Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
Food

Ensuring that the food we eat is locally and sustainably grown is not always easy, especially in cities where crop-growing space is at a premium. Firms like Freight Farms and Cropbox, however, have a solution to this problem. They offer shipping containers that are kitted out as self-contained farms.

blog freightfarm

Check out this truly farm-to-table approach – and when I say farm, I mean freight container:

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Another newbie in this arena is Cropbox, which appears to have a lot of the same features at a reduced cost.  They claim that you can grow the equivalent of an acre of field grown crops or 2,200 square feet of greenhouse space within a 320 sq ft footprint.  The business is scalable as you can expand vertically by stacking the containers 5 high – especially useful if setup in an urban area.

Sustainability features:

90% less water use than conventional and greenhouse cultivation

80% less fertilizer than conventional cultivation

Automatic record keeping for optimization

34% less inventory loss through simpler logistics

And both of these products enable consistent optimization of the growing process via a smartphone.

It kind of makes you want to try out your “green thumb”!

 

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In our world of seemingly endless acronyms, I stumbled upon this one – and once you see the tongue-twister it represents, you’ll understand why a shorter name was called for…

CRISPRs (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) are segments of prokaryotic DNA containing short repetitions of base sequences.  [Prokaryotic DNA are single-celled organisms that lack a membrane-bound nucleus (karyon), mitochondria, or any other membrane-bound organelles]   Researchers hope to use CRISPR to adjust human genes to eliminate diseases, create hardier plants, wipe out pathogens and much more besides.

DNA research making use of CRISPR has been ongoing since the late 1980′s. Please note: while I have NO training in micro-biology or anything approaching a minimal understanding of the subtleties of this field, I am a strong believer that in order for technology to be well used to benefit humankind, those who categorize themselves as experts should be mindful of the potential harmful consequences of their work…  I encourage you to form your own opinion based on the article I’ve linked below [it's a very long piece, but worth more than a skim given the seriousness of the topic].

There are links to a variety of materials within the article that give several points of view – as well as some kickin’ charts.  Give those some attention as well.  They’ll appeal to those who prefer a graphical representation of the growth of CRISPR research.

Once you’ve digested all the material, THEN ask yourself what your role might be in the pursuit of genetic modification…are you pro or con?

CRISPR

Illustration by Sébastien Thibault

CRISPR, the disruptor

 

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May 27th, 2015
5:52
 

Since well before the start of the space program, dehydrated food has been in use.  And microwaves, once thought to be ‘science fiction’ are in just about every home and restaurant in the developed world.

Here’s the latest addition to food prep that could excite your inner “Trekkie” (that’s a person partial to the television series and subsequent films on Star Trek for any of you not familiar with the term…).  The once futuristic concept was that a human could walk over to a device, place their food order verbally, and – presto – a fully cooked meal would appear almost instantaneously.

An Israeli company is introducing a new miniature cooker, called the Genie – it’s able to turn pods of freeze-dried ingredients into full meals in as little as half a minute.  Ayelet Carasso and Doron Marco are the Israeli entrepreneurs behind the device.

Real-life Star Trek ‘replicator’

prepares meal in 30 seconds

 

Genie

 

The price-tag may be hefty to start, but the inventors have a lot of confidence in this new kitchen gadget.  They are hoping to have a major impact on reducing world hunger (read the full article about the product by clicking the link below)

The Genie’s creators say it could also help solve global hunger. “In our world, we are getting fat and we are throwing away a lot of food, in their world, they don’t have any food,” Marco told Reuters. “So if you use Genie, you can distribute the food better, you can have the shelf life much longer without the preservatives, give the people better food for them.” (source: The Times of Israel)

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May 26th, 2015
6:42
 

And I don’t mean from dinner last night :-)  One of the largest hazelnut manufacturing companies, Nutella, has found a way to keep tons of its byproduct waste out of landfills. The Italian company is the world’s biggest buyer of hazelnuts, using 25% of the world’s supply and making 180m kg of its Nutella spread each year, according to the Italian Trade Agency. As a result, it has plenty of hazelnut shells to play with.

blog hazelnut shells

Nutella is using the discarded shells to construct the packaging!  They are still experimenting on the ideal mixture of nutshell fibers in the pulp, but so far it works well for stiffness and bulk. The hazelnut fibers are used in the board’s middle layer and have been tested for allergy aspects without any problems.

What chocoholic doesn’t like to hear of breakthroughs that will enable a favorite production company to reduce waste?

Another great use of shell waste is being employed at Suncoast Gold Macadamias cogeneration facility in Gympie, Queensland, Australia. It is the world’s first ever plant to produce electricity from waste macadamia nut shells. The plant is located adjacent to Suncoast’s macadamia nut processing facility in Gympie.

The plant generates 9.5GWh annually, which is enough to power 1,200 households. Suncoast consumes 20% of the electricity generated and the remaining is exported to the grid. The plant helps in reducing 9,500t of greenhouse gas emissions annually, which is equivalent to keeping 2,000 cars off the roads.

Australia is one of the largest macadamia nut producers in the world, with a 45% market share.

There are more than 13 million macadamia nut trees in Australia and the number is steadily growing.

 

 

 

 

 

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Although most of us are, at all times, peripherally aware of the food shortages around the world, there are those who are constantly addressing the needs of the hungry.  Charities, governments, and individuals make concerted efforts to alleviate the challenge of feeding the globe’s inhabitants.  Here are a few links to stimulate your thoughts on what you may be able to contribute through your own work…

Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system. —Bill Mollison

 

From The GuardianPermaculture in Malawi: using food forests to prevent floods and hunger

 

From The African Moringa and Permaculture project: Food Forests, an idea pioneered by permaculture, draw upon the examples provided by natural native forests and carefully incorporate non-aggressive exotic varieties.

Permaculture

 

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