06 April 2010

No Cropland? No Problem! Farming On Air

Aeroponic farming, which uses mist to grow plants without soil, is another new technique. Grown indoors with LED lighting, without pesticides, aeroponic produce requires less than 10% of the water consumed by conventional agriculture. And because aeroponic farms are located in urban areas, transportation costs and carbon emissions are vastly reduced. _GreenTechMedia
As the price of fuel rises, the cost of farming rises along with it. Energy-intensive farming practises will be strained if energy costs rise much further. Of course, if energy crops and biomass-to-fuels can be made more economical and efficient, it is likely that more cropland will be devoted to biofuels and bioenergy -- if fuels prices continue to rise.

Where will the food come from, in that case? The concept of aeroponic farming -- farming on air -- is beginning to receive more attention. Aerofarms can be located anywhere, even in the middle of a large city.
Albright said the reason hydroponics and aeroponics have increased in popularity is the whole idea of food safety. If greens are grown and sold locally, there is less of a risk of disease from various outside factors.

“With the ability to control the environment for the plants precisely you get optimized production which increases productivity,” Albright said. “You are doing it in a place that is free of animal manures and pesticides, so it is ready to eat right away, without being rinsed in chlorine three times.”

Bloomgarden said the goal of the company is to rework the way farmers grow food and to transform the agriculture business as a whole. “A high level, lofty goal would be to transform our current system into a more sustainable and efficient food system by enabling commercial scale vertical farming in urban centers,” she said.

Hardwood said his main focus is working on transforming rural, traditional farming into urban high-tech production. He said he expects a warm welcome from the Ithaca community when they move in. _IthacanOnline

There are even companies that are developing small aeroponic "pots" and modules that will be controlled by a person's home computer. Click & Grow aims to penetrate the urban, high tech professional lifestyle, by making the growing of indoor crops and flowers as easy as clicking a mouse button.

One daring entrepreneur is even trying to transform and rejuvenate Detroit -- the poster child of urban blight and decay -- using aeroponic farming.
"It won't be a conventional farm," he promises, but an exhibition of state-of-the-art agriculture using aeroponics -- the science of growing in the air -- and other advanced ways of growing year-round in an urban environment. He's going to start by growing a variety of lettuces, apples and probably trees for timber or Christmas. Trees, he has learned, as a crop also reclaim contaminated land. Hantz said the city is over-valuing land that has no value until someone can pay for it. He points out that the city is paying for vacant land that costs the city in taxes and maintenance. The crisis that spawned his idea to use vacant land for for-profit agriculture has yet to create real momentum. We're still stuck.

"That's the opposite of how it should be," he says, during an interview in his Southfield office._DetNews

Anyone could have told the man that dealing with the city of Detroit tends to be a no-win proposition. Unless you grease the right palms, of course. Organised crime together with labour unions and corrupt officials have made Detroit highly toxic to private enterprise.

But if aeroponic urban farming can work for Detroit, it can potentially work anywhere in the developed world or the third world.

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6 Comments:

Blogger SwampWoman said...

Yeah, Detroit ain't exactly where I would have chosen to live and start my new venture.

Yikes.

Tuesday, 06 April, 2010  
Blogger kurt9 said...

According to the article, Hantz is originally from Detroit and built his first business, financial services, there. He has attachment and probably family and friends there (at least in the suburbs). So, he feels the desire to help rebuild the place, if it is at all possible.

Tuesday, 06 April, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Kurt: The man is in for an education, in that case.

I need to see some better energy and equipment cost analyses for aeroponics crop yields vs. conventional farming yields.

But I can definitely see a future for urban aeroponics in terms of gourmet restaurant and caterer suppliers, as well as high end special-ethnic foods that grow best in other climates.

Once a company makes a profit with niche products, it is likely to try to move into new and larger niches.

With aeroponics, you set the growing conditions yourself -- or more likely your computer does. Aeroponic growing lends itself to computer and network control. Personnel requirements should be minimal.

Pumps, motors, hoses, and mist-ers are cheap, as is nutrient fluid. Just add sensors, electronic controls, and network interfaces.

No weeding, no herbicides, no insecticides. Cropping can go on year-round.

Tuesday, 06 April, 2010  
OpenID John Bystrom said...

Hantz is from the Quad City area, his father was employed by either Deere or International Harvester, and then by Ford (tractors). When Hantz' dad took the gig, with Ford, they moved to Romeo, Michigan. Which at the time was rural about 40 miles north of the "D"

Hantz is really trying to make a cluster, with his cash coming from the manufacture and sale of the equipment for the hi-techy type farming. Hantz Farm is just the angle he is using to sell aero-ponic hydro ponic gear.

Tuesday, 06 April, 2010  
Blogger Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

I could use something like that for my loft. My wife, being from overseas, likes to cook with certain items that are hard to get (even at the local Asian market). I was planning to build a light garden to grow these items year around.

This might be a better option....

Wednesday, 07 April, 2010  
Blogger kurt9 said...

Hantz's business ought to be to make the aeroponic equipment in kit form, that can be sold at Home Depot and Lowes. People can buy the kits and install them in their homes or build a structure in their back yards to grow stuff. The kits should be modular so that a customer can start small (a refrigerator-sized setup) and slowly expand as they gain proficiency and want to grow more stuff.

I think this could prove quite popular if reasonably priced. I think the best markets are Asians and Latinos who can grow the stuff they can't get at the store.

Survivalist-types ought to love this technology. It can make possible the ability to grow an entire family's foodstuff from a suburban sized lot.

Of course the marijuana growers will go for this as well. Another reason to legalize drugs.

The best commercial markets are specialty crops, like Asian and other foods, that are not commonly available in the U.S. The most expensive stuff is the first place to start. This will drive improvements to the technology that will make it useful to grow less expensive foodstuffs.

Wednesday, 07 April, 2010  

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