started, Corky says, and now four years later, there are other urban pollination companies.
Reno, NV Startup Sees Opportunity in High Tech, Inexpensive Irrigation Control Systems for Small FarmersJanuary 31, 2013 | Nicola Kerslake
When Reno, NV based sustainable agriculture enthusiast Eric Jennings noticed one morning that, yet again, his irrigation system had watered his sidewalk more than his backyard farm, he decided that it was time to put his engineering skills to good use. “Water is expensive and scarce in this area, and wasting it just bugged me so much that I started tinkering around in the garage” Jennings noted. Most of the commercially available water irrigation control systems were either prohibitively expensive or excessively complex; “there was just nothing around designed for the small farmer” he concluded.
Around six months’ later, he’d created Pinoccio; a small, cheap microcontroller with an embedded WiFi unit that could be combined with a soil moisture sensor to control irrigation remotely.
The following is a candid conversation with young farmers, Matt Hyde and Sarah Wertz about their operation, Rabbit Run Farm in Skull Valley, Arizona.
What compelled you, especially as a young couple to get into sustainable farming?
We both enjoy working outdoors and eating good food. The farming lifestyle represents our values and beliefs. Also, we took the class Small Scale Agriculture at Prescott College held at Whipstone Farm in Paulden, Arizona. Following the class, we talked with the farmers Cory and Shanti and asked if we could work for them the following season. We really enjoyed it! The next season, Byrnie at Ridgeview Farms offered us land to use as kind of a trial for farming on our own The next season we were offered the farm manager position at Jenner Farm in Skull Valley and moved our farming operation there. We’ve been farming ever since.