May Eco-News Roundup

May Eco-news Roundup - Vertical Farming

After the March for Science and the Climate March in April, we were thrilled to dig up several inspiring stories of eco-innovation. Here are our two favorites:

Time to stop treating dirt…like dirt…

The Washington Post reported on scientists at the University of California at Davis who have been studying soil’s capacity to store carbon — and it turns out it’s pretty significant. According to these scientists, “Soil can potentially store between 1.5 and 5.5 billion tons of carbon a year globally. That’s equivalent to between 5 and 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide.” To put that in perspective, burning fossil fuels releases about 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. But here’s the thing, carbon in the soil can actually make soil healthier and more productive, with the assistance of the microbes living in it. For this reason, the state of California has launched an initiative to support farmers in using practices that both help them to increase their production, and help their soils to take on more carbon — a win-win for farmers and the earth.

Bringing farming to the city

Urban farms are pretty commonplace these days, but what may sound less familiar are vertical farms. The concept is being spearheaded by companies including Plenty, a Silicon Valley based startup that Fast Company interviewed about their innovative farm-to-supermarket project. Their vertical farms are indoors, grown with LED lights instead of sunshine, and in a substrate made of recycled plastic bottles, rather than soil.

But what are the advantages of a farm like this? Well, for one thing, it reduces the carbon footprint, by allowing large-scale farming to happen in urban centers, where food can be delivered in far less time to supermarket shelves. If this sounds a little space age, or unappealing, then you might be interested to hear that this reduced transportation time also means that Plenty can focus on growing tastier varieties of food rather than strains with a long shelf life that can withstand the journey to grocery stores. Plenty’s CEO, Matt Barnard says, “What’s in the store today is the best that we can grow with a 3,000-mile supply chain. But the best that we can grow with a 50-mile supply chain is stunningly better. That’s why we’re working to ensure that all of our food gets to the store within hours, and not days or weeks.”

As always, don’t forget all the innovating you can do to make your own home more energy efficient. Share your favorite green-innovation finds with us in the comments section.