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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Startup Profile: TerraSphere Systems: Sustainable Vertical Farming is a Reality

April 14, 2011 |

TerraSphere Systems Vertical FarmingThe idea for TerraSphere Systems’ vertical farming technology all started with a few marijuana plants.

In fact, Nick Brusatore, Co-Founder and Inventor of TerraSphere Systems, began developing his unique hydroponic technology system for medical marijuana cultivation in Canada (Canada began offering medical marijuana to eligible patients in 2003).

After working with their hydroponic technology for a while, Brusatore and his partner William Gildea began to think about population growth and quickly perceived the wider agricultural marketplace opportunities for their product to address future food shortages. Read More

Growing Power: Using Urban Sustainable Agriculture to Create Jobs in Milwaukee

April 13, 2011 |

Growing Power Urban AgricultureGrowing 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. Read More

Startup Profile: Biochar Engineering: Sequestering Carbon and Sustaining Agriculture

April 9, 2011 |

Biochar can sequester carbon and increase soil fertilityUPDATE – 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. Read More

Cellulosic Ethanol: A Larger Opportunity than Corn-Based Ethanol

April 7, 2011 |

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. Read More

China’s Love Affair with Cassava

April 7, 2011 |

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.  Read More