Glossy Acres: A Magazine’s Lush Take on Farmers
In its debut issue, Modern Farmer magazine hails the timber-and-steel design of a sheep shearers’ abode as an example of “rurbanism,” a coinage meant to evoke an urban take on agricultural concepts. That is exactly the niche the glossy publication hopes to fill.
Think of it as Gourmet crossed with Dwell and sent to “Green Acres,” as veteran editors from Manhattan’s largely livestock-free magazine world try to tap into the interest in back-to-the-soil living.
Modern Farmer, which hits newsstands Tuesday, offers a luxurious mashup of agricultural reportage — on, say, the effects of climate change on rice cultivation in India — and the high-sheen stuff of lifestyle and fashion magazines, such as travel to the Italian countryside.
Where Vogue depicts models in couture, Modern Farmer goes with lavishly photographed heritage-breed chickens and their wildly colored feathers. Published on heavy matte stock with whimsical hand-drawn illustrations, the look of the new quarterly can best be described as rustic chic.
The magazine has its headquarters in Hudson, N.Y., the upstate town two hours from Manhattan often described as a haven for big-city transplants looking to go pastoral. The overarching draw is culinary, even if there won’t be much in the way of recipes.
“People are craving a closer relationship to the source of their food,” explained Ann Marie Gardner, the magazine’s founder and editor in chief. “We’re talking about how that food got to your plate, not necessarily how to cook it.”
Never mind that many readers might not know a Kubota from a kabocha (a tractor and a squash, respectively). Modern Farmer is there to help, with practical advice on turning your backyard garden into a four-season farm or building a straw-bale house.
Ms. Gardner’s globe-trotting reporting as a founding editor and former Americas bureau chief of Monocle magazine brought her into contact with people from different cultures absorbed by a set of concerns that she came to see as linked: the environment, food production and personal health.
“I realized this wasn’t just my next story,” she said. “It was bigger than that, it was a movement.”
Urban Farm Units: A brilliant solution for small-scale urban farming, developed by Damien Chivialle.
Max Lössl is looking for solutions to world hunger with his start-up Agrilution. He is especially devoted to vertical farming and has just moved into the final round of the Thought for Food Challenge.
It’s not the wooden shoes, tulips, or Emmentaler that draws Max Lössl, 24, from Munich to Holland. But if microbiologist Dickson Despommier, a pioneer of the Vertical Farming, recommends a University in Den Bosch, then the young Munich local packs up his suitcase. Meanwhile, Lössl has established and founded a start-up: Agrilution (short for Agriculture Solution) which seeks innovative solutions to world hunger and has just moved into the final round of the Thought for Food Challenge. By September, he will build a prototype for the final event in Berlin. If Agrilution wins, the start-up will receive funding in the amount of 10,000 U.S. dollars.
It has become a bit of a trend that young people begin start-up companies. What were your motivations?
When I came to Holland, was already clear to me that I wanted to work in the field of vertical farming eventually. I wanted to use the study time there to create a basis for it. The idea for the start-up came later. The original plan was to set up a kind of network of contacts with governments, businesses, universities, or people like Dr. Despommier.
Dickson Despommier is an ecologist and a big name in terms of vertical farming. What exactly is that?
Vertical farming is a modern approach to make growing food more effective, efficient and above all sustainable. Rather than manage large floor areas and consume vast amounts of water, fertilizers and pesticides, so to speak, we operate agriculture in stacked greenhouses. Thus, one can theoretically grow to anywhere in the world food in closed loop systems.
It sounds like an obvious choice. Why were vertical farms not built long ago?
It’s not that simple. The systems need light, water and a controlled climate. And of course, the plants need the proper supply of nutrients. Currently, a lot research is being done in order to optimize vertical farming.
Light, controlled climate, water supply - that sounds not quite as sustainable as you presented.
Yes, this is usually the first objection that we hear. Of course, for example, LED lamps are not produced sustainably. But they are simply the best solution until we eventually find a better one. The development steps of LEDs still have a long way to go.
And a corn field outdoors probably also consumes less power than a vertical farm.
Also, that’s right. But our goal is to create a self-powered system. The boxes are to be operated with renewable energy. And overall, the balance is on our side: we need 98 percent less water, less nutrient solution, less space. Because it is a closed system, we don’t need to use any pesticides. It all depends on what one considers “sustainable”.
Do vertical farms need to be huge skyscrapers?
That is precisely the biggest misconception: vertical farms do not have to skyscrapers. There are so many empty industrial buildings that are always close to the city and are dirt cheap. In such buildings, vertical farming is economically feasible today.
So soon we all be eating salad from vertical farms?
Until then, it will take a bit. Currently we grow mainly diminutive green plants, because here you achieved the fastest research results. I can not wait until an entire apple tree is grown.
And how do vegetables grown in vertical farms taste?
Much better and more intense than anything you can buy in the supermarket. We are now trying to also get professional feedback about flavour.
Our goal for this year is to build 20 prototypes and reap a few hundred kilos of vegetables. Part of it is used for research purposes, but at least half will go to restaurants, so we can give professional feedback from our chefs.
This all sounds very ambitious.
I think that you have to be ambitious if you want to make a difference. And that’s the beauty of this new industry. Before I came to Den Bosch, I studied electrical engineering in Germany. I would have to really because something can produce six to seven years would surely passed. The Vertical farming is still so much to explore, it has so much potential. I am here only in the first year and can now give other people have access to this area of research.
Visit Agrilution to learn more about Max and his VF start-up.
Delta Electronics Inc (台達電), the nation’s largest power supply maker, yesterday said it had established a new business division focusing on running “plant factories” in a bid to explore the agricultural market.
The company plans to open plant factories in areas that have poorer farming conditions, Delta chairman Yancey Hai (海英俊) told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting in Taoyuan County.
“The plan to open a plant factory is in its research and development stage, and it will be established in coordination with Delta’s fan, LED lighting product and automatic control electronic equipment departments,” Central News Agency quoted the company’s chairman as saying in a report yesterday.
Hai said Delta’s goal is to use plant factories to find new solutions that can help plants grow, adding that the company has targeted vegetables such as lettuce and parsley as research items.
The company’s new business focus comes as the public has become increasingly concerned about global climate change, shortages in the agricultural labor market and the use of pesticides.
Delta has established a research and development center in Taoyuan County and is seeking to integrate computing systems to precisely detect and measure temperature, humidity, sunlight and wind force at the future plant factories, Hai said.
“Delta’s plant factories will be an integration of photoelectric, radiating and automatic control technologies, as well as architecture, agriculture and livestock businesses,” Hai was quoted as saying.
Check out this vertical farming outfit in Michigan that is utilizing the Omega Garden systems successfully in abandoned warehouse:
Vertical Farming Venture Achieves Sustainability and Success in New Buffalo, Michigan
According to Green Spirit Farms‘ Research and Development Manager Daniel Kluko, the future of farming is heading in one clear direction: vertical. “If we want to feed hungry people this is how we need to farm,” said Kluko. Kluko believes that vertical farming offers a very important benefit in today’s world of scarce land and resources— the potential for unparalleled plant density. After all, how else can a farmer grow 27 heads of lettuce in one square foot of growing space?
Green Spirit Farms was started by Daniel’s father Milan Kluko under his engineering company Fountainhead Engineering LTD. The idea for the farm emerged while the company was evaluating indoor, urban farm models in North America for a non-profit client—a process which piqued Milan Kluko’s interest about the viability of a vertical farming operation.
During the initial development phase, Fountainhead Engineering LTD experimented with a few hydroponic growing systems in their small engineering office. They worked on determining economic feasibility and sustainability, and even designed their own patent pending commercial vertical hydroponic system. When they were ready, they pursued funding from private sector investors and began to build Green Spirit Farms. In order to realize its goal of absolute sustainability, Green Spirit Farms aimed to use less energy, less water, and much less space. Kluko says the farm uses 90% less water than traditional farming methods. In addition, it is a zero discharge operation and has zero soil and groundwater impacts from fertilizer or organic runoff. Other sustainability measures undertaken by the farm include the recycling of water from their water purification system, the composting of plant waste, the use of carbon neutral energy, and the use of compostable packaging.
All of these sustainable practices combined with an increased market for local, organic food have contributed to the success of Green Spirit Farms. According to Kluko, the farm chooses to grow products with high local demand like lettuce, basil, spinach, kale, arugula, peppers, tomatoes, stevia, strawberries and brussel sprouts. They sell their produce locally to grocery stores and restaurants and also host a small “Harvest Market” where they sell produce directly to consumers. They have found this approach to be extremely successful. So much so that their biggest challenge is producing enough food to meet the local demand. “The majority of the restaurants where our farm is located use our produce and they can’t get enough of it,” said Kluko. “We will sell dozens of packages of lettuce to the local supermarket and they will be sold out within an hour or two.”