Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Vertical Farm Project

Location: International
Director: Dr. Dickson Despommier, Ph.D.


Vertical Farm Video

The Vertical Farm Project is active in proposing solutions to the increased food demand and decreased agricultural land supply that will result from the growing population. It is a project based out of Columbia University’s Environmental Health Science department that serves as a sort of drop box for architects’ proposals on how to feed urban populations throughout the world. Their argument is that indoor farming is advantageous because it protects crops from natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts which destroy millions of tons of harvestable crops each year.

Advantages of Vertical Farming:
* Year-round crop production; 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending upon the crop (e.g., strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres)
No weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests
* All food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
*virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water
*returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services
*greatly reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the agricultural inter face
*converts black and gray water into potable water by collecting the water of
*adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible
parts of plants and animals
*dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping.)
*converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers
*creates sustainable environments for urban centers
*creates new employment opportunities

Organic Consumers Association

Location: USA
Years: 1998-present
National Director: Ronnie Cummins


The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit public interest organization campaigning for health, justice and sustainability. They were formed in 1998 after the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed controversial national regulations for organic food. The OCA is currently working on 12 campaigns which promote the organic lifestyle by pushing for stronger food regulations, among other things.

The OCA’s overall political prgram is the Organic Agenda 2015 which is a six point platform calling for:

*The conversion of American agriculture to at least 30% organic by the year 2015, including major reforms in agricultural subsidies and appropriations to help family farmers make the transition to organic, develop local and regional markets, and adopt renewable energy practices.
*Fair Trade and economic justice, not so-called corporate-driven “Free Trade” as the global norm.
*A global moratorium on genetically engineered foods and crops.
*A phase-out of the most dangerous industrial agriculture and factory farming practices.
*Universal health care with an emphasis on prevention, nutrition, and wellness promotion.
* Energy independence and the conversion of US and global agriculture, transportation, and utilities to conservation practices and renewable energy.

The Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Founders: Dan Rosenthal and Ina Pinkney


The Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op provides a means for Chicago area restaurants and businesses to procur sustainable products and services and works to increase the type and amount of such products.

The goals of The Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op are to:

* Identify and provide information about local sources of sustainable products and services.
* Provide members with opportunities to easily purchase environmentally preferable products at a cost-com petitive price, as compared to traditional products.

The Green Chicago Restaurant Co-op consistently applies the following criteria:

* Reduce or eliminate toxicity; in particular long term persistent toxicity Conserve natural resources, materials, and energy;
* Maximize recyclability and recycled content of the purchased products;
* Help educate businesses and residents on the merits of environmentally preferable products;
* Improve conditions for achieving a healthy community through conserving natural resources, improving water quality and reducing waste generation; Encourage regional partnerships;
* Reduce costs.

One of their initiatives to create more sustainable dining is the introduction of the “Guaranteed Green” seal. Restaurants that would like the “Guaranteed Green” status have one year to prove their sustainability in eight different areas of their businesses: water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable furnishings and building materials, sustainable food, energy management, management of disposables, chemical and pollution.


100 Mile Diet

Location: 100 miles around you
Years: 2006-present
Founders: James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith


The 100 Mile Diet was a way for James and Alisa to start thinking locally. They went into the diet cold turkey and continued it for an enitre year. The guidelines were simply to eat only food produced within 100 miles of their location. It started as a personal journey, but has gained much attention in both Canada and the United States. They promote the 100-Mile Diet as a means to learning about food by doing: “Getting to know the seasons. Understanding where our food comes from, and at what risk to our health and to the environment. Sorting out how we all ended up eating apples that taste like cardboard and cakes made with petrochemicals. It was a challenge, but a good one - a genuine adventure.” In both books and their website, James and Alisa share with others their experience eating locally and give advice to others who would like to follow suit.

They are now pushing an initiative called the 100 Mile Thanksgiving which encourages Americans to really think about where their getting their food from on Thanksgiving. Since the initiative started in 2006, tens of thousands of Americans have annually made the choice to have a 100 Mile Thanksgiving in which their entire meal consisted of food produced within 100 miles. The campaign has been so successful that readers from all over the country have written in to share their stories as well as recipes for local foods in areas throughout the country.

The Crowd Farm

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Years: 2007-present
Founders: James Graham and Thaddeus Jusczyk


The Crowd Farm, as envisioned by James Graham and Thaddeus Jusczyk, is a plan to harness energy from human movement in crowded areas; such as subway platforms or sports stadiums. Primarily, it looks to turn the mechanical energy of people moving about into electrical energy. This innovative idea has gained a lot of attention and this year their proposal took first place in the Japan-based Holcim Foundation’s Sustainable Construction competition.

The system itself would work as follows: In a heavily trafficked space, a responsive sub-flooring system made up of blocks that depress slightly under the force of human steps would be installed. “The slippage of the blocks against one another as people walked would generate power through the principle of the dynamo, a device that converts the energy of motion into that of an electric current.”

According to Graham and Jusczyk, a single step provides enough energy to light a lightbulb for one second and 28527 steps (as could be easily found at a professional sporting event) can power a moving train for one second. The Crowd Farm is still being experimented with, but Graham and Jusczyk hope to get this new building system off the ground soon.

Organic Food Federation

Location: United Kingdom
Years: 1986-present



The Organic Food Federation, located in the United Kingdom for over 20 years, is responsible for promoting organic lifestyles and maintaining high standards for organic practices. It provides both professional and personal assistance. Once certified by the Organic Food Federation, a producer is able to demonstrate that their product is produced in accordance with the Organic Food Federation’s organic standards which comply with the European organic regulation. These standards are based on the official definitive legal standard within the European Union. In locations without definitive standards, they have developed their own which reflect organic principles. The standards are well outlined in 5 different books customized to the Processor, the Producer, the Importer, Aquaculture, and NOP (for products being shipped to America). Within the standards is a strict definition of the hierarchy of infringements and the necessary remedies to get one certified again. The code further contains ethical guidelines for the treatment of animals and insists that one complies with all relevent legislation above and beyond their own.

The National Resources Defense Council

Location: United States
Years: 1970-present
President: Frances Beinecke


The National Resources Defense Council is an environmental action organization that uses law and science to protect the planet and ensure a safe and healthy environment for all living things. There are 1.3 million members helping to curb global warming, eliminate toxic chemicals in the environment, and move America beyond oil. One of their campaigns is the eat local campaign which allows the user to input their location and find fresh produce nearby. The NRDC further provides consumers with state-by-state information for what produce is fresh and locally grown. This includes local lists for every growing season from Early January to Late December; 24 lists in total. Produce available in bordering states is also provided as well as recipes to use with the local food.

They advocate local eating habits, explaining that most produce grown in the United States travels an average of 1,500 miles before it gets sold. For example, every year, nearly 270 million pounds of grapes arrive inCalifornia, most of them shipped from Chile to the Port of Los Angeles. Their 5,900 mile journey in cargo ships and trucks releases 7,000 tons of global warming pollution each year, and enough air pollution to cause dozens of asthma attacks and hundreds of missed school days in California. The NRDC believe that by eating locally, consumers can have a huge impact on the health of our planet and they are working to make this campaign easier for people all over the country.

Biogen Greenfinch

Location: Milton Ernest, Bedfordshire
Years: 2005-present
Leader: John Ibbett


Biogen promotes, develops and utilizes new technologies to respond to today’s environmental challenges. They deliver eco-technology solutions that meet those challenges while supporting the sustainability of the environment, farming and rural communities. Biogen was established to develop a new farm based on Anaerobic Digestion (AD). AD is a natural biological process using naturally occurring micro-organisms to break down organic matter into fertilizer while producing biogas. The anaerobic bacteria utilized in the process are commonly found in soils and deep waters. AD is split into three main stages: hydrolysis, acidogenesis, and methanogenesis. After methanogenesis, a combined heat and power engine is used to conver the biogas into heat and electricity.

Biogen uses its own pig slurry to feed the AD process and also provide a local recycling solution for other food chain waste in the UK.

Recycle Bank

Location: 20 states, United Kingdom
Years: 2003-Present
Founder: Patrick Fitzgerald and Ron Gonen
Partners: 1,500 points redeeming partners

Recycle Bank is an incentive based recycling program started to combat cities eliminating their recycling programs because of the lack of profitability. Presently it serves one million people in twenty states and launched in the UK in 2009 and is an incentive-based approach to recycling that gives rewards for recycling that can be redeemed at both local and national businesses. Residents are given recycle bins that have ID's that track how much is recycled. The program elected to use a single-stream system where materials recycled together instead of in separate bins for ease of use. This amount is then converted to "points" (similar to credit card or airline miles programs) that can be redeemed at Recycle Bank partners.

In addition to individuals, the corporate program partners with (ie replaces) 25 partner municipalities (9 of those in New Jersey). As an example of the positive response from renewing the a city’s recycling program, Wilmington, Delaware saw an increase from 3% recycling to 32% recycling among its residents.

The English Farm

Name: The English Farm

Location: Liberty Corner, NJ

Years: 1750- Present

Founded by: The English Family

This farm has been family owned for 8 generations. The farm includes a working farm, a farm market, and barnyard animals: cows, pigs, goats, chickens and rabbits, along with bantam chickens and sheep from Harrison Brook Farm. They are open to the public from July through October selling their own eggs, seasonal vegetables including tomatoes, corn, squash, peppers to name a few, and flowers. They also sell herbs and herb plants from Harrison Brook Farm, an herb/sheep farm on Valley Road and peaches and apples from Ripple Hill Farm, an orchard on Mountain Road. Seasonal events include fall hayrides, pumpkin picking and an annual History Day.

Bernards Township recently approved the purchase of the farmland development rights under the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program. The program helps landowners who want to continue to own and farm their land to sell the development easements to ensure the land remains in agriculture. These deed restrictions will remain in force for any future owners. Preservation of the ancestral farm has been a goal of the English family for many years and they are pleased to be the first farm approved by the Township for this program.

They have placed 81 acres of the farm into the preservation program including the barns, the farm land west of the barns and the meadow on the east side of Valley Road where their cows graze in the summer. They continue to promote their mission around agriculture, history and education and to encourage the community to enjoy the farm while the produce stand is open from July through October. Come visit the animals, enjoy the open landscape and learn more about growing vegetables, caring for animals and local farming operations.


    Edible Communities Magazine

    Name: Edible Communities Magazine

    Location: 33 Cities in the USA, and Canada

    Years: 2002- present

    Founded by: Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian

    The mission of Edible Communities, Inc. (ECI) is to transform the way consumers shop for, cook, eat and relate to local food. Through its printed publications, websites and events, ECI strives to connect consumers with local growers, retailers, chefs and food artisans, enabling those relationships to grow and thrive in a mutually beneficial, healthful and economically viable way. A network of 33 regional magazines that offers culinary news tailored to where they are published, placing strong emphasis on local and sustainable food practices.





    Name: Permablitz: Eating the Suburbs - One Backyard at a Time
    Location: Melbourne, Australia


    Permablitzes are informal events where people get together to create edible gardens in residential areas, share permaculture and sustainability skills and build community networks. The organization was founded by Permaculture designer Dan Palmer in 2006 in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. Permablitzes have since occurred in over 70 locations in Australia, France, Uganda and the Netherlands.

    Permaculture design is an integral part of the process, and each Permablitz must be in collaboration with someone with a Permaculture Design Certificate. Permaculture systems operate like natural eco-systems and don’t require fertilizer or produce any waste. They do this by integrating the owner’s wants, needs, habits and skills with site limitations to create “ecologically harmonious systems” which produce most of the food needs of the residents, including fruit, vegetables, eggs and sometimes usable water.

    Using Permaculture in residential areas reduces the food miles of residents who benefit from the new eco-systems, increases their self-sufficiency and independence from fluctuating food prices, lowers their carbon emissions and serves to “rewild” part of the human species.

    The Food Trust’s Farmers Market Program

    Name: The Food Trust’s Farmers Market Program

    Location: Philadelphia, PA

    Years: 1992- Present

    Funded by: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

    The Food Trust strives to make healthy food available to all. Working with neighborhoods, schools, grocers, farmers and policymakers, they’eve developed a comprehensive approach that combines nutrition education and greater availability of affordable, healthy food.

    The Food Trust organization began working with communities to develop lasting and stable sources of affordable foods, through farmers markets and nutritional education classes. Lack of access to healthy, affordable foods has a direct, measurable impact on our health. Research has shown that the presence of grocery stores selling fresh fruits and vegetables in a community helps people maintain a healthy weight. Through the identification of economic development resources, active public/private partnerships, rigorous research and policy advocacy, The Food Trust has successfully addressed the lack of supermarket access in Pennsylvania, New York, Louisiana, Illinois. At present, they are also laying the groundwork for similar initiatives in New Jersey and Colorado. With a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we will be expanding this campaign into 8 more states across the country over the next several years.

    Philadelphia has the second lowest number of supermarkets per capita of major cities in the nation. The Food Trust began its efforts to address supermarket-access issues here. Their network of farmers’ markets helps sustain regional farms and serves more than 125,000 customers in the Philadelphia region. Many of their farmers’ markets are located in neighborhoods underserved by supermarkets, grocery stores and other fresh food outlets. All of their markets accept food stamps (EBT/Access cards) and Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program vouchers and provide helpful nutrition information to ensure that fresh, local foods are available to everyone. The Food Trust continues to reach new heights of success in promoting healthy eating and food availability in urban communities and advocating for policy to promote long-term change.


    RSA Arts + Ecology Centre

    Location: London, England
    Years: 2005 to present
    Funding: Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA)
    Researchers: individual artists, architects, and partnering agencies in the UK

    The RSA Centre was set up by the RSA in 2005 to bring together artists and the public in a dialogue about the causes and human impact on climate change. Through its leadership and commitment to action, the RSA Centre is commissioning debate, interdisciplinary discourse, research and events to catalyze and publicize the need to engage in the battle against global warming.

    The Centre’s Head is Michaela Crimmin who states. “Artists have always had a powerful relationship with the natural environment. Equally, artists continually question and re-examine society’s notion of progress. We need their perspective on the enormous challenge ahead — on the relationship between environmental issues, and not least climate change, and people”.

    The RSA’s use of robust communications technologies has helped to raise the awareness of the Centre’s work and is a showcase for an equally powerful collection of current and planned events and exhibitions that span the range of artistic disciplines and multi-media representation.

    Of particular interest is The Ghost Forest Project by artist Angela Palmer, who earlier this month traveled to Ghana, and with the help from local laborers and the cooperation of the Ghana Forestry Commission was able to remove the giant tree stumps from their in-situ habitat to be shipped to London for the exhibition next month. Imagine the overwhelming visual power of ten gigantic tree roots occupying Trafalgar Square. Her pungent message of the cost of deforestation, both spiritually and ecologically, could not be more palpable.

    The RSA Arts and Ecology Centre recognizes that perhaps the best way to communicate their mission of saving the environment is through the harnessed and leveraged intellectual and creative core of artists around the world.


    Farm to School

    Name: Farm to School

    Location: 40 states in the USA

    Years: 2004- Present

    Founded by: The Center for Food & Justice

    The National Farm to School Network supports community-based food systems, strengthen family farms, and improve student health by reducing childhood obesity. More than 30 million children eat a school lunch five days a week, 180 days a year. The Farm to School approach helps children understand where their food comes through providing local food at each of these meals. They also greatly focus on the introduction of local foods into the school curriculum. This is done through school gardens, farm tours, farmer in the classroom sessions, chefs in the classroom, culinary education, educational sessions for parents and community members, visits to farmers’ markets. from and how their food choices impact their bodies, the environment and their communities at large.

    In 2000, the Center for Food & Justice started the four year National Farm to School Project funded by the USDA Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (The National Farm to School Program started farm to school movement across the country. It assited organizations in starting up and sustaining farm to school efforts, fundraising, and providing informational resources, education and training for stakeholders. In 2007, with support by a $2.4 million grant the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the National Farm to School Network was born. Consisting of eight regional agencies and national staff, this network provides free training and technical assistance, information services, networking, and support for policy, media and marketing activities. Farm to School programs have spread to approximately 400 in 2004, 1,000 in 2007 and over 2,000 in 2009 spanning 40 states.

    Farm to School brings healthy food from local farms to school children nationwide. The program teaches students about the path from farm to fork, and instills healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. At the same time, use of local produce in school meals and educational activities provides a new direct market for farmers in the area and mitigates environmental impacts of transporting food long distances.

    "The Benefits of Farm to School:

    - Strengthen children’s and communities’ knowledge about, and attitudes toward, agriculture, food, nutrition and the environment.

    - Increase children’s participation in the school meals program and consumption of fruits and vegetables, thereby improving childhood nutrition, reducing hunger, and preventing obesity and obesity-related diseases.

    - Benefit school food budgets, after start-up, if planning and menu choices are made consistent with seasonal availability of fresh and minimally processed whole foods.

    - Support economic development across numerous sectors and promote job creation.

    - Increase market opportunities for farmers, fishers, ranchers, food processors and food manufacturers.

    - Decrease the distance between producers and consumers, thus promoting food security while reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and reliance on oil."


    Name: Source Map

    Location: The Internet

    Contributors: The Public

    See Where Stuff Comes From with SourceMap: "Imagine a future in which pointing a PDA at a product bar code returns an instant readout of product source and environmental footprint to inform the buyer's decision. This future could be reality with SourceMap. Designed as a "collective tool for transparency and sustainability," SourceMap aims to be the Wiki of visualizing supply chains."

    Sourcemap’s goals are to provide visible supply chains, social and environmental sustainability, and sustain business. We have a right to know more about the products and services we buy, including where they come from and what they are made of. Sourcemap is an open source project dedicated to tracking, documenting, and mapping where all of the components for our everyday goods come from. In short, it’s a supply chain publishing platform dedicated to transparency. Believing their program will allow for industrial productionto become environmentally and socially beneficia. Unfortunately, with the resources currently available to the public, it’s nearly impossible to find out how products and services impact the earth and society. Therefore, they are developing Sourcemap so that those who are interested can make informed, sustainable decisions at home and in the workplace. Yet, their main intention is for Sourcemap to help sustain business. Built as a diagnostic and marketing tool that helps to plan for and advertise a long-term outlook. Their website states that “After all, saving energy and materials saves money, and healthy communities become prosperous markets. Sourcemap provides an edge so you can respond to shifting supplies, communicate with customers, and plan for the future.”

    Sourcemap is already a running website, yet it has not achieved their initial goals. This is how it works. It catalogues various materials from food to clothing, and their CO2 emissions. You can then use these statistics to map the total CO2 emissions or carbon footprint of the product. Functioning like a social network, anyone can contribute to the storyline of a products lifetime. For example, you can calculate the impact of manufacturing, transporting, using, and throwing away products using their Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) calculator. The website uses geographic resources and data while relying on user contributions and a panel of advisers to keep information up-to-date. They hope that as the site grows, suppliers will be able to contribute their products to the Sourcemap database, providing a geographic catalogue of materials and products for sale around the world.




    Seawater Vertical Farm Project

    Location: Dubai, UAE
    Architect: Studiomobile - Italy


    In Dubai, a desert climate with little fresh water, selective conversion to fresh water, combined with farming vertically may be the solution, or so proposes Italy’s Studiomobile design firm. The project would use seawater to humidify air, and then recondense some of that water to irrigate the crops. The concept works in three phases:

    Phase 01
    The air going into the greenhouse is first cooled and humidified by seawater,
    which is trickled over the first evaporator. This provides a fresh and humid climate
    for the crops that in these conditions need very little water as they are not stressed
    by excessive transpiration.

    Phase 02
    As the air leaves the growing area it passes through the second evaporator which
    has seawater flowing over it. During this phase the humid air mix with the warm
    dry air of the ceiling interspace. Thus the air is made much hotter and more humid.

    Phase 03
    The warm air is forced to flow upward by the stack effect that is temperature induced.
    In the central chimney the warm and humid air will condense when in contact with
    plastic tubes where cool sea water is pumped. In the surface of the condenser many
    drops of fresh water will appear, ready to be recollected in a tank to water the crops
    and for other uses.