GOOD

Agri-tecture: Food's Next Big Movement?

Agri-tecture is a catchy new name for the intersection of architecture and agriculture which is being seen in the emerging urban farming movement.



Agri-tecture is a catchy new name for the intersection of architecture and agriculture which is being seen most prominently in the emerging urban farming movement. Henry Gordon-Smith, a graduate student in sustainability management at Columbia University, coined this unique word through his blog, Agri-tecture, where it’s defined as buildings that grow food or building-integrated agriculture (BIA).

In a recent post, Gordon-Smith highlighted the reality of food deserts in America. A food desert is loosely defined as a area where there is little to no access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other elements of a healthy diet. A grocery store could be a couple of hours' walk away. Typically these areas are low-income, but that's not always the case.

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Stressfree Commuting Now Possible Through Your Smartphone

A study out this month shows that people who use apps to plan and manage their commute have lower stress levels and a more enjoyable experience.

A study out this month from the New Cities Foundation shows that people who use apps to plan and manage their commute have lower stress levels and a more enjoyable overall experience.

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Organic vs. Conventional Farming: Which Method Uses Less Energy?

A new study shows that organic farming uses quite a bit less energy than conventional, though not for the reasons people might generally expect.

After a recent study released by Dena Brevata and her team of researchers at Stanford argued that there is little evidence of health benefits from eating organic foods, many were left to wonder what the other benefits of eating organic might be? What differences might there be in energy use or land use between conventional and organic farming methods?

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How High Oil Prices Promote Sustainable Agriculture

High oil prices have forced us to reconsider the status quo, particularly in agriculture.



For the most part the news we hear about high oil prices is focused on how it’s hurting Americans’ wallets. But what if we take a moment and think about the ways that high oil prices have forced us to reconsider the status quo, particularly in agriculture. Some of the innovations coming out as a result of high oil prices may be the very things we need to create a more sustainable, more secure food system in America.

The food sector today is responsible for approximately 10% of the energy budget in the U.S. We have also realized that our food systems are operating at near total production capacity.

As the population grows, energy use and demand for food will also grow. As people in the developing world become wealthier, their taste for meat other foods that were once specialties is growing, adding strain to the demand side of food production. We must find alternative ways of producing and transporting food that are more productive and less energy consumptive.

As a result of the rising price of oil, innovative and entrepreneurial people are responding with a flurry of positive fresh approaches to producing and distributing food. These are just some of the promising trends that we have been following.

Reducing Food Miles
In America today the distance food travels before it reaches a plate is typically between 500 and 2,000 miles. The food systems we take for granted rely on heavy petroleum use for transportation and distribution along a complex chain of producers before reaching the end consumer.

There are lots of initiatives to combat the problem of food miles including:
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  • Urban farming: everything from rooftop farms to community gardens are springing up in urban areas all across the U.S.
  • The Locavore movement: eating local has become trendy as people realize that locally grown food is often tastier and helps to support local business.
  • Innovative startup companies like Real Time Farms are using the Internet to connect farmers and consumers and promote local food production. And the Local Food Lab in Silicon Valley is an incubator that mentors entrepreneurs wanting to start sustainable food-related businesses.
  • Other innovative startups like Podponics and PharmPods are figuring out ways to grow food in shipping containers and other unique urban environments.
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Replenishing Soils
Typical industrial agriculture strips the soil of its nutrients. Since the invention of commercial synthetic fertilizers in the early 20th century, industrial agriculture has looked to synthetic fertilizers as the remedy for poor soils, using chemicals to provide nutrients to plants.

But this method leaves the soil still undernourished and the fertilizers are heavily dependent upon oil for their production. As oil prices rise so do the price of fertilizers and many farmers are turning to more readily available organic options to supplement or replace fertilizers.

Alternative methods that are now gaining wider acceptance include:

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