This is Farm 432. It’s sorta like an ant farm. But the bugs aren’t doing the farming. You’re farming the bugs. (Click Image To Enlarge)
DON’T THINK OF IT AS EATING BUG BABIES. THINK OF IT AS PROTEIN GARDENING.
As the population grows, so, too, will its hunger for meat. By 2050, meat production will need to surge by 50% to quell demand. The only problem is, producing so much (red) meat is already an environmental nightmare. And we simply might not have the resources to scale.
It’s a house to raise black soldier flies so that you can eat their larvae. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Meanwhile, Katharina Unger is planning to invite her friends over to a barbecue. (Really.) The University of Applied Arts Vienna grad has built a pretty impressive domestic insect-breeding concept called Farm 432. Over the course of 432 hours, with just a few food scraps, she can coax 1 gram of black soldier fly eggs into 2.4 kilograms of larvae protein. And if you listen to Unger long enough, her arguments are pretty convincing as to why we should all be growing fly larvae at home.
“Black soldier flies themselves do not eat, they just drink. And they do not transmit any disease to humans. Unlike normal house flies they usually do not sit on food and they do not sting or bite, either. They also fly very slowly, so in case one should escape it is easy to catch them.”
But the relatively gross idea has been packaged as a convenient consumer product. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Over their eight-day lifecycle, soldier flies need space to fly around, mate, and lay eggs. In response, Farm 432 has a bulbous sphere at the end, connected to the "fly fun park" nozzles. These nozzles were designed after insect-attracting plants like the Rafflesia, and serve several functions. They waft in food waste from another chamber, convincing the flies that this will be a safe place for their offspring to thrive. And they provide a spot to lay eggs. Eventually, when the larvae hatch inside, they’ll fall through a hole to the food source below.
The flies use the bubble area to live. They lay their eggs in the blue funnels. The eggs hatch into larvae, which fall into food scraps. And eventually, the larvae climb their way out… (Click Image To Enlarge)
“There they feed on biowaste or whatever you feed them on and wriggle around for around 14 days. They then want to clean themselves and find a dry and secure place to pupate, that’s why they climb up the migration ramp. This is when they fall into the collection bucket for harvest.”
…to end up here. (Click Image To Enlarge)
From here, it’s bon appetit. The larvae have a nutty, almost meaty flavor, Unger says, and her favorite dish is a tomato larvae risotto. But as tasty as it may be, and as well as Farm 432 may work, Unger admits that the design challenge is only part of making such an idea a success.
“With my design I am proposing a new lifestyle. It’s about a potential new Western culture of insect eating and breeding. It’s about making people aware that there is a great variety of food on our planet that we rarely consider.”
It’s a convenient tray for cooking. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Through the process, 1 gram of black soldier fly eggs becomes 2.4 kilograms of larvae. (Click Image To Enlarge)
It’s an incredible ecological savings compared to beef. (Click Image To Enlarge)
COMMENTARY: This sure looks yucky to me, but if you are into eating insects for the nutrition, I could easily see where you could buy a dozen of these Farm 432 units and grow different bugs to suit your individual taste buds. Nothig like bugs as a garnish for your favorite rice dish. Yuck!!
RECON, WHICH BILLS ITSELF AS A GOOGLE GLASS FOR ATHLETES, HAS ALREADY SHIPPED THOUSANDS MORE DEVICES THAN GOOGLE AND SECURED INVESTMENT FROM INTEL CAPITAL TO BOOT.
Recon, maker of a $600 Google Glass-like wearable device marketed toward athletes, reports it has already shipped 50,000 of its "Snow" model, geared toward skiers. That's many thousands more than the number of Glass devices Google has shipped to date. Google has instead chosen to roll out its device very slowly, to only a few thousand people to start.
Recon has also secured an investment from Intel Capital to continue development on what Recon calls "the world's most advanced wearable computer." Although the debate over which wearable device can claim the title of "most advanced" is still up for discussion, Recon's current niche is high-performance athletes, which means it's more durable than the shatter-prone Google Glass.
Intel VP Mike Bell, who manages the corporation's new devices group, said.
"In Recon Instruments, we see compelling technology and a solid strategy to capitalize on the wearable revolution. This is an area of significant focus for Intel Capital, and our investment in Recon Instruments is a key part of our approach to innovation in this emerging space."
COMMENTARY:In terms of design, Recon glasses are reminiscent of the futuristic Oakley sports shades that are so popular with many top tier sports professionals. An interesting difference between the Recon Jet and Glass is that the former puts the display lens at the lower part of the wearer's vision rather than at the top.
According to a statement on the Recon Jet website,
"Research has shown that looking down is an easier eye movement than looking up. Jet is also designed for outdoor use, where looking up could result in looking directly at the sun, something we want to avoid."
Another important difference is that the Recon Jet is controlled only by a touch-pad on the side of the device, no voice control feature is included.
As for the technical specifications, the Recon Jet is equipped as follows:
720p HD video camera.
Built-in microphone and speakers.
8GB of flash memory.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability
Micro USB port.
The device functions on an open platform that anyone can develop apps for, but right out of the box, the Pilot Edition of the Recon Jet comes with software that allows users to track their speed, distance, and heart rate. Users can also connect the glasses to their smartphone to see SMS alerts and caller ID.
And while you might think that Google wouldn't want to give exposure to a potential competitor, it appears that the company's reps were welcome at a Google recent conference. Recon Instruments CEO, Dan Eisenhardt, said,
"We introduced Recon Jet to the developer community at the Google I/O tech conference last month. To say the response exceeded our expectations would be a massive understatement."
Pricing for the early adopter Pilot Edition was $499, a deal that expired on July 21, to coincide with the end of this year's Tour De France event. Delivery of the device is expected to be December 2013 through early 2014.
RECON Jet Pilot Edition
The advantages of the Recon Jet over Google Glass are apparent:
Cheaper price (for now).
First to market.
Open platform (no worries about Google controlling your personal data).
Targeting athletes is smart.
Athletes have been looking for something like this for a while now, particularly now that wearable performance trackers are taking off. But the notion of a normal personal walking around wearing Glass in the same way that they might utilize a smartphone has struck some as impractical at best, and a capital offence against fashion at worst.
George Hincape wearing a pair of RECON Jet glasses (Click Image To Enlarge)
And, beyond all the other considerations, Recon Jet is simply the best alternative for anyone who wants most of the facility of something like Glass, but without having to lock yourself into Google's cloud apps that spread your data throughout the search company's software ecosystem.
Given those factors, the Recon Jet has a lot going for it. However, the major advantage Google has is that scores of people have been enthusiastically testing Glass in the public eye for months now. In fact, in July Google uploaded a video of Wimbledon tennis pro Bethanie Mattek-Sands training with Glass, a clear indication that the company is trying to get more sports pros to adopt the device.
RECON Jet Features (Click Image To Enlarge)
Tour de France veteran George Hincapie testing out the Recon Jet in the video below.
RECON Jet Technical Specifications
Recon Jet is a powerful standalone microcomputer with the onboard processing power, suite of sensors and networking capabilities you would expect from a tablet or smartphone. It's open platform and SDK allows developers to create apps for any activity where information, relayed direct-to-eye, changes the game.
ONBOARD SENSOR FRAMEWORK
9-Axis sensors • 3D accelerometer • 3D gyroscope • 3D magnetometer
This blooming plant was regenerated by Russian scientists from 32,000 year-old seeds from the Ice Age that were discovered in a frozen squirrel burrow next in Siberia
Fruits in my fruit bowl tend to rot into a mulchy mess after a couple of weeks. Fruits that are chilled in permanent Siberian ice fare rather better. After more than 30,000 years, and some care from Russian scientists, some ancient fruits have produced this delicate white flower.
These regenerated plants, rising like wintry Phoenixes from the Russian ice, are still viable. They produce their own seeds and, after a 30,000-year hiatus, can continue their family line.
David A. Gilchinsky, Head of Soil Cryology Laboratory, Institute for Physiochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science, Russian Academy of Sciences (Click Image To Enlarge)
The plant owes its miraculous resurrection to a team of scientists led by David Gilichinsky, and an enterprising ground squirrel. Back in the Upper Pleistocene, the squirrel buried the plant’s fruit in the banks of the Kolyma River. They froze.
The 30,000 year-old Silene stenophylla seeds that were regenerated into plants by Russian scientists were discovered in a fossilized squirrel burrow in permafrost along the banks of the Kolmya River in Russian Siberia
Over millennia, the squirrel’s burrow fossilised and was buried under increasing layers of ice. The plants within were kept at a nippy -7 degrees Celsius, surrounded by permanently frozen soil and the petrifying bones of mammoths and woolly rhinos. They never thawed. They weren’t disturbed. By the time they were found and defrosted by scientists, they had been buried to a depth of 38 metres, and frozen for around 31,800 years.
Regenerated Silene stenophylla plants were potted from seeds over 30,000 years old by Russian scientist Svetlana Yashina and two years later bloomed flowers (Click Image To Enlarge)
People have grown plants from ancient seeds before. In 2008, Israeli scientists resurrected an aptly named Phoenix palm from seeds that had been buried in the 1st century. But those seeds were a mere 2,000 years old. Those of the new Russian flower – Silene stenophylla – are older by an order of magnitude. They trump all past record-holders.
Russian researcher Svetlana Yashina extracted the placentas from the recovered fruit, she was able to coas the tissue into producing roots and shoots (Click Image To Enlarge)
Svetlana Yashina from the Russian Academy of Sciences grew the plants from immature fruits recovered from the burrow. She extracted their placentas – the structure that the seeds attach to – and bathed them in a brew of sugars, vitamins and growth factors. From these tissues, roots and shoots emerged.
Yashina potted the plants and two years later, they developed flowers. She fertilised the ancient flowers with each other’s pollen, and in a few months, they had produced their own seeds and fruits, all viable. The frozen plants, blooming again after millennia in the freezer, seeded a new generation.
S.stenophylla is still around, but Yashina found that the ancient plants are subtly different to their modern counterparts, even those taken from the same region. They’re slower to grow roots, they produce more buds, and their flower petals were wider.
This is the first time that anyone has grown plants form seeds deeply buried within permanently frozen burrows. But it’s not the first time that someone has tried. In 1967, Canadian scientists claimed that they had regenerated Arctic lupin from 10,000 year old seeds that had been buried by lemmings. But in 2009, another team dated those same seeds and found that they were actually modern ones, which had contaminated the ancient sample.
Mindful of this mistake, Yashina carefully checked that her plants were indeed ancient ones. She dated the seeds directly, and her results matched age estimates from other samples from the same burrow. The burrows have been buried well below the level that animals dig into, and the structure of the surrounding ice suggests that they have never thawed. Their sediments are firmly compacted and totally filled with ice. No water infiltrates these chambers, much less plant roots or modern rodents. There are a few pores, but they are many times narrower than the width of any of Yashina’s seeds.
This closed world provided shelter, a continuous chill, and an effectively dry environment, that allowed the fruits to persist. At subzero temperatures, their chemical reactions slowed to a crawl. Extreme age was no longer a problem. A fruit’s placenta is also chemically active, and is loaded with several chemicals that might have protected these specific tissues against the cold.
But the burrows weren’t completely benign environments. The underground rocks contain naturally radioactive elements, which would have bombarded the seeds with low but accumulating doses of radiation. The ones that Yashina regenerated would have amassed 70 Grays of radiation – that’s more than any other plant has absorbed while still producing viable seeds.
S.stenophylla’s resurrection shows how many treasures lie buried within the world’s permafrost. This soil, defined as that which stays below freezing for two years or more, covers a fifth of the planet’s land. It is home to bacteria, algae, fungi, plants and more. In the fossil burrows that Yashina has studied, scientists have found up to 600,000 to 800,000 seeds in individual chambers.
In Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault, scientists have frozen thousands of seeds in an underground cavern, as a back-up in case of agricultural crises. But nature has already produced similar frozen seed banks. Siberia, Alaska and the Yukon could act as one massive freezer, where ancient life has been stored, waiting to greet the world again.
COMMENTARY: This is an amazing scientific breakthrough if the regeneration of the 32,000 year-old seeds can be confirmed by other scientists.
UPDATE: Tragedy has now struck the Russian team that was involved in the discovery of the 32,000 year-old seeds and the successful regeneration of a living plant from those seeds. Dr. David Gilichinksy, its leader, was hospitalized with an asthma attack and unable to respond to questions, his daughter Yana said on Friday. On Saturday, Dr. Price reported that Dr. Gilichinsky had died of a heart attack.
According to The New York Times, this incredible scientific breakthrough in plant regeneration from seeds that were carbon dated to be 32,000 years-old, is by a team led by Svetlana Yashina and David Gilichinsky of the Russian Academy of Sciences research center at Pushchino, near Moscow, and appears in Tuesday’s issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
Grant Zazula of the Yukon Paleontology Program at Whitehorse in Yukon Territory, Canada said.
“This is an amazing breakthrough. I have no doubt in my mind that this is a legitimate claim.”
It was Dr. Zazula who showed that the apparently ancient lupine seeds found by the Yukon gold miner were in fact modern.
But the Russians’ extraordinary report is likely to provoke calls for more proof. Alastair Murdoch, an expert on seed viability at the University of Reading in England said.
“It’s beyond the bounds of what we’d expect.”
When poppy seeds are kept at minus 7 degrees Celsius, the temperature the Russians reported for the campions, after only 160 years just 2 percent of the seeds will be able to germinate, Dr. Murdoch noted.
Some of the storage chambers in the squirrel burrows contain more than 600,000 seeds and fruits. Many are from a species that most closely resembles a plant found today, the narrow-leafed campion (Silene stenophylla).
Working with a burrow from the site called Duvanny Yar, the Russian researchers tried to germinate the campion seeds, but failed. They then took cells from the placenta, the organ in the fruit that produces the seeds. They thawed out the cells and grew them in culture dishes into whole plants.
Many plants can be propagated from a single adult cell, and this cloning procedure worked with three of the placentas, the Russian researchers report. They grew 36 ancient plants, which appeared identical to the present day narrow-leafed campion until they flowered, when they produced narrower and more splayed-out petals. Seeds from the ancient plants germinated with 100 percent success, compared with 90 percent for seeds from living campions.
The researchers suggest that special circumstances may have contributed to the remarkable longevity of the campion plant cells. Squirrels construct their larders next to permafrost to keep seeds cool during the arctic summers, so the fruits would have been chilled from the start. The fruit’s placenta contains high levels of sucrose and phenols, which are good antifreeze agents.
The Russians measured the ground radioactivity at the site, which can damage DNA, and say the amount of gamma radiation the campion fruit accumulated over 30,000 years is not much higher than that reported for a 1,300-year-old sacred lotus seed, from which a plant was successfully germinated.
The Russian article was edited by Buford Price of the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Price, a physicist, chose two reviewers to help him. But neither he nor they are plant biologists. He said.
“I know nothing about plants.”
Ann Griswold, a spokeswoman for PNAS, as the journal is known, said the paper had been seen by an editorial board member who is a plant biologist.
Eske Willerslev, an expert on ancient DNA at the University of Copenhagen, said the finding was “plausible in principle,” given the conditions in permafrost. But the claim depends on the radiocarbon date being correct:
“It’s all resting on that — if there’s something wrong there it can all fall part.”
If the ancient campions are the ancestors of the living plants, this family relationship should be evident in their DNA. Dr. Willerslev said that the Russian researchers should analyze the DNA of their specimens and prove that this is the case. However, this is not easy to do with plants whose genetics are not well studied, Dr. Willerslev said.
If the claim is true, then scientists should be able to study evolution in real time by comparing the ancient and living campions. Possibly other ancient species can be resurrected from the permafrost, including plants that have long been extinct.
A PAIR OF GERMAN DESIGNERS INTRODUCE THE PARASITE FARM, AN INDOOR GARDENING SYSTEM THAT FEEDS OFF YOUR WASTE.
Food accounts for about 13 percent of trash in the United States, the third-largest component behind paper and yard trimmings. Although composting may be the natural extension of recycling paper, metal, and plastic, many urbanites don’t have access to outdoor space or the stomach for composting in their kitchen. Two young German designers have turned indoor composting into a viable option, with an ingenious ecosystem for converting vegetable scraps into soil, which is then used to grow--you guessed it--more veggies.
Click Images To Enlarge
Charlotte Dieckmann and Nils Ferber’s Parasite Farm (surely not the most appetizing of names) includes a compost bin with a built-in chopping-board lid that can be mounted onto a kitchen table, as well as planters designed to fit into an ordinary bookshelf. Here’s how it works:
Once you’re done cutting up your vegetables, simply slide the trimmings into the bin, where worms process them into humus.
To harvest the soil, simply shake the grate at the bottom and pull out the drawer underneath; residual water is siphoned into a separate translucent tank for use as liquid fertilizer.
Load up your bookshelf planters with soil and seeds, install some grow lights above, and you’ve got a mini farm powered by your own waste.
Click Images To Enlarge
The system is an alternative to tricky hydroponic gardening, albeit a slower yielding and messier one (ick, worms!). Ferber tells Co.Design that he’s looking for a partner to produce the concept, which, after several months of testing, is “working well.”
Click Images To Enlarge
COMMENTARY: There are obviously some limitations to what the Parasite Farm can do, so in my opinion, you would much larger growing bins those shown here for certain vegetables. Anything growing on a tree you can pretty much forget, but for herbs, tomatoes, leafy vegetables, carrots, peppers, etc., the Parasite Farm could be quite practical. I like the overall design, but I would keep my "farm" in a separate room. An unused garage would be great for this. A basement preferable over an attic. From the comments posted on Charlotte Dieckmann's website, there appears to be a lot of interest. Now let's sell some.
Courtesy of an article dated January 25, 2012 appearing in Fast Company
Mother Earth as seen from outer space by the International Space Station crew.
Om nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom. *Gulp.
A funny thing has happened in the way well-meaning greenies talk about the earth. Call it the Al Gore effect: Faced with so many climate skeptics who deny the reality that 99% of scientists back global warming, the greenies typically resort to more and more wonkish sorts of communication. As if proving the climate skeptics wrong were simply about showing more and more data.
Something like this is going on in a rather nice little series of videos by the World Wildlife Fund. The first urges you to think about the connection between your plate, and the resources required to grow all that food:
How do we balance the needs of a growing population with a finite planet? By the year 2050, our planet will be home to another 2 billion people. How will we feed them all? Not only will there be more people, but everyone will have more money to spend on food. Where, on an increasingly crowded planet, will we grow all of it? Picture what would happen if we could freeze the footprint of food by doubling the productivity of farming.
We already use 1/3 of the earth’s surface to grow food. By 2050, we’ll need twice as much food.
And here’s another video, urging us to rethink our gadgets:
Do you know what goes into making your laptop? Raw materials for electronic goods are mined from tropical rainforests, but as resources dry up, recycling aluminum is key. If a laptop manufacturer only used recycled aluminum, it would take 90% less energy to make the same machine. Imagine what our world would like if more products recycled or reused existing materials.
COMMENTARY: After viewing the above videos, it becomes obvioius that we must create a sustainable planet. We should strive to recycle everything. We should strive to give back as much as we take from Mother Earth.
We obviouslhy need to grow food crops more efficiently with a whole lot less water. In a blog post dated November 12, 2011, I told you about Dyson Award winner "Airdrop" irrigation system, an ingenious device that draws water from the air.
In a blog post dated August 3, 2011, I told you about Pod Ponics, a small startup, uses hydroponic "growing pods" to produce fresh, locally-grown vegetables year-round. As fuel prices go up, the cost of shipping produce thousands of miles away rises accordingly. In the past few years, a number of companies have attempted to capitalize on the increasing hunger for locally produced food--we've seen rooftop farming startup BrightFarms and Brooklyn hydroponic farming startup Gotham Greens, just to a name a couple.
In a blog post dated June 10, 2011 I told you the history of U.S. oil imports, prices, production, consumption, world oil reserves and events affecting oil prices. In June 24, 2011, I told you where the world's oil is produced, how much of that oil the U.S. imports, and why America goes begging for oil. February 5, 2011, I warned you that the oil consuming world is at peak oil levels, a level of oil consumption where we are using more oil than is being pumped out of the ground by the world's oil producing countries.
In a blog post dated September 30, 2011, I commented on how for the first time in a quarter century, The Obama administration had successfully raised CAFE standards for light-duty vehicles, from 27.5 mpg in 2010 to 39 mpg in 2016. By 2025, cars will have to get 54.5 miles per gallon. Hybrids currently only make up about three percent of light-duty stock on the road, but sales of hybrids are growing. Consumers could save $1.7 trillion over the life of new CAFE standards by driving more fuel efficient vehicles, hybrid and all-electric automobiles.
Check all my blog posts on Renewable energy and green technology. Renewable energy and green technology from the sun, wind and oceans needs to be harnessed and we should strive to to get off our addiction to oil by gradually switching from fossil fuel driven automobiles to hybrids and all-electric vehicles.
The more advanced human kind becomes, as we develope better and more efficient technologies, from laptops to smartphones to tablets to apps, we seem to forget that there is a huge cost, to our environment and Mother Earth's resources. The aluminum in our laptops is a great example. We take too much for granted without taking account the consequences.
For a weeklong workshop, Visiondivision began an architecture project that will take 60 years to grow.
There’s no question that technology has eroded our patience. Can you imagine waiting a full minute for your dial-up modem to connect to the Internet today? In architecture terms, that’s like waiting 60 years for a project to be completed. Which is exactly what the Stockholm-based studio Visiondivision has planned for the Politecnico di Milano campus: a canopy of trees that will take six decades--and a ginormous green thumb--to build.
The architects write on their website.
“If we can be patient with the building time, we can reduce the need for transportation, waste of material and different manufacturing processes, simply by helping nature grow in a more architectonic and useful way.”
During a weeklong workshop, they taught students the techniques--such as bending, braiding, pruning, and grafting--required to construct a study retreat, aptly called "The Patient Gardener," from only plants and trees.
The main structure is a dome of 10 Japanese cherry trees, which are planted around a temporary tower that acts as a guide. Once the bent trees touch the tower, they will be redirected into an hourglass shape, the top of which will become a second level for reading and lounging and accessed by stairs of branches. The architects even devised furniture made from greenery, including a chair that seems to have organically sprung from the ground but is actually a cardboard form covered in soil and draped in grass.
Visiondivision left behind instructions for future generations of gardeners. The architects write.
“In about 80 years from now, the Politecnico di Milano campus will have a fully grown building and the students will hopefully have proud grandchildren that can tell the story of the project for their friends and family.”
That's a far cry from the instant gratification we've come to expect; rather, it's the long view we need to take when measuring our impact on the planet.
COMMENTARY: That's what I call a very cool idea. The students can pass on their tree growing heritage to the next class, and they can continue planting and growing the trees for "The Patient Garden". 60 years from now, the result will be one incredible tree dome. Just in time for their retirement years.
An example of biomimicry, Edward Linnacre's Airdrop harvests moisture from "dry" air to water crops in arid regions.
This year’s James Dyson Award goes to a low-tech device for harvesting moisture from the air to irrigate crops in drought-stricken regions. The winning entry comes from Edward Linnacre, a student at Swinburne University, in Melbourne, who drew inspiration from the behavior of the Namib beetle, which collects droplets of water in the desert by outstretching its wings into the early-morning fog.
Linnacre’s self-powered Airdrop borrows the Namib’s insight that even the driest air contains water molecules that can be gathered by lowering the air temperature to the point of condensation.
How it works:
A turbine intake drives air underground through a network of piping that rapidly cools the air to the temperature of the soil, where it reaches 100% humidity and produces water. The water is then stored in an underground tank and pumped through to the roots of crops via underground drip-irrigation hosing.
The Airdrop system also includes an LCD screen that displays tank water levels, pressure strength, solar-battery life, and system health. Linnacre estimates that 11.5 milliliters of water can be extracted from every cubic meter of air. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s nothing to sneeze at in areas where yearly rainfall is only a couple of inches.
Edward Linnacre's Airdrop harvests moisture from "dry" air to water crops in arid regions
Linnacre plans to put his $14,000 prize earnings toward testing the system. (The James Dyson Foundation awarded an additional $14,000 was awarded to his university to encourage other young engineers to follow his lead.)
Airdrop was chosen from designs submitted by students in 18 countries. The two runners-up are:
KwickScreen, a retractable room divider from Michael Korn, of London’s Royal College of Art.
Blindspot, a navigational aide for the visually impaired from Se Lui Chew of University of Singapore.
Amo Arm, received a commendable mention for a full-arm prosthetic that obviates the need for invasive re-innervation surgery, from Michal Prywata at Ryerson University.
Founded by a former software engineer, the company--which just received almost $1 million in funding--is working on ways to provide local food to cities. And by local, they mean truly local. Their special "growing pods" can produce food anywhere.
As fuel prices go up, the cost of shipping produce thousands of miles away rises accordingly. In the past few years, a number of companies have attempted to capitalize on the increasing hunger for locally produced food--we've seen rooftop farming startupBrightFarms and Brooklyn hydroponic farming startup Gotham Greens, just to a name a couple. PodPonics, an Atlanta-based company started by a former software programmer, thinks it can outgrow them all. The company is already well on its way. Last week, PodPonics announced that it raised $725,000 in a seed funding round led by private investors.
PodPonics started in 2010 when founder Matt Liotta--a serial entrepreneur who has launched Internet, software, and telecom startups--noticed that demand significantly outstripped supply in the local food business. "[My work] in Internet, telecom, and agriculture is all pretty similar in that the goal was to find a mature industry and come up with a disruptive technology," he says. "If you wanted to produce fresh produce at the point of consumption in a way that was economically viable, what would you have to invent to do it?"
Liotta decided to use recycled shipping containers as "grow pods," which are outfitted with organic hydroponic nutrient solutions; computer-controlled environmental systems to regulate temperature, humidity, pH levels, and CO2; and lights that emit specific spectrums at different points in the day. The system provides the exact amount of water, lights, and nutrients that a crop requires--so there is no wasted energy (though the pods are still hooked up to the power grid). In a 320 square foot area, PodPonics can produce an acre's worth of produce. The pods can be stacked on top of each other for more efficient use of space.
The startup already supplies 150 pounds of lettuce, arugula, and other microgreens to restaurants (and a smattering of independent groceries) throughout the Atlanta area every week. "We've presold three times more production than we have. The question is, how do we build this faster and more efficiently than we do today? There's an unlimited demand that we're unable to satisfy," says Liotta.
COMMENTARY: I think it's a slick idea. Green greens. The ability to grow locally-grown veggies close to users, inside recycled cargo containers. This offers a protected environment away from bugs and diseases. Plus, you can ship those veggies quickly and get them to stores and restaurants very fast while they are at the peak of freshness. This makes for a very efficient farming system without the farm and weather problems that go with it. Vegetables grown year-round. I bet they are making a bundle to convince investors to give them $725,000.
Courtesy of an article dated August 2, 2011 appearing in Fast Company