The Taste of Tomorrow

We hereby offer the First Annual John Bitter Award for the greatest, most valuable web site in the Green Food Techie Universe to… Seedstock.com

Why Seedstock?

If you’re hunting for examples of smart urban farming, if you have a weakness for solar and wind-powered agriculture, if you want more/better/deeper coverage of ecologically-minded aquaculture, Seedstock is peerless. Seriously.

Two examples:

Basil growing in Omega Garden's rotary system.

Hydroponics Coverage – non-pareil. So, as you all know, we at the ToT are very curious about the incipient hydroponics revolution (and not for growing killer indica!). Last month, we did a routine drive-by of Seedstock (we were away for far too long — apologies).

Seedstock, the same site that introduced us to Windowfarms (see earlier post)  had two excellent profiles – one featured the brainchild of a U of Wyoming agronomy student called the ZipGrow Tower. It’s a 5’ foot tower, that cleverly uses a PVC frame and a matrix media —made up of a recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) blend — to hold seeds and seedlings in a vertical system.  It’s patent-pending, and will start at $50 — looks like a perfect solution for apartment dwellers seeking to make smart use of unused vertical space.   We also spotted on this same Seedstock visit an interesting story about the Omega Garden— a Canadian company that makes the Volksgarden, a rotating hydroponic system that can pack 80 plants into 20 square feet, and can yield harvest three to five times as productive as conventional gardens — using only a fraction of the water and space.

Bell Aquaculture, America's larger producer of yellow perch.

Seedstock is also a steady source of inspiring tales of smart aquaculture — they’ve profiled VCs focused on fostering enviro-friendly aquaculture, and fish farmers experimenting with ways of lowering feed conversion ratio, companies focused on improving quality and traceability for consumers.

Here are two examples — two great profiles of US-based farmers using recirculating aquaculture systems — one looks at SweetSpring Salmon, a producer of coho salmon, and the other focuses on Norman McCowan, a fish farmer who raises 2 million perch a year in the middle of the Indiana cornfields. (McCowan’s Bell Aquaculture, North America’s leading producer of yellow perch, reuses 99.8 percent of its water and converts leftover fish waste into a saleable product, organic liquid plant fertilizer.)

Check out Seedstock if you’re interested in becoming involved in sustainable food production.  Their resource page includes a bunch of helpful links — aimed at entrepreneurs, students, job-seekers interested in aspects of  sustainable agriculture.  In brief, Seedstock bills itself as the resource on sustainable ag, we agree.

The Must-See Documentary

Think back to the Sound of Music.  Think Salzburg—pine forests, Edelweiss, beer halls. Then head up a few thousand feet in elevation to an area called the Krameterhof. This is where Sepp Holzer farms. It’s one of the coldest parts of Tyrol, at an elevation that nears 5,000 feet.

Amid annual temperatures that average less than 40 degrees, on land that most deem fit only for grazing sheep and cows, Holzer is growing apricots, figs, kiwi fruit, and peaches.  And he has even tried to grow bananas.

WTF?

Holzer does not use bioengineering or nanotechnology, fertilizer, pesticides, no geothermally heated greenhouses.

Sepp Holzer, permaculture wunder.

The little Garden of Eden is all the result of “Holzer Permaculture.”  The Austrian is an organic farming legend, a pioneer of permaculture before it was even called permaculture.

Holzer has a hyper-diverse combination of crops on his 45 –hectare Tyrolean plot — timber, fruit trees, vegetables, shrubs, and grasses.  In addition to crop diversity, Holzer also demonstrates the virtues of a well-placed stone. The man called the “rebel farmer,”  has placed giant stone slabs throughout his land, the stones serve as incubators,  absorbing sunlight and giving off warmth, helping create (along with some other techniques) one of the wonders of organic farming: a Mediterranean microclimate in the Alps relying exclusively on natural methods.

There’s a fascinating documentary called “Farming with Nature: A Case Study of Successful Temperate Permaculture,” where you can learn about Holzer’s accomplishments in the Alps (agro-forestry, self-produced electricity, pig raising, fish-farming) and his methods (free-range pigs play an important role in the Holzer ecosystem)..

*Many thanks to Katie, a kindly bookseller from Boise, and her fiancée, a gifted web sleuth, for alerting us to this documentary.

And bonus…. A Must-Read Article 

A belated post of a very important opinion piece from the New York Times in late February…

Unfounded, irrational, evidence-less fears.  It’s an age-old problem thwarting human progress. This site has focused on irrational fears as it relates to agricultural technologies.

In an NYT op/ed piece, David Ropeik, a risk assessment consultant, discusses  “why our fears don’t match the facts” and “the real dangers that arise when we get risk wrong.”  It applies broadly to risk assessment, and we strongly encourage you to give it a look. (In fact, it’s even more important than the Holzer documentary and Seedstock.

Check out “The Wages of Eco-Angst” .

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