BUILDINGS THAT GROW FOOD

Your source for vertical farming and urban agriculture news, business, and design.

Can you actually explain what makes LEDs so special? (Guest Post: PART 1)

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Last week, the three scientists who invented blue light emitting diodes received the Nobel Prize.  It was certainly well deserved, as this was nothing short of a revolution for lighting.  

That revolution began with their invention 20 years ago and has brought us the newest in efficient light emitting diode (LED) lighting.  These lights are so efficient that they have taken vertical farming from the pages of eco-utopian manifestos to tangible reality. 

Navigant Research modeled a 63% adoption rate of LED lights for retrofitting projects by 2021.  The numbers speak for themselves.

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This is the first of a two-part piece that will explain what LEDs are in a way that anyone can understand.  First, I’m going to look at what ‘efficiency’ means for LEDs, and the implications of increased efficiency. Then, in part two, I want to show you the companies breaking new ground on the vertical farming applications of LEDs right now. 

Why is this so critical to vertical farming?

Before diving into the basics of LED lighting, let’s touch on why vertical farms require such a massive amount of light.  Though a simple problem to understand, there is no universal lighting solution to efficiently illuminate multi-level farms because higher levels shade lower ones.  Essentially, any move to intensify the number of seedlings per square foot, a primary function of vertical farming, is going to increase the shade over seedlings already in place as in the image from VertiCrop below. 

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As a result, prominent critics cite lighting as the main limiting factor any successful vertical farm would have to overcome.  One such critic is Dr. Ted Caplow.

I first ran into Caplow’s work after learning about the Science Barge experiment he was running in New York.  Caplow and his team were trying to figure out exactly what it would take to reach efficient, sustainable production in the middle of a city.  The barge was a success, but it hinted at failure for vertical farming.

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Based on his experience, Caplow came up with a rough estimate for roughly calculating lighting requirements for hydroponic growing facilities fueled by solar panels (like vertical farms).  Basically, he estimates that to light a single layer of plants using energy exclusively from solar panels requires an area 20x larger than the square footage of that layer.

With improvements in LEDs and solar panels, Caplow’s estimates may soon be wrong if they aren’t  already.

LED lights have become increasingly efficient and their energy requirements are declining rapidly.  I want to explain what LEDs are, what ‘efficiency’ even means, the implications of increased efficiency, and finally in the next part, I want to show you the companies innovating existing lighting technologies even more.

First things first: LEDs? 

LED stands for light emitting diode.  So what’s a diode? 

A diode, pictured below, is an electronic component with two points of opposite charge.  In between those two points is a semiconductor.  The semiconductor acts on the electric current as that current passes across the two points of the diode, dropping down the energy levels of the electrons in the current.  It may help to think of the semiconductor as a permeable surface that allows the electrons to fall down out of their normal orbits, much like a sieve.  The energy released in that reaction is what produces light, and in more wasteful systems, heat.  The differences between semiconductors will produce various colors of light like the blue ones the scientists who won the Nobel Prize discovered. 

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What really matters more than the explanation is why that technology is better.  The answer to that question lies in its efficacy. 

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mothernaturenetwork:

Could broccoli sprouts offer help for autism?Researchers identify a chemical in the plant that might improve certain behavioral symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder.

Great news for all of our followers that are growing microgreens. Keep it up! 

mothernaturenetwork:

Could broccoli sprouts offer help for autism?
Researchers identify a chemical in the plant that might improve certain behavioral symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder.

Great news for all of our followers that are growing microgreens. Keep it up! 

Comments
VERTICAL FARMING MITIGATES FOOD SAFETY CONCERNS
With the rising popularity of urban agriculture and hydroponics, more people recognize the clear benefits of controlled-environment agriculture, which include water savings, year-round production, and reductions of pesticide use. This month I researched another benefit that consumers often take for granted: food safety.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, “roughly 48 million people (1 in 6) get sick from food eaten in the United States,” and “among all types of foods, produce accounted for nearly half of illnesses.” There have also been cases of foodborne illnesses from improper use or manufacturing of manure, either from sewer sludge or contaminated Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). While foodborne illnesses are notoriously difficult to trace, produce grown by outdoor farms carries a higher risk of foodborne illness than a greenhouse or vertical farm.

The CDC’s list of food borne illnesses, sources, and symptoms. Image via CDC.
Milan Kluko of Green Spirit Farms, a vertical farm near Buffalo, Michigan, agrees. He says, “Food safety should be inherent in vertical farms.” Here are his reasons:
1. Growing indoors eliminates variables of wildlife, weather, and cross-contamination.
2. Traceability is much easier through indoor farming.
3. Technologies like floor cleaners, dosing systems, and water quality sensors help keep the systems clean.
Green Spirit Farms is committed to food safety and delivering the best product to its customers. Kluko is ISO 14000 certified and runs a tight ship to keep his staff from contaminating any of the produce grown in their huge, indoor vertical farming warehouses. Staff must change out of their street clothes and shoes before working on the farm. Hand washing stations and signage demanding cleanliness are spread throughout the operation. Milan says that his whole team participates; “everyone takes part in cleaning on the farm, and it’s an integral part of our staff training.” Everything in the farm operation is tracked for traceability, including substrates and the non-GMO seeds used.
Paul Hardej of FarmedHere, another vertical farm near Chicago, stated that FarmedHere spent over $100,000 on its food safety pursuits. FarmedHere also plans to make its strategy publicly available for free to make the work easier for other indoor farmers.
As the founder of Agritecture.com, my focus has always been on collaboration in the industry, so I asked Kluko what he thought about those costs and how collaboration between vertical farmers could help. He responded that the best practices are “already out there,” and “there is nothing really to share publicly.” According to Kluko, vertical farms and greenhouses should look to hospitals as guides for cleanliness and best practices.
Green Spirit Farms’ Food Safety Tips for Greenhouses or Vertical Farms
1. Prioritize sanitation – use common sense. Look closely at how your farm is maintained. Hand washing is step one.
2. Focus less on technology – look at a hospital; cleanliness there is more about operations and procedures than technology.
3. Learn from existing programs – stay up to date with public auditing standards like USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
4. Analyze your inputs and outputs – know your traceability!
5. Communicate effectively – display clear graphics to illustrate clean practices to your staff

Farm manager, Michael Suter inspects lettuce at Stone Bridge Farm’s USDA GAP certified hydroponic greenhouse. Image via Stone Bridge Farm.
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Kluko isn’t the only person who thinks that food safety concerns are mitigated in controlled environments. This Scranton Times article explains how food safety and the local food movement are interconnected. The traceability of products makes consumers feel safer as local farmers build their business around serving local customers.
“Thousands of consumers have been sickened by E.coli and salmonella contaminations of spinach, scallions, chilies, cantaloupes, and other fresh produce in recent years. The outbreaks have helped boost demand for local produce.” – James Haggerty, Staff Writer, Scranton Times
It’s exciting that farmers of Green Spirit and FarmedHere have joined the movement of bringing food indoors to provide healthier, local produce. Others have taken part in helping to navigate the challenges of food safety. Be sure to check out this guide for serving food grown on-site in school cafeterias by ChangeLab Solutions, a law and policy innovation group.
Despite the progress in food safety, work remains to be done. USDA Good Agricultural Practices certification is still prohibitively expensive for small-scale farmers, and many of the safest indoor farms in the country start relatively small. Reducing the cost of USDA GAP certification could be another step toward providing healthier, local produce.
Do you run a greenhouse or vertical farm? Share your strategies for mitigating food safety concerns.

Written By Henry Gordon-Smith and originally featured on www.powerhousehydroponics.com

VERTICAL FARMING MITIGATES FOOD SAFETY CONCERNS

With the rising popularity of urban agriculture and hydroponics, more people recognize the clear benefits of controlled-environment agriculture, which include water savings, year-round production, and reductions of pesticide use. This month I researched another benefit that consumers often take for granted: food safety.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, “roughly 48 million people (1 in 6) get sick from food eaten in the United States,” and “among all types of foods, produce accounted for nearly half of illnesses.” There have also been cases of foodborne illnesses from improper use or manufacturing of manure, either from sewer sludge or contaminated Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). While foodborne illnesses are notoriously difficult to trace, produce grown by outdoor farms carries a higher risk of foodborne illness than a greenhouse or vertical farm.

The CDC’s list of food borne illnesses, sources, and symptoms. Image via CDC.

Milan Kluko of Green Spirit Farms, a vertical farm near Buffalo, Michigan, agrees. He says, “Food safety should be inherent in vertical farms.” Here are his reasons:

1. Growing indoors eliminates variables of wildlife, weather, and cross-contamination.

2. Traceability is much easier through indoor farming.

3. Technologies like floor cleaners, dosing systems, and water quality sensors help keep the systems clean.

Green Spirit Farms is committed to food safety and delivering the best product to its customers. Kluko is ISO 14000 certified and runs a tight ship to keep his staff from contaminating any of the produce grown in their huge, indoor vertical farming warehouses. Staff must change out of their street clothes and shoes before working on the farm. Hand washing stations and signage demanding cleanliness are spread throughout the operation. Milan says that his whole team participates; “everyone takes part in cleaning on the farm, and it’s an integral part of our staff training.” Everything in the farm operation is tracked for traceability, including substrates and the non-GMO seeds used.

Paul Hardej of FarmedHere, another vertical farm near Chicago, stated that FarmedHere spent over $100,000 on its food safety pursuits. FarmedHere also plans to make its strategy publicly available for free to make the work easier for other indoor farmers.

As the founder of Agritecture.com, my focus has always been on collaboration in the industry, so I asked Kluko what he thought about those costs and how collaboration between vertical farmers could help. He responded that the best practices are “already out there,” and “there is nothing really to share publicly.” According to Kluko, vertical farms and greenhouses should look to hospitals as guides for cleanliness and best practices.

Green Spirit Farms’ Food Safety Tips for Greenhouses or Vertical Farms

1. Prioritize sanitation – use common sense. Look closely at how your farm is maintained. Hand washing is step one.

2. Focus less on technology – look at a hospital; cleanliness there is more about operations and procedures than technology.

3. Learn from existing programs – stay up to date with public auditing standards like USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

4. Analyze your inputs and outputs – know your traceability!

5. Communicate effectively – display clear graphics to illustrate clean practices to your staff

Farm manager, Michael Suter inspects lettuce at Stone Bridge Farm’s USDA GAP certified hydroponic greenhouse. Image via Stone Bridge Farm.

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Unless there are big changes within the next 20 years, I foresee a two-class food system. One class will eat industrialized food produced as cheaply as possible at the expense of its workers and natural resources. The other will enjoy home gardens and locally and sustainably produced food, at greater cost. I’m hoping for the enormous expansion of this latter approach. For that, we need a farm policy inextricably linked to health and environmental policy. We can achieve that, but only with serious advocacy and political engagement.
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Marion Nestle

Read this article by Time Magazine -  The Future of Food: Experts Predict How Our Plates Will Change

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Via Modern Farmer: 

Instead of water wings and inner tubes, Dennis and Danielle McClung’s backyard pool in Mesa, Arizona, is filled with tomato plants, grape vines and wheat. There’s a chicken coop and a fish pond, and the food that comes out of the pool, from tilapia to tomatoes, feeds the McClung family of five. It’s a system that took a few frustrating failures to perfect, but now the McClungs hope to take swimming-pool farming international.
When the McClungs bought the foreclosed home in 2009, the backyard was a suburban wasteland with a cracked, concrete, in-ground pool. “The real estate agent told us we had to do something about the pool, but he didn’t give us a good option,” Dennis says. “So we figured we could turn it in to a greenhouse.”
SOURCE

Via Modern Farmer: 

Instead of water wings and inner tubes, Dennis and Danielle McClung’s backyard pool in Mesa, Arizona, is filled with tomato plants, grape vines and wheat. There’s a chicken coop and a fish pond, and the food that comes out of the pool, from tilapia to tomatoes, feeds the McClung family of five. It’s a system that took a few frustrating failures to perfect, but now the McClungs hope to take swimming-pool farming international.

When the McClungs bought the foreclosed home in 2009, the backyard was a suburban wasteland with a cracked, concrete, in-ground pool. “The real estate agent told us we had to do something about the pool, but he didn’t give us a good option,” Dennis says. “So we figured we could turn it in to a greenhouse.”

SOURCE

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