Grist has a new series of interviews up on people who are working to change America's food system in inspiring ways. Yesterday they posted an interview with Gene Fredericks that is worth a read; it introduces Fredericks's new venture: Big Green Boxes.
Big Green Boxes aims to bring a new, high-tech, and sustainable approach to feeding the city. The main idea is to re-use vacant warehouse spaces and fill them with fish ponds, waterfalls, and edible greens and herbs to provide year-round fresh and affordable produce in a closed-loop nutrient cycle. As Fredericks describes it:
It's a new business that will transform unused warehouse space into year-round indoor growing centers. We'll use hydroponics and aquaponics, along with advanced low-energy lighting techniques and vertical growing methods, to produce the very freshest leafy greens for local consumption regardless of climate.
Our goal is to be a sustainable and profitable business that provides tasty, preservative- and pesticide-free fresh food, grown in the community for the community; that creates new jobs; revives some neglected real estate; and offers some pretty interesting educational exposure to green technologies.
What makes Big Green Boxes different from many other urban agriculture projects is its high-tech business approach:
Well, I look at Big Green Boxes as a high-tech business. But it's a very different one from large-scale farming, which has turned into a high-tech business by growing produce in huge volumes far from the end consumer, and which uses technology to modify, preserve, package, transport, and store their produce. BGB could change that. By using a combination of very new and very old technologies, local communities can grow their own fresh produce year round.
Additionally, BGB will take advantage of innovations in lighting, daylighting, alternative energy generation, water collection, and composting to make their growing spaces more energy efficient than greenhouses....with even more efficiencies expected to develop over time:
Ten years ago, Big Green Boxes was not economically or technologically feasible. Now it is. And, as the price of the equipment goes down, the price of oil and water go up it becomes more and more desirable. I know we are creating a somewhat artificial growing environment, and I don't ever expect that we'll replace outdoor seasonal growing, that's not our intention. But in the dead of winter and height of summer we can offer an alternative to sending fresh produce on a 1,500-mile pilgrimage from the fields to the table. Which has to be a good thing!
Read the full interview for more on BGB, including a description of their 'aquaponics' growing system.
Great to see this Gene.
Would love to play a part in this if it ever comes to Australia - this is the way things should go - for the community and with the community, utilising the hightech greenhouse growing and technologies with age old "organic secrets".
We can fill the flower stand already ;-)