A Deep Concern About World Poverty

A Deep Concern About World Poverty: A Study of Hydroponic Farming—A Sustainable Way to Reduce Poverty

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Mission Statement and Action Plan

Action Plan at the begining of the Project
Alleviating World Poverty through Innovative Applications of Agricultural Technology
Hydroponic Farming in Sub-Saharan Africa

Current irrigation technology does not support sustainable, lucrative agriculture in areas of poverty and drought. Hydroponic growing uses 10% of the water used in any non-circulating, “open” systems, which allow the land to absorb the majority of water which has been labor intensively pumped to dry regions. Hydroponics also drastically increase yield—to the extent which will be explored in our project. In Africa, a 1% increase in yield correlates to a 0.72% reduction of poverty—the highest rate of poverty reduction of the areas targetted by the MDGs (East Asia, South Asia, Latin America, and Africa).

The website will continuously expand. Develop series of proposals: 1) to Jeffrey Sachs at the Earth Institute, 2) mechanical/environmental engineers to design most appropriate system for water availability and ideal crops in Sub-Saharan Africa, 3) investors in the private sector interested in increasing their yield of high-quality produce, 4) representatives of the UN working on the MDGs with evidence of economic gain, and 5) government officials in charge the public farming sector interested in reforming Eventually, take hydroponics to Africa.

Mission Statement at the end of the Project
New-Farms offers innovative ideas for the application of hydroponic technology in a growing world with continuously diverse and varied needs. New-Farms seeks to apply forward-looking technology and research to existent businesses and programs. Our goal is to offer private business’ the tools and information necessary to utilize and capitalize on this ground-breaking technology. At its core, New-Farms is an environmental conscious-raising organization. In addition to our support and advocacy of general environmental issues (cleaner air, reduction of the waste of natural resources) we adamantly support issues of public health. More specifically, New-Farms is concerned with issues related to poverty, malnourishment and malnutrition. New-Farm’s hopes to use its interaction with private companies and businesses and its promotion of hydroponics as a forum for research and awareness raising. New-Farms believes that there is tremendous poverty reduction potential in hydroponic agriculture and in agricultural reform.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Recipe for Positive Action

In trying to summarize my experience in this class of have come to realize how much I value the opportunity to actually do something. For me the message of the class has been that action is relatively easy and that the barriers are mostly mental. This class has showed me that the difference between thinking and doing is simply following your ideas to their natural conclusions. Oh sure, sometimes stuff doesn’t work out and things fall apart but when you strip all that away, action is basically and idea plus doing. I know this might not make sense but trying to encapsulate all that is involved in beginning and successfully executing a project is difficult to describe. Instead, I offer a recipe, not for success mind you, but for positive action.

Begin with clean-slate/empty vase; a naïve good-doer type. If none can be found then substitute with cynical, jaded but good-hearted and eager type. If using substitution, pay no attention to their skepticism. It will settle eventually and if it does not it can be rinsed and strained out with sieve.

Collect all materials together in one room. Let stir and swell.

Add impetus.

Skim the residue: the sense of unimportance/failure/defeatism off the top. Make sure to continue to stir adding in flavors or spices that you enjoy. (Warning: some meat may not take to all additives).

Let flavors absorb. To encourage this, gentle nudge with spoon/fork/hammer/fist/your voice.

Let rest. Allowing your dish to change its shape if necessary (this is almost always necessary).

Add enthusiasm and care. Encourage your meal. At this point you may stop stirring. This step can be difficult but you have to let the dish cook on its own.

Stop while still pink on the inside. It should still be tender because it will harden with time.

Enjoy. You have made something great.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Benefits of Hydroponic Growing: Why Hydroponics as Opposed to Traditional Growing

International Consultants to Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses claims that Hydroponics are, “a good alternative for producing safer urban crops.” There are many cases available through the International Consultants to Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses website that offer evidence to support the claim that hydroponic farming in an urban setting is both environmentally beneficial and a viable source of food.

The following are the benefits as outlined by International Consultants to Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses. The following has been taken from: http://www3.telus.net/public/a6a47567/Food%20Security.pdfv. For more information contact aquafood@chasque.net or vist www.chasque.net/aquafood
  • Isolation from soil. Planting takes place at a convenient height, where soil pollution has no impact. Plants are grown in water containers or in low–cost natural substrates (sand, rice husk, pumice, etc.). With this system, it is possible to grow a vast range of vegetables, for example, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, celery, watercress eggplants, beans, parsley, wild radish, leeks, strawberries, melons, aromatic and medicinal plants, etc.
  • Use of limited space. One of its main advantages of hydroponics is the possibility of using urban spaces which until now had not been considered adequate for growing food
  • High efficiency in the use of irrigation water. Water is recycled and does not pollute the environment.
  • Pest, disease and weed control. Hydroponic systems facilitate the adoption of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs. There is also a significant reduction in the use of chemicals once used to control pests and weeds. Moreover, neither the produce nor the environment is contaminated by chemicals.
  • Higher yields and shorter times between harvests. Hence, total output is greater than the case of conventional soil systems.
  • Easy to learn. The technique is easy to understand, it does not require prior knowledge and concrete results are achieved quickly.
  • Potential use of recycled materials. It is possible to use recycled materials to build growing systems. Subsequently, growers can use materials they already have on hand, e.g. wood, disposable packaging materials.
  • Source of income from direct sales. It promotes family or community owned micro-enterprises.
  • Food is of a high quality. Fruit and vegetables have a high biological and dietary value. Crops for household consumption are harvested when they are ready to be used. Hence, produce is fresh and has its nutritional and medicinal properties intact (vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients, etc).

Just Foods and Columbia University Special Interest Housing Project

There are two organizations that New-Farms feels would both benefit and embrace a hydroponic growing system. The first of these organizations is Just Foods, a New York City based non-profit. Just Food’s goal is to raise awareness and provide local communities with self sustainability. More specifically, their objective is to “develop a just and sustainable food system in the New York City region.” The organization holds that by encouraging “new marketing and food-growing opportunities” they can attend to the needs of rural and family farms as well as community gardens. Just Foods believes that by through “food-growing opportunities” they can begin to tackle the needs of New York City communities. The organization works not only to increase the output of community gardens but to help distribute these goods throughout the New York City area. Just Foods’ ambition is to increase the output of the farms they work with by redefining the notion of the community garden. The organization wants to encourage the restructuring of small community gardens so that they can become viable food providers. Finally, Just Foods seeks to distribute the food produced in community gardens to low-income neighborhoods with limited access to affordable produce. Just foods partners with other New York City based organizations to help develop marketing, emergency relief and gain expertise in horticulture and garden preservation.

New-Farms seeks to apply hydroponic methods of growing to existent Just Foods farms. By introducing hydroponic technology to community gardens, New-Farms believes that we can help Just Foods increase their output. Hydroponic technology addresses and provides solutions for many of the challenges facing Just foods and their local gardens. These issues include space limitations, and consequently limited output, soil contamination and restricted access to water. Additionally, Just Food’s is any environmentally conscious organization that seeks solutions that are environmentally sound.

The implementation of hydroponic technology would help Just Foods manage the need for space. The International Consultants to Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses asserts that “patios, small gardens, party walls, balconies, rooftops” can all be used for major food production. The addition of this technology would allow Just Foods to maximize the space available in order to boost their overall output. In addition, Hydroponic growing methods reduce the potential for crop and soil contamination. Finally, the addition and use of the hydroponic method of growing allows locations with previously insufficient access or use of water to agriculturally produce. With the employment of hydroponic systems on rooftop gardens, or other areas where traditional irrigation is not possible, and small or out-of-the-way plots can become food producing farms. Finally, New-Farms believe that our shared aid and poverty reduction goals will encourage a strong partnership. New-Farms does not economically benefit from the use of hydroponic growing systems. Like Just Foods, are objective is to raise awareness and provide ideas or links to possible solutions. Both organizations are committed to poverty reduction through environmentally sound means. New-Farms believes that Just Foods’ efforts to provide self-sustaining food production will help increase the amount and quality of inexpensive food that is available to lower income communities.

A Columbia University Student Environmental Activist group has petitioned the Columbia University Department of Residential life for special housing. When their bid is approved the Department of Residential life they will be given the use of a dormitory. New-Farms would like to offer our services the residence of the environmentally friendly special interest house. New-Farms will work with this special interest house, helping its residents become more self-sustainable. Using the website as a method by which information can be shared, New-Farms will help connect residents with information about, ideas and tools for better growing and links to hydroponic system’s providers. Using hydroponic systems, residents of the special housing program will be able to minimize their need to purchase food.

New-Farms Mission Statement and Executive Summary

New-Farms offers innovative ideas for the application of hydroponic technology in a growing world with continuously diverse and varied needs. New-Farms seeks to apply forward-looking technology and research to existent businesses and programs. Our goal is to offer private business’ with the tools and information necessary to utilize and capitalize on this ground-breaking technology. At its core, New-Farms is an environmental conscious-raising organization. In addition to our support and advocacy of general environmental issues (cleaner air, reduction of the waste of natural resources) we are concerned with issues of public health. More specifically, New-Farms is concerned with issues related to poverty, malnourishment and malnutrition. New-Farms believes that there is tremendous poverty reduction potential in hydroponic agriculture and in agricultural reform.

Executive Summary

Through the advent of new forms, applications and innovations in hydroponic technology New-Farms will offer environmentally beneficial business options and opportunities for organizations. Our first task is to engage with private companies in order to apply and demonstrate the advantages of this technology. New-Farms will locate companies looking to expand, diversify or change their food producing structure. New-Farms will find organizations where hydroponic agriculture could be successful and to encourage these companies to implement this technology. Though we advocate and promote the use of hydroponic systems we do not manufacture the systems ourselves. Instead we rely on the many companies that produce hydroponic systems to provide private organizations with the resources necessary. In addition to providing information to companies about hydroponic agriculture, we will also continue a relationship with said companies so as to track their progress. This will allow New-Farms to build a database of evidence that will show the economic as well as environmental benefits of hydroponic agriculture. By following the progress of companies that we work will we will gain information as to the effectiveness of the implementation of hydroponic growing in the private sector. This information will then be compiled and made available to the public on the New-Farms Website. By publishing this information as well as general information about hydroponic growing systems on the web, we hope to generate interest in this cutting-edge environmentally advantageous technology.

New-Farms is interested in implementing hydroponic technology in urban environments. According to International Consultants to Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses, planting in urban areas is becoming more and more popular. At New-Farms will connect those interested in urban farming to groups beginning similar growing projects as well as to manufactures hydroponic systems. New-Farms feels that the best way to generate excitement is to fill the needs of this infant market. By promoting hydroponic technology in a market that is not already established we can court a loyal market base. Additionally, there are many new companies and growers that are struggling to grow and profit from urban farming. New-Farms sees urban farming failures an opportunity to offer an alternative method’s of planting. Essentially, New-Farms realizes that those unable to generate profits by traditional means may be more inclined to adopt this innovative approach. New-Farms will promote hydroponic growing to organizations that have had previous exposure to traditional growing methods in urban settings. This will allow us to address the shortcomings traditional forms of agriculture in non-traditional settings.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The New-Farms: Urban Growing Project

Urban Growing Project
To test the practical applications of hydroponics systems in an urban environment we began The New-Farms: Urban Growing Project. The goal would be not only to test the growing capabilities of the system but also to provide a model for similar small scale or private urban hydroponic projects. Using a growing system purchased through www.earthbox.com, a limited number of tools and space the Urban Growing Project will function as both a case study and a kind of instructional manual for urban hydroponics where space, time and access to tools is limited. Our process and progress will be photographed in order to providing our documentation with illustrations. However, these photographs will not simply add color to our text, they will demonstrate the steps and tools necessary and the amount of physical space being used for growing.

The Growing System
When starting off it is important to select a growing system that fits your growing needs and desires. Fortunately, there are many companies world-wide that manufacture hydroponic systems that cater to different farming needs. There is a great deal of variation in the complexity’s of the systems that are available. Systems that use more complicated watering techniques are often more difficult to set-up or more expensive. Different plants fare better under different conditions, so before purchasing any system it is important to decide what you want to plant and then read about the systems that are available for that particular crop. As a first, or trial project, we were interested in growing a tomato plant. The Urban Growing Project decided that tomatoes would be an ideal plant for our initial test because of the rapid rate at which they grow. This would allow us to examine the productivity of the system and of this farming technique within the shortest framework of time. We choose a to order a system online from earthbox (at www.earthbox.com) because they had systems available that were large enough to house a cherry tomato plant, but small enough to fit in our dorm room. Additionally, because this was our first planting project we chouse a system that was very simple and easy to setup.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New Project Frontier--Urban Farms

In addition to the formal business proposals and website which form the crux of our project goals within this semester, Cora and I are exploring hydroponic technology as it is currently being implemented. The simplest scale is obviously the system set up in my bedroom. I am now germinating 3 cherry tomato seedlings, two of which I will soon transplant into a single earthbox system. This experiment is less practical in terms of the project, and more for the purpose of familiarizing myself with the system in the hopes of catching the easily overlooked practical oversights which can be made by exclusively researching and writing.
Beyond this personal study lies the possibility of training ourselves technically in order to soon partner with a representative from Just Food, and non-profit organization dedicated to supply those in need in the New York City and greater, rural New York regions with produce from gardens and urban agriculture cites. Essentially, their mission statement is quite similar to our ultimate large-scale goals but has the benefit of a local focus which we could explore now. Specifically, we can model our proposals to the private sector for absorbing our recommended technology after their relationships with local food distributers.
Finally, a trusted faculty member's advice has most recently shifted the relative importance of the finiancial aspects of our proposal. As hydroponic farming is not a new technology and actually very well integrated into some regions, our activist approach is specifically governmental, and should focus on the specific monetary needs of adopting a new method of farming compared to the monetary needs of supporting the current, conventional style of agriculture. Our hypothesis is that the initial higher capital will quickly be paid for (and then some) by the "teach a man to fish..." rule--aiding existing farms or even just providing developing countries with food is only giving them fish, and wasting funding that could go towards improving the future quality of life.
This is not to say we will neglect our opportunities to encourage hydroponic farming in the private sector or work with non-profits like Just Food--this is simply insight into the exciting simultaneous sub-projects that comprise our thesis.
To close this week--I feel this speaks to our country's role in the global market:
"Even if the land is full of all good things, still you must plant...even if you are old, you must plant. Just as you found trees planted by others You must plant them for your children."
(Midrash Tanchuma, Kedoshim 8)

Urban Growing Project

Urban Growing Project

According to International Consultants to Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses, planting in urban areas is becoming more and more popular. There are obvious advantages to “farming” that extend beyond the obvious additional food source that it provides. Many turn to urban growing as an additional source or income or as a viable organic food source. However, there are many problems and difficulties facing those who engage in or hope to become urban farmers or semi-urban farmers (those living in close proximity to urban areas). Using urban farming in Uruguay as a model, the International Consultants to Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses has outlined the challenges and risks facing urban planting and growing.
There are many risks associated with planting and growing produce inside of or near a city. The biggest concern facing farmers and consumers alike is the contamination of food grown inside a city and with resources found in the city. One of the greatest causes of produce contamination in general is polluted soil. The International Consultants to Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses states that there are many serious health hazards associated with pollution and soil. This risk is intensified this setting because of the many additional pollutants that exist in an industrial or urban environment. Essentially, soil in urban and semi-urban areas may contain “an excess of nitrates as a result of over fertilization of farmland…” In addition the presence of polluting industries in urban environments increases the risk for more harmful kinds of contamination; traces of harmful metals the residue of car batteries, and even lead from paint can be found in soil in urban centers. The International Consultants to Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses also claims that fertilizers used in residential gardens and often contain toxic chemicals and residue like soaps, detergents, and traditional farming waste. These create a harmful environment for growing food. Health risks aside, urban farming presents many practical challenges. There is limited space available in cities and the price of property and the cost of living is high in urban areas. Hydroponic agriculture differs from traditional agriculture in the way that crops interact with soil and water. This technique is ideal for urban farming because it provides a solution to the major health risks (contamination) and practical difficulties, i.e. the limited space associated with urban living.
Hydroponic systems are isolated from the soil. Polluted, over fertilized or tainted soil does not enter the plants container. This drastically limits the possibility for contamination from the urban environment. As International Consultants to Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses stated, “vegetables are produced without land”. Secondly, Hydroponic farming can be done with extremely limited amounts of space. Places that would never have been thought of as viable growing sites can be used to produce food and/or income. International Consultants to Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses suggests “optimizing space; using patios, small gardens, party walls, balconies, rooftops.”
In a Barnard College Dorm in New York City we began our growing project to test a hydroponic system in less than ideal conditions. We embarked on The New-Farms: Urban Growing Project with an EarthBox growing system using a limited number of tools and a space approximately 5.5x4 feet. We will grow cherry tomatoes and record and photograph the data in order to test the feasibility of urban hydroponic growing.

Please feel free to contact us at root@new-farms.org or on the web at www.new-farms.org

For information about International Consultants to Practical Hydroponics and Greenhouses please contact aquafood@chasque.net

For more information about EarthBox please visit www.earthbox.com or call 800-8218838

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