A Deep Concern About World Poverty

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

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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