Multifunctional Greenhouse in Ethiopia

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I came across this super interesting development project and was immediately struck by the intrigue of farming in the desert. This greenhouse is designed to capture dew on the plastic film during the night and early morning and then drain it into irrigation gutters on the inside of the structure. 
Multifunctional greenhouse in Ethiopia

While the finished product looks a bit different than the rendered image above, the reports are in that plants are already starting to grow. Learn more:

multifunctional greenhouse ethiopia finished

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.

Fresh Water Greens: A Hydroponic Success Story

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With over 100 years of farming experience, when the Villari family decides to take us behind the curtain of their hydroponic business, you know it’s bound to be good.

Their success started with a 16 year old boy’s 75 mile walk in 1910. Sal Villari had just come from Italy with just a few words of English and enough money to buy cattle in Lancaster Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the only place he could market his cattle was in Philadelphia and the only way he could get there was on foot. Since then the Villari farm has grown; from traditional Lancaster pasture land to a quintessential Italian vinyard, the fourth generation of Villaris are now making a splash (ha!) in hydroponics.

In this interview and case study:

  • Regina and Joe Villari take us through their business and answer some of the most common questions the Urban Vertical Project gets about hydroponic farming.
  • I summarize their data and compare it with some of the other operations we’ve looked at in order to give you the most information and context possible to plan your own endeavor.
  • I examine the cost/ sq foot of a ground-level hydroponic greenhouse and compare that with a rooftop vertical farm.
  • We also look at a really effective marketing technique Regina and Joe are using that just might blow the lid off of the organic label.

A Hydroponic Success Story

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Can toxic algae help your vertical farm?

This short vertical farming thought piece is just a taste of what’s going on in vertical farming. To get down to the details you’ll need to make your project a success, join our newsletter here!

Blue-green algae produces a sickening toxin that forced Toledo’s public drinking-water system to shut down. How on Earth can this help vertical farmers?

toxic algae
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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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