Martian Food Tech Crash Landing On A Farm Near You

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“Hell yeah I’m a botanist! Fear my botany powers!” – Mark Watney

The newest space film The Martian predicts a future where plant knowledge is not only imperative for human advancement but for astronaut Mark Watney’s very survival. I was just at the NASA headquarters in Washington, DC  and even the best minds there weren’t immune to the buzz around this fall’s hottest flick, constantly asking how Veggie, NASA’s new micro-gravity plant growth system, will be used on Mars. During the entire meeting, I was conscious of something important: a synthesis between vertical farming technologies and space exploration that goes far deeper than what the general public seems to realize. Keep reading to learn more about:

  • Veggie, NASA’s new way to grow food in space
  • Plant pillow propagation
  • What farming on Mars would even look like

space farm vertical hydroponic farming
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Vertical Farming at Burning Man

I mentioned this in a tweet, but there is a cool new vertical farming project named Isabel that’s traveling to Burning Man.

isabel 2

A group of Silicone Valley-type dudes are putting together a project to showcase the potential resiliency of vertical farming. Burning Man (those who don’t know should just look at this or any photo gallery; it’s incredible) is a great test. Desert temperature extremes and complete grid independence mean that if you can grow food here, you can grow it anywhere.

I asked one of the founders, Ryan Hooks, why they were so set on Burning Man:

“Burning Man is the stunt, to show that if you can grow in the desert, you can grow anywhere. By being mobile, it shows itself in such an amazing way to a very future forward crowd, that this is the ultimate solution we’ve all been waiting for. We hope to inspire all, [and show them] that the Internet of Food is here. We are doing this for everyone in the field of progressive agriculture, and the byproduct is helping to massively accelerate regenerative solutions. Let’s dream big, and eat well, Isabel.”

That is definitely a vision I can get behind.

Though many other projects (like the Growvan) are trying to develop portable hydroponic farms, this one is unique in that it is repurposing existing materials. In this case, it’s a VW van and an Airstream trailer. I honestly don’t know if this is going to be the most efficient way to grow food, but it is certainly an interesting project. From a sustainability perspective, using this as a test case to take old trailers out of junkyards and convert them to food production might have a lot of potential though I worry that there could be design inefficiencies inherent in the base. Hopefully, when Isabel is finished, those will be worked through.

Ryan and his team are certainly prepared for those challenges:

“I’ve worked as a director for the past 8 years [at], and run the “airBNB for skills” at The more I learned about the data of the Earth, the more I was itching to find the most effective solution to help regenerate ecology, and feed 9 billion. Vertical Farming showed itself as the answer. Eric Hager, one of the partners in Isabel, has been running Farm-X for the past couple years, and is one of the most knowledgeable people in the field. Ruben Santa, our other partner, has been heading product at eBay, and brings great design/strategy chops to the table. We have a research facility in the East Bay, and it is pure magic to see veggies growing at outstanding rates (more than 2x), with 95% less water. ”

Though it looks like they are a ways from their funding goal, take a look at their Indiegogo page here and let me know what you think of Isabel!

Don’t want to miss out on the most important vertical farming news? Sign up for our free newsletter now! And, thanks to Ryan for getting back to me so quickly.

ICCEA Panama 2015 Recap

Thanks to Jim Pantaleo for this contribution. Jim is one of the most connected people in the controlled environment agriculture movement and was able to get down to Panama to bring you some exclusive coverage of  last weekend’s ICCEA event. Interested in helping out like Jim? Get on our mailing list and get in touch. Sign up here!

I am more than pleased to write about my attendance at the inaugural International Conference on Controlled Environment Agriculture (ICCEA) in Panama City, Panama.  The May event brought together 350 of the brightest minds in indoor agriculture, vertical farming and controlled environment agriculture (to include greenhouses) from around the world.

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Vertical Farms on Earth Day

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It’s a rule, any tangentially green websites have to have new content on Earth Day.  Here’s mine.

  • What the District of Columbia has accomplished
  • Is Earth Day what it used to be? Does it matter?Happy

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