Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’
In the Guardian this week, there’s an article by Jonathan Margolis about the commercialisation of a technology that uses seawater as the main element of agriculturally productive greenhouses. Much of the article focuses on the way the technology, developed by British theatre lighting engineer Charlie Paton, has been scaled up and combined with extra technology to provide consistent, commercial-quality crops from the Sundrop Farms greenhouse in the desert outside Port Augusta, in South Australia. On it’s own, that’s pretty exciting and well worth a read.
A 75m line of motorised parabolic mirrors that follow the sun all day focuses its heat on a pipe containing a sealed-in supply of oil. The hot oil in turn heats nearby tanks of seawater pumped up from a few metres below ground – the shore is only 100m away. The oil brings the seawater up to 160C and steam from this drives turbines providing electricity. Some of the hot water from the process heats the greenhouse through the cold desert nights, while the rest is fed into a desalination plant that produces the 10,000 litres of fresh water a day needed to keep the plants happy. The water the grower gets is pure and ready for the perfect mix of nutrients to be added. The air in the greenhouse is kept humid and cool by trickling water over a wall of honeycombed cardboard evaporative pads through which air is driven by wind and fans. The system is hi-tech all the way; the greenhouse is in a remote spot, but the grower, a hyper-enthusiastic 27-year-old Canadian, Dave Pratt, can rather delightfully control all the growing conditions for his tonnes of crops from an iPhone app if he’s out on the town – or even home in Ontario.
The remainder of the article touches on the divergence of philosophy between Paton’s Seawater Greenhouse, and SunDrop.
The Seawater Greenhouse method, which they are still promoting actively, involves no desalination plant, no gleaming solar mirrors and little by way of anything electronic. Everything in the Seawater Greenhouse vision is low-tech, cheap to start up and reliant on the subtle, gentle interaction of evaporation and condensation of seawater with wind, both natural and artificial, blown by fans powered by solar panels. If things go wrong and production is disrupted by a glitch in this model, you just persuade people to eat perfectly good but odd-looking produce – or harvest less and stand firm by your sustainable principles.
For those of us interested in the gap between local, low-tech production designed to shift society away from BAU, and the changes that occur when those systems scale up to cater to the existing market, this article may also provide a few points of contention.
Read the full article by Jonathan Margolis for the Guardian.
Source: Nourishing The Planet
Infographic by The Christensen Fund
From the Infographic ‘Soil to Sky: of agroecology versus industrial agriculture’ by The Christensen Fund
In order to feed our world without destroying it, an holistic type of agriculture is needed, and we have a choice. Here we compare the current high-input industrial system with a renewed vision for agriculture: the agroecolocial system. [...]
Agroecological strategies can better feed the world, fight climate change and poverty, and protect soil and water while maintaining healthy, liveable communities and local economies. Industrial agriculture contributes to climate change, malnutrition and ecosystem degradation around the planet. It has not delivered on its promise to feed the world.
Go to the post on Nourishing the Planet for a higher resolution version.
Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on July 4th, 2012
From “FarmHack: Collaboratively Retooling Agriculture” by Benjamin Brownell:
FarmHack is a network for sharing open source know-how amongst the distributed fringe of DIY agricultural tech aficionados and innovators. In the same vein as Appropedia or Open Source Ecology, a collaborative digital knowledge-base facilitates the harvest of crowd wisdom to address challenges and inefficiencies in modern ecological (and economical) farm operation. It is a project of Young Farmers Coalition and somewhat angled to the exuberant and tech-savvy eco-preneurial demographic, but inclusive and supportive of all open earthy inhabitants.
A primary focus of the organization is toward intensive development meet-ups, teach-ins, and hackathons, in person, on the farm. Just after landing at my new rural summer farm home and hack-factory in Vermont, I learned of one such get-together nearby on Lake Champlain. It appealed as a chance to meet peers, learn about the local Intervale organic agricultural enterprise collective, and practice some “agile” collaborative protocols in fresh context.
We were first treated to a tour of the Intervale Center, and the predominantly “hacked” implements and equipment of its Farmers’ Cooperative, such as automated greenhouses, root vegetable washer (designed in conjunction with University of Vermont engineering students), salad greens dryer (Amana brand washing machine uncased and set to spin), four-barrelled flame-throwing weed exterminator, and electric tractor-to-be. Use of these is on a per-hour honor system basis, with a proportional pooled fund (plus lots of good-natured volunteer effort) to cover maintenance, repairs, and new purchase. It’s effective, productive, and proliferating (link is an “idea worth sharing” pdf pamphlet on farm equipment co-ops from University of Sasketchewan Center for the Study of Cooperatives).
Rural areas–so many in stark economic decline today–are in fact a wealth of raw materials, practical skill, and entrained devotion towards creative repurposing and sustainable initiative. Some of the best comfort and satisfaction about life on and with a piece of land, is that there is always plenty to “do;” to explore, to evaluate and improve upon, to hack away at in a mechanical or strategic manner–with room for creativity and eclectic flair–leading directly to concrete (frequently delicious and/or nutritious) result.
Commercial crop production and domestic animal management is intensely context-sensitive and dynamic vocation. It’s frequently demeaning and discouraging. It’s relatively crap pay. And, it is occasionally a paramount satisfaction returned for gritty labors in the public interest that are literally life-giving. Sustainable food systems are the long-range engine and “money supply” of our civil society. Open sourcing the know-how and effective story lines of successful ventures within this realm will invite citizens back into the processes and rewards of collaborative solving for abundance, ecology, community, and culture.
Read the full article by Benjamin Brownell on Shareable.
Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on April 6th, 2011
The report of the Victorian Food Supply Scenarios: Impacts on Availability of a Nutritious Diet project has been released. This VEIL-led research project was funded by VicHealth and undertaken in partnership with the CSIRO, Deakin University and the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development.
The purpose of this project was to develop and demonstrate a new methodology to link land and resource use with availability of a nutritionally adequate food supply for Victoria’s population.
To do so, it has built the capability of the CSIRO stocks and flows model as a platform for on-going ‘what-if’ investigation of Victorian and Australian food supply security.
The full report and a summary version are available for download on the VEIL website. www.ecoinnovationlab.com
Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on June 29th, 2010
Source: The Ecologist
From “Malawi reaps the reward of returning to age-old, chemical-free farming” by Molly Stevenson:
Mr Kanjanga is a farmer from Ntcheu District in Phambala, Malawi. In 1975, having seen the deteriorating effect that the application of chemical fertilisers was having on his crops, he decided to return to the composting techniques he had seen used by his father in the 1930s. His crops started to improve so significantly that he decided to set up the Lipangwe Organic Manure Demonstration Farm (LOMADEF) in 1980 so as to share his learning with fellow farmers. He decided that the most effective way to make sure that the learning reached as many people as possible would be to train community members to act as Agricultural Advisors in their communities. LOMADEF set about carefully selecting Agricultural Advisors on the basis of their innovative approach to farming, training them in sustainable farming techniques and in communication and facilitation skills so they can pass on their learning to fellow farmers.
Eveline Msngwa, an Agricultural Advisor from Bwese village, has been working with LOMADEF for ten years. The land that she and her husband Charles own is a textbook in sustainable farming practices. In one corner of the field are three heaps of harvested maize. The first heap was planted using only chemical fertilisers, the second using a basal compost top dressed with chemical fertiliser and the third using basal compost and liquid manure. ‘As you can see each heap is more or less the same size. Our fellow farmers can clearly see that there is little to gain in using chemical fertiliser. In fact when you use chemical fertiliser you effectively make a loss because you spend more money on the crop!’
There are also a variety of crops in their field. Eveline and Charles have planted nitrogen-fixing crops such as soya, groundnuts, pigeon peas and cowpeas that replenish lost nutrients in the soil. And, instead of simply growing maize as their staple crop they are now growing cassava and sweet potatoes. As a result they are less vulnerable to crop failure and have a variety of produce to sell at the market. ‘We have made 20,000 kwa (£185) from the sale of the cassava and the sweet potato crops. We are going to invest this profit in cultivating the additional land that we have. We have also already bought goats with some of the profits and have been using the manure in maize production. We were the first family in our village to do this.’
Just as Eveline and Charles’ successes serve as an example to their fellow farmers, so LOMADEF’s efforts have helped to pave the way towards a new approach to farming at a national level. After a number of years of promoting subsidised fertiliser and hybrid seeds as the best way to increase harvests, the Malawian Ministry of Agriculture, prompted by a rise in global fertiliser prices, decided that it was time to look into different ways forward. They therefore decided to hold a national composting launch at LOMADEF and a range of government officials, NGOs, businesses and farmers made their way out to the remote farm to watch demonstrations on a range of different composting techniques.
As a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture remarked in a speech at the launch, LOMADEF has demonstrated that ‘there is a need for an intensification of soil fertility management activities especially manure-making, conservation agriculture, and agro-forestry if we are going to have a hunger free nation.’
Read the full article by Molly Stevenson.
Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 14th, 2010
Source: Japan for Sustainability
The government of Kumamoto Prefecture in southern Japan has launched a project that introduces substandard agricultural products produced in the prefecture to box-lunch shops in business districts in Osaka Prefecture in western Japan. Kumamoto Prefecture’s Osaka office has led this project, called the “Mottainai Project” (‘mottainai’ literally means ‘not wasting what is valuable’), and started it in earnest in 2010.
The prefectural government began this project on a trial basis in 2008 in cooperation with a shop that sells box lunches and set meals in the same building as its Osaka office. In this shop, vegetables and fruits that used to be discarded, mainly due to scars on them or irregularities in their size, were experimentally sold at display counters that had been clear after lunchtime. These agricultural products were better received than expected, because of their low cost, tastiness, and novelty. As for tomatoes in particular, as much as five tons were sold in less than a four-month period, with sales of about one million yen (U.S.$10,870).
In this project, farmers can distribute substandard vegetables and fruits to shops in small amounts, while shops can make effective use of vacant counters, and also can use vegetables and fruits for box lunches and other meals if they are left unsold. The project is well-received, as it involves little risk for the farmers and shops and brings additional profits to both. So far, 15 local food stores and farmers have distributed such farm products to Osaka, and 38 farmers have showed an interest in doing so.
The prefectural government’s Osaka office also plans to hold a food exhibition for box-lunch shop owners to allow them to see and taste-test substandard vegetables, with the aim of enhancing the network with Kumamoto Prefecture and acquiring new vendors in the Osaka metropolitan area.
Read the full article on japanfs.