Sprout: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull launches new innovation hub to back ‘digital agriculture’ entrepreneurs
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) says it has tens of millions of dollars ready to kick-start an agricultural innovation hub launched by the Prime Minister today. It is part of a broad strategy by the NFF to harness new technology and big data to cut the costs of production and boost output. “Digital agriculture is the next wave of productivity” and could add as much as $6 billion to farm income over the next four years, according to NFF chief executive Simon Talbot. ABC News story.
EU backs €250m funding for milk, fruit and vegetable school schemes
The new measures will strengthen and boost funding for an EU scheme to provide fruit, vegetables and milk products in schools. Sharing out the €250m fairly for healthy eating measures is part of the plan, as well as putting an onus on member states to do more to promote healthy eating habits, local food chains, organic farming and fight against food waste. The educational measure should also better connect children with agriculture through farm visits and the distribution of local specialities such as honey. Farmers Journal story.
Can Large, Corporate Urban Farms Grow ‘Local Food’?
Under the glass-and-metal canopy of a sprawling greenhouse in Yardley, Pennsylvania, BrightFarms is growing salad greens. A lot of salad greens. Arugula and herbs and the occasional tomato–about 360,000 pounds per year–sprout up in white hydroponic trays. When the plants are ready, they are harvested, packed, and driven up the street (or just next door) to the Pennsylvania and New Jersey grocers where they will be sold. In the coming year, the company plans to expand its presence into the Chicago and Washington, D.C. areas, boosted by a recent $13.7-million round of funding. “We look at BrightFarms as an expansion of the local food movement,” CEO Paul Lightfoot told Civil Eats. Civil Eats post.
Tift County Schools honored at state capitol for Farm to School achievements
Tift County Schools was recognized with the Golden Radish Award, a prestigious state-wide Farm to School distinction which acknowledges the outstanding leadership of school representatives building comprehensive Farm to School programs. The school district was recognized for its efforts to educate students on nutrition and agriculture by State School Superintendent Richard Woods, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald and Georgia Organics Board Chair Mandy Mahoney. Tifton Gazette story.
Farm in a box: Shipping containers reused for fresh produce
containers have been turned into housing, art, even playgrounds. Now, a Boston company is recycling them into high-tech mobile farms as part of a new wave of companies hoping to bring more innovation to agriculture. Freight Farms and other indoor agriculture companies are looking to meet the growing demand for high-quality, locally grown and sustainable produce by farming fruits and vegetables in non-traditional spaces such as warehouses, industrial buildings and containers. Washington Post story.
Homefarm combines retirement homes and vertical urban farms
Architecture firm SPARK unveiled Homefarm, a visionary design that tackles food security and elder care challenges in one fell swoop. Presented at the World Architecture Festival, the conceptual proposal combines urban retirement housing with vertical urban farming into a live-farm typology that’s beautiful, productive, and empowering for its residents. In addition to its aquaponic vertical farming system, the eco-conscious Homefarm also includes a roof garden, fruits and vegetable marketplace, and biomass power plant. Inhabitat post.
Pedalling Compost While Building a Better Community
As the company’s name implies, the Compost Pedallers sends a team of bicyclists around to homes and businesses, where they collect kitchen and yard scraps and pedal them directly to Austin urban farms and community gardens. Over the past three years, using only bikes, Fedako says the company has diverted half a million pounds of waste from landfills and donated $13,000 worth of natural fertilizers to local growers. Civil Eats post.
KinSol Brings Dehydrators to Farmers in Developing Countries
This week we chatted with KinoSol, an Iowa State University based startup providing small-scale, solar-powered food dehydrator for fruits, vegetables and grains, to subsistence farmers in developing countries. The KinoSol team, made up of Clayton Mooney, Mikayla Sullivan, Ella Gehrke and Elise Kendall, started the company as students after becoming finalists in the 2014/15 Thought For Food Challenge. Our interview has been edited for brevity. Food+Tech Connect interview.
Demo At FoodBytes! Brooklyn
In partnership with Rabobank, the world’s premier bank in the food, agribusiness and beverage industry, and SF New Tech, San Francisco’s largest and longest-running tech showcase event, we’re bringing The FoodBytes! Summit to Brooklyn, New York on March 3, 2016. FoodBytes! Brooklyn is designed to bring new ideas in food and agribusiness together with capital. This conference will help food industry investors meet new and innovative companies that are disrupting food distribution, manufacturing, production and more. Apply today to be one of ten companies selected to demo in front of investors, media, technologists and corporates. Website.
Blue River Tech Raises $17m Series B to Build 4th Generation Robot for Production Ag
Blue River’s units use computer vision and machine learning to observe and identify plants in need of chemical treatment, weeding or thinning; make a fast decision on the appropriate course of action; and execute that action in real time. The company claims that this precision application of inputs — in comparison to the broad-based application of fertilizer and chemicals that traditional equipment allow — will reduce the amount of chemicals used in agriculture by 90 percent. Agfunder News story.
AND IF YOU HAVE TIME
Drone Gives Florida Strawberry Farms an Edge
As the human population has increasingly encroached on this country’s farm fields, some growers have gotten a black eye for their use of chemicals and water, said Highland Precision Ag founder and President Steve Maxwell. He said the technology his company is refining can change that. Over the next three years, the system Highland Precision Ag is developing will give farmers custom computer dashboards on which they can monitor their crops, follow recipes for treating disease and treat only those areas of their fields that need it. Food Manufacturing story.