Farming for the Future on the Roofs of Hong Kong

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Green roofs are great for collecting water and cooling neighbourhoods, they are also useful for feeding their local communities. In the densely built urban environment of Hong Kong there is a network of green roofs that used for farming. These farms are used to grow crops sold in local stores and to encourage the people of Hong Kong to get their hands dirty and understand where their food comes from.

Here the team tell me about their other goal: education. By running regular workshops, the team hope that Hong Kong’s city-dwellers will become a little more aware of the resources needed to grow the food they are eating. Pointing to a bed of broccoli, for instance, Hong remembers one recent group who had never seen the whole plant. “They didn’t realise that the florets that we eat are actually quite limited,” she says. “And if you look at the quantity we see in the supermarket, you begin to see how much space we would need to grow that,” she says.

Ultimately, Tsui’s dream is that a restful break on a rooftop farm will become ingrained in everyone’s daily routine. “I use the analogy of coffee,” says Tsui – something that was once a luxury, but which became a lifestyle, through sheer convenience. If he had his way, a trip to the farm would be as essential as a morning caffeine fix. “We do have a mission, in a way – to make farming cool.”

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Detroit’s Farms May Save the City

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Detroit is a city that has been witnessing a lot of change thanks to poor urban planning and bad economics. The past decade has been very rough for the people of Detroit and they are turning to old, but innovative, ways to revive the city. We have seen artists move to Detroit and even some tech companies. At the other end of the spectrum is a return to the land in the form of farming.

The low density neighbourhood design of the suburbs contributed to Detroit’s fall and now it might be saving the city by returning to arable land.

We were sitting at a picnic table nestled between his house and farm. Greg was in his early 40s, compact and wiry, with flecks of gray in his close-cropped black hair, his arms and face leathery from the sun. As he spoke, his leg jittered like a sewing-machine needle, and I got the impression that sitting still was torture for him. Most of our conversations occurred in moving vehicles, at his booth in the farmers’ market, or as we hacked at weeds or laid irrigation hose through fields.

Suburbia, Greg told me, was the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world: big, thin-walled houses that take loads of gas and electricity to heat and cool, acres of farmland and animal habitat bulldozed for useless lawns that guzzle water and gobble poisons, barrels of food scraps hauled across the county and buried in a landfill, sprawling subdivisions requiring cars and gasoline for the simplest of errands—mailing a package or buying a gallon of milk. What’s more, he said, suburbs encouraged isolation, cultivated a fear of strangers, and created enclaves that segregated the white middle class from poor people and brown people.

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Using Seawater to Farm in the Desert

The future of farming in much of the world could look like something out of science fiction. Sundrop farms in Australia has a farm up and running that produces food using seawater pumped into a desert location where they use the power of the sun to power the entire process. Solar energy desalinates the water while purifying the environment (so no pesticides) of the greenhouse – the entire process is form renewable sources!

Seawater is piped 2 kilometres from the Spencer Gulf to Sundrop Farm – the 20-hectare site in the arid Port Augusta region. A solar-powered desalination plant removes the salt, creating enough fresh water to irrigate 180,000 tomato plants inside the greenhouse.

Scorching summer temperatures and dry conditions make the region unsuitable for conventional farming, but the greenhouse is lined with seawater-soaked cardboard to keep the plants cool enough to stay healthy. In winter, solar heating keeps the greenhouse warm.

There is no need for pesticides as seawater cleans and sterilises the air, and plants grow in coconut husks instead of soil.

The farm’s solar power is generated by 23,000 mirrors that reflect sunlight towards a 115-metre high receiver tower. On a sunny day, up to 39 megawatts of energy can be produced – enough to power the desalination plant and supply the greenhouse’s electricity needs.

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From Fishing To Farming

It’s well known that the fishing industry is, err, fishy. Slaves are used in international waters by large multinational corporations and overfishing around the world is rampant – pushing many species close to extinction and totally ecosystem collapse. Basically, fishing is a bad thing.

One fisherman has seen his practice change over time and has altered his ways. Instead of culling fish he’s cultivating plants in what is referred to as a “3D farm”.

Bren Smith, a former fisherman, developed an unique, vertical 3-D ocean farming model that is currently revolutionizing our seafood plates while restoring our oceans.

After working as an industrial fisherman for decades and witnessing the devastating effects of mass-fishing, Smith developed his own ocean farm: a sort of underwater garden composed of kelp, mussels, scallops and oysters. Those species are not only edible and in high demand but they also are key in rebuilding our natural reef systems.

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To Save Bees, Humans Need to Learn From the Past

Bees are having a hard time in the 21st century everything from radio waves to pesticides are messing with their honey creation. The poor creatures are also suffering from a massive colony collapse disorder. What’s more native species need to compete with colonies that are shipped around for farmers.

Fortunately there are still ways to help bees! Farmers in Mexico and India are using techniques learned over a millennium ago to keep their local bee populations surviving. No more pesticides or bizarre treatment of bees – instead these farmers help the bees help themselves (and humans).

On the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula, where large swaths of native forests are still intact, scientists interested in restoring that function are working with Mayan farmers to revive traditional beekeeping. The researchers’ long-term studies of bee populations and surveys of beekeepers in remote Mayan villages showed that the practice is no longer being passed down through families. To help preserve a tradition they saw as essential to preventing local extinction of these stingless bees Buchmann, Roubik, Villanueva-Gutiérrez, and other colleagues from the University of Yucatan started annual workshops to train a new generation of beekeepers.

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