New Stories From 'Urban Agriculture Notes'
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Environment

NASA Interested in Robotic Gardening Technology Developed by University Students

robt
Heather Hava, right, who is working on a doctorate in aerospace engineering sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, describes a computerized system she is developing with other graduate students participating in the exploration HABitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge.

The ROGR robots can visit a specific plant to deliver water or to locate and grasp a fruit or vegetable. If an astronaut requests tomatoes for a salad, the system decides which specific plants have the ripest tomatoes and assigns parallel harvesting tasks to ROGR.

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
July 7, 2014

Excerpt:

For more than a half-century, NASA has made the stuff of science fiction into reality. Researchers are continuing that tradition by designing robots to work in a deep-space habitat, tending gardens and growing food for astronaut explorers. It sounds like a concept from Star Wars, but a team of graduate students from the University of Colorado Boulder is now developing the innovative technology to make it possible.

As astronauts explore beyond Earth, they will need to make their habitat as self-sustaining as possible. This includes growing fruits and vegetables.

[Read more →]

November 17, 2014   No Comments

Global assessment of urban and peri-urban agriculture: irrigated and rainfed croplands

irr

Understanding the role of urban and peri-urban crop production in urban food security at scale remains a major knowledge gap in the field of urban agriculture.

By A L Thebo1, P Drechsel and E F Lambin
Environmental Research Letters
Published 3 November 2014

Abstract

The role of urban agriculture in global food security is a topic of increasing discussion. Existing research on urban and peri-urban agriculture consists largely of case studies that frequently use disparate definitions of urban and peri-urban agriculture depending on the local context and study objectives. This lack of consistency makes quantification of the extent of this practice at the global scale difficult. This study instead integrates global data on croplands and urban extents using spatial overlay analysis to estimate the global area of urban and peri-urban irrigated and rainfed croplands.

[Read more →]

November 11, 2014   Comments Off

Cuba’s Urban Gardens: health risks stemming from urban or semi-urban agriculture

cubanew

The notorious case of Cuba’s largest dumpsite, located on 100 St, in Havana’s neighborhood of Marianao, is illustrative of this. Its residues have affected nearly all surrounding crops, both at urban vegetable gardens and traditional croplands.

By Isbel Diaz Torres
Havana Times
Oct 14, 2014
(Must read. Mike)

Excerpt:

Under these types of conditions, as in those in which crops are close to highways, contamination through the absorption of heavy metals found in soils, air or water, is a dangerous risk.

Only the community’s real involvement in the handling of such spaces could guarantee the efficient protection of crops against the many contaminating agents out there. Cuba, however, has merely created more State establishments, akin to rationed product points, where vegetables are simply sold, and, to top things off, in a manner subordinate to the inefficient Ministry of Agriculture.

[Read more →]

October 24, 2014   Comments Off

Satellite images reveal shocking groundwater loss in California

caldry

“Most climate models indicate that by the end of this century, the dry regions of the world will become drier.”

By Karen Kaplan
Los Angeles Times
Oct 2, 2014

Excerpt:

The severity of California’s drought continues to shock, with the latest example coming courtesy of NASA.

The space agency’s two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, satellites have been been in orbit since 2002, making highly sensitive measurements of Earth’s gravity field. Variations in the gravity field can be caused by a number of factors, including the amount of water stored underground in soil and rocks.

[Read more →]

October 8, 2014   Comments Off

Creating a Pesticide Free Neighborhood in Portland

The Pesticide Free Project has passed its 1-year mark, and has gotten 400 homes to sign the pesticide free pledge

By Rebecca Gerendasy
Cooking Up a Story
Sept 2014

Excerpt:

As Melco explains in the video, the main goal of the project is to protect residents, especially babies and young children— from chronic, low-level exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Through a partnership with Portland Metro, The Xerces Society, and Backyard Habitat Certification Program, Melco and her team are going door to door canvasing the 2500 homes to educate homeowners.

[Read more →]

September 27, 2014   Comments Off

Birds and berries in my grandmother’s garden

birdsberries

Worthy, indeed, is the garden that is planted, not for beauty alone, but for the welfare of Nature’s children as well.

By the Bird Man.
1920

Excerpt:

A host of fruit-loving birds lived in the garden in early summer. They feasted continuously on choke and wild cherries, and cloyingly sweet mulberries. Seldom at any other season, did the shy, elusive cedar wax-wings enter the garden, but love of the purple fruit of the mulberry dispelled all fear in June. The bluebirds and orioles were equally fond of it, but they must, perchance, satisfy their appetites with that which fell to the ground, for the wax-wings claimed the trees.

[Read more →]

September 26, 2014   Comments Off

‘Lawn Dude’ Prods Californians to Battle Drought by Conserving Water

lawndude

Gov. Jerry Brown, meanwhile, has asked residents across the state to cut water use by 20%, a goal that has proved slippery so far. In some areas of the state, landscaping accounts for half of daily water use …

By Tamara Audi
Wall Street Journal
Aug. 1, 2014

Excerpt:

The new mascot will be popping up on billboards donated by Clear Channel Outdoor across the parched region, spouting catchphrases like “Don’t hose me man!” as reminders to refrain from overwatering lawns. On another billboard, Lawn Dude carries a martini glass holding a daisy and says, “I only drink 2 days a week”—a nod to limits on outdoor irrigation to twice a week in some communities.

[Read more →]

August 9, 2014   Comments Off

The Hidden Dangers of Lead in Urban Gardens

leadcity
Click on image for larger file. Fig. 1. A vacant lot urban farm highlighting abiotic challenges of urban agriculture, including: elevated atmospheric concentrations of industrial pollutants (A), elevated atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases from traffic emissions (B), contaminated storm water runoff (C), Pb-contaminated soils adjacent to aging housing stock (e.g., paint chips) (D), soils contaminated by heavy metals and/or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (E), unpredictable access to municipal water sources (F), potentially contaminated recycled water sources (e.g., rainwater harvesting) (G), reduced light and wind speed due to the built environment (H), increased mechanical heat (e.g., air conditioners) (I), and increased surface temperatures from pavement and rooftops (J). Credits: This illustration from Sam Worman’s study shows the myriad challenges of urban gardeners, including lead sources.

When Ryan Kuck’s young twins both tested positive for elevated lead levels in their blood he was worried — but not surprised.

By Karen Pinchin
Modern Farmer
July 28, 2014

Excerpt:

When it comes to remediation, there are a few ways to deal with the problem. One is cap-and-fill (covering over an existing lot with cement, then trucking in soil and building a garden overtop), which is preferred by many municipal governments, simply because it buries the problem, says Wortman. There is also phytoremediation, in which plants slightly better at absorbing lead, like mustards and sunflowers, are planted on vacant land, then harvested and disposed of over a long period of time. While this technique is trendy right now, probably because it feels like “using nature to heal nature,” Wortman says it isn’t practical or effective.

[Read more →]

August 5, 2014   Comments Off

The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild Hardcover

urbest

From the bestselling author of Crow Planet, a compelling journey into the secret lives of the wild animals at our back door.

By Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Little, Brown and Company
Sept 17, 2013

In The Urban Bestiary, acclaimed nature writer Lyanda Lynn Haupt journeys into the heart of the everyday wild, where coyotes, raccoons, chickens, hawks, and humans live in closer proximity than ever before. Haupt’s observations bring compelling new questions to light: Whose “home” is this? Where does the wild end and the city begin? And what difference does it make to us as humans living our everyday lives?

[Read more →]

August 2, 2014   Comments Off

Andrea Reynosa planted a 6,000-square-foot field with clover in Brooklyn

redgrange

Artists Probe Urban Agriculture

By Allison Meier
Hyperallergic
July 1, 2014

Excerpt:

In collaboration with Smack Mellon’s FOODshed, Alloy real estate development, and Brooklyn Grange, artist Andrea Reynosa planted a 6,000-square-foot field with clover that is sprouting red flowers alongside the Manhattan Bridge. The space was formerly a parking lot. The flourish of vibrancy is temporary, but Reynosa is planning that through the clover, a site that might otherwise be an empty construction lot will have life that will in turn ameliorate the soil before a condominium moves in.

[Read more →]

July 19, 2014   Comments Off

The University of Minnesota is studying whether urban farming can reduce heat in metropolitan areas.

stone
Robin Major of Stone’s Throw Urban Farm.

“If you’re farming in a city, then you’re taking what used to be an impervious surface with little vegetation and making it pervious and growing vegetation”

By Lyra Fontaine
Minnesota Daily
July 02, 2014

Excerpt:

This summer, new University research will explore a new way of mitigating heat islands — urban farming — which could help reduce heat in metropolitan areas while providing a source of fresh produce and groceries to cities.

This has yet to be explored, said Katherine Klink, a geography, environment and society associate professor.

“People just haven’t thought of [urban farms] as a potential heat island mitigation strategy,” Klink said.

[Read more →]

July 18, 2014   Comments Off

Greenhouse in Toronto’s Wychwood Park helps community gardens

Stop’s Green Barn: Greenhouse & Compost Demonstration Centre

Videographer Audra Brown visits a century old former streetcar repair building that has been converted into a greenhouse.
City News Toronto
June 1, 2014

Excerpt from Stop’s website:

The Stop’s Green Barn is a heritage building re-designed to Gold LEED environmental standards that grows year-round organic produce.

The Green Barn houses a 3,000-square-foot state-of-the-art greenhouse in which we grow a variety of produce, including kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, grapefruit, pineapple, Meyer lemons, Mizuna mustard, baby bok choy, chilies, nasturtiums, geraniums, bananas, oranges, avocado, cassava, taro, sweet potato, Indian spinach, jade, lemon balm, figs, marigold, tamarind, radishes, sprouts, callaloo, aloe vera, and olive.

[Read more →]

June 10, 2014   Comments Off

Urban Agriculture – Innovative water recirculation systems

freshc
Fresh City workers trim sprouts. Credit: Fresh City.

How urban agriculture set-ups cultivate local produce with the help of innovative water recirculation systems.

By Saul Chernos
Water Canada
May 12, 2014

Excerpt:

“We’re trying to reduce our footprint on the environment as much as we possibly can,” explains Lauren Rathmell, a founding member who oversees Lufa’s greenhouse operations. She says Lufa’s hydroponic greenhouses use up to 90 per cent less water than comparable ones that don’t recirculate. “It’s all automated. We irrigate most of our plants using drip lines set up where we water the plants from above. Water that’s not taken up by the plants and doesn’t evaporate is captured, sent down to our collection tank, filtered, and reused.” Some plants, mostly the lettuces, grow with their roots submerged entirely in gently flowing water, continuously irrigated. Others sit in soilless coconut husk grow sacs.

[Read more →]

May 26, 2014   Comments Off

Food Safety News – Safely integrating urban agriculture

Frequent Watering of the Victory Garden Is Necessary During the Early Stages of Growth. ca. 02:1943
Watering the Victory Garden. 1943.

While growing food within city limits is exciting for urban dwellers, it also raises some unique food safety issues.

By Kelly Damewood
Food Safety News
May 2, 2014

Excerpt:

To be clear, my opinion is that urban farmers and gardeners can absolutely keep livestock safely within the city limits. However, my experience has been that urban livestock keepers are also more likely to be novices. As a result, I have seen some unfortunate situations where people underestimate the amount of attention baby goats need or the dedication it takes to milk a goat every day.

[Read more →]

May 23, 2014   Comments Off

When it comes to using pallets in the garden, proceed with caution

mb
Sample ISPM logo showing the MB for methyl bromide treatment of the wood.

Pallet manufacturers in Canada and the United States must now either heat-treat or fumigate pallets as a precaution against such pests as the emerald ash borer.

Organic Gardening
June 2014

Excerpt:

Discarded shipping pallets, long used as construction material by gardeners, have now been discovered by crafters. But recent regulations designed to prevent invasive pests from hitching a ride in the wood mean some pallets really shouldn’t be used in the garden or home (or burned for fuel, either).

[Read more →]

May 16, 2014   Comments Off