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The crazy food fight for the future of vegetables



On a cold, rainy night in Brooklyn a crowd gathers in the building that houses Square Roots, a company run by CEO Tobias Peggs, a technology entrepreneur, and Kimbal Musk, who sits on the board of Tesla and SpaceX (both founded by his older brother Elon) and Chipotle. Located in a desolate street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the building is technically a farm. There are ten closed shipping containers in the parking lot.

With a bit of showmanship Peggs opens the door to one of the containers and a purple glow surrounds the crowd. Inside, densely packed vertical rows of red lettuce, basil and mint grow hydroponically through a combination of artificial light and a nutrient-rich solution. Musk and Peggs say they can cultivate three hectares of plants in one container with a technique that could be used by any city in the world.

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<p class= At the heart of Musk and Pegg's trend in vertical agriculture is the idea that you can find salad in your Boston grocery store in January , thanks to a system that allows farms in states like California and California to ship fresh greens at reasonable prices across the country, there are better alternatives.

Growing lettuce outdoors on a large farm consumes a lot of water Estimated that this is the case over five days of inland travel from these farms to the grocer, the greens lose much of their nutritional value.

About 35 miles north of B Rooklyn, an approach to farming is growing in the future I go to Jack Algiere, the farm director of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York, and we walk down a hill path along which cows and lambs graze on one side and goats on the other side.

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			<span class= Christopher Testani

Dressed in a flannel shirt and a robust coat, Algiers enters a half acre greenhouse Salad leaves the size of a baby elephant ears reveling in the warm air, purple and yellow mango stalks sprout from the dark brown and lush soil.

Algiers treats this food with the same care and attention as Dan Barber, a top chef, Barber and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a courtyard restaurant that is consistently considered one of the best Restaurants of the World.

The views of musk and barber, two of the most influential voices in agriculture, would be closely linked, but their debate over growing lettuce is getting hot and dirty.

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<p class= Barber:" [Kimbal’s] really smart, but the only reason he wants everyone to eat salad in winter is because he's the only one is what he can grow in a vertical farm. He would tell you that he wants everyone to eat Rutabaga if he could grow Rutabaga. I love the guy, but let's be honest: you can not grow anything.

Musk: "I do not think [Dan] has a fundamental disagreement with what I do. He sees the momentum going towards indoor agriculture and he does not like this future. "

It's about billions of dollars and the future of food on the planet. Over the last 50 years, large farms that grow huge amounts of crop (referred to as monoculture) have devoured land. Industrial agriculture has increased crop yields, but at the expense of consumer choice.

Over a period of 80 years, according to the Rural Advancement Foundation International, the world's seeds decreased by 93 percent: in 1903, there were 497 types of salads, compared to only 36 in 1983.

Industrial agriculture is chemical dependent and ultimately bad for the soil (not to mention the diet of those living off their produce) that the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development of 2013 called for a global return to sustainable agricultural practices.

Nowhere else are the consequences of industrial agriculture as obvious as in your supermarket, where identical-looking potatoes, carrots and greens line the shelves of the products. The presentation looks attractive, but this equality is the result of destructive farming practices – practices that lead to less nutritious products.

And then there are food-borne illnesses. Do you remember the great Romaine Salad 2018? The investigators attributed this outbreak to a large farm in Santa Maria, California.

"It's not that this is the question we should think about for five generations from now on," says Barber. "The stuff takes a long time, but time is running out."

The Musks Will Force the Earth

[1365] Square Roots are perhaps the least sparkling efforts of Kimbal Musk. Born in South Africa, he became involved in the food world as he developed millions to build and sell startups for himself and for his brother. He completed a culinary education in New York City and then settled in Boulder, Colorado.

In the shadow of the mythology of sibling Musk, Kimbal is in fact becoming a legitimate pioneer of farm-to-table. His first restaurant, the kitchen, opened in 2004, sourcing ingredients from the rich farming and livestock farming of Colorado.

Musk launched Square Roots with Peggs in 2016 with a concept: "Can we bring a young person with no experience, introduce him and teach him how to farm in a box twice over, and make him farm, Food is it delicious that people want to eat?

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Christopher Testani

] The first results were encouraging, though Square Roots went through the sales concepts before they got to their current direct sales model: You can now download the Find Square Roots Herbs and Herbs at specialty stores in New York City.

Later this year The company plans to operate and scale in other US cities, with products from shipping containers in each market transported to the US nearby store shelves, a solution that is hyper-local and is now very traceable.

During the Romana Salad Scare in late 2018, when E. Coli The California outbreak led to a recall Coast to Coast Peggs and Musk realized that the data collected by Square Roots would allow them to summon whatever they had conjured up, a back to the shipping container in which they were produced. Now there is a "Transparency" section on the company's website where consumers can enter the lot number from their square root herb pack.

There are energy issues with this type of farming, and the feeling that this is not natural, but Musk takes a look at these issues. This is a laboratory-bred food, and his team found out about the shit. Strawberries, aubergines, turnips, radishes, carrots and more will be launched in five years' time.

"Right now, we're super premium, and people love it," says Musk. "But over time, we really want it to be real food for everyone. We can lower the price and deliver delicious products 365 days a year.

The Real Dirt on Heritage Farming

The Stone Barns Center conducts educational and training programs to educate and support smallholders. Small-scale farming is knowledge-intensive and complicated, says Algiere, but it is right for us and the planet.

Look at the news and it is depressing for the farmers, but in the USDA good news flashes 2017 Green Census. While the total number of farms in the United States fell 5 percent to only 2 million, businesses recorded annual revenue of between $ 100,000 and $ 250,000, the largest increase in revenue between 2016 and 2017.

"This is so important," says Algiers, who commented on the growing interest of young, first-time growers and the surprising boom in small US growth. American farms in a monologue expresses. He grabs a rake and goes on to talk about how small farms around big cities can not only thrive, but also preserve the land.

Algiers enters a plot with carrots and rakes the rake out of the ground. He explains that most farm implements come from the huge John Deere tractor variety, since industrial agriculture has dominated society since the mid-to-late 20th century.

"The problem is that since 1940 there are no tools for small, diversified farms," ​​he says. For this reason, one of the many educational activities supported by the Stone Barns Center is Slow Tools, a collective of farmers, designers and engineers (with an annual conference held on the property) with the aim of making equipment, the smallholders help grow vegetables and work their five-acres more efficiently.

Attendees include retired engineers who have developed a desire to run farms, prototypical millennials who want to return to the countryside, and even city dwellers who got their first taste of farming in one of the vertical hydroponics farms.

Barber believes in Algieres work as well as the entire movement for regenerative agriculture and land management, which he co-founded last year. Barber claims that most of the seed business is now owned by chemical companies that have little interest in small, renewable farms.

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Jack Algiere (left)) and Dan Barber

Christopher Testani

" They do not make money from seeds, they deserve the intervention of chemicals, " he says. "That's why the seed company has been so important to me laying the groundwork for everything that follows, including the taste, until it hits your mouth. This can be determined at the genetic level. "

Back in the greenhouse, Algiers clears the rake, goes outside and goes to a barn with hundreds of chickens, they swarm towards him and produce a cacophony of hoes that make it impossible to have a conversation. [19659002] He goes to the pigs and reaches out to a funny big sow who greets him. "My pet farms feed here the compost and willow farm," he says. "My compost system feeds the crops and orchards, and all the remains feed the pigs." While pigs playfully wrestle, he whispers about how amazing the bacon that comes from these animals will taste.

Eat pork from the Stone Barns Center and you will immediately understand what Algiers means. Try the carrots and you will believe what Barber does. The flavor of these foods – from various seeds (both heirloom and experimental hybrids) pampered by top-quality soil and cultivated with gentler farming practices – reward the eater in ways that your typical supermarket versions do not offer.

Is it hard work? Algerian calloused hands prove that, yes, that's it. But it's not something we did not do before.

The Fight for Farming's Futures

Chris Newman, who helped found his wife Sylvanaqua Farms in rural Virginia in 2013, describes himself as a "permacultureist" and proclaims his awe for the land – but also for the technology , "There is not a single 'right' way to produce food," he says in an e-mail interview.

His own farming practices aim to be regenerative, like that of Algiers, and he is relentless that these types of farms can produce food and help restore the environment. Ultimately, however, they can not keep up with demand.

"Sooner or later, people on both sides of the debate must understand that sustainable food production is at the crossroads of nature and technology, not in their mutual exclusion."

Call them rigid in their beliefs, but musk, Peggs, At least Barber and Algiers are stirring up the debate about how to provide the planet with healthy food. And they are attracting prominent investors in the search for a solution.

Investors such as Tom Colicchio, head of Chef and an early supporter of Bowery Farming, a company with two hydropower plants. "I like what [Barber] has to say, and I also believe that through proper agriculture and regenerative practices, we can build and grow land," he says. "That does not help when it comes to floods or droughts with climate change. I look down on 20 or 30 years and we have to rely on indoor agriculture.

But then there is the problem of energy consumption: Henry Gordon-Smith, a leading urban agriculture consultant, advises multinationals and individuals who want to start their own vertical, roof or greenhouse farms.

In his office in He tells Brooklyn of a study he conducted for an international beverage company to determine the carbon footprint of five crops grown in three environments: a vertical farm and a greenhouse, both in New Jersey, and a ground farm in California.

The results varied by crop, but the most important step was that the carbon footprint of the vertical farm was "extraordinarily higher" due to the energy used, adding that, when it comes to food waste, water consumption and social impact, the playing field is a bit off, but in En deffekt states: "There is no silver ball. That's not the catchy sound people are looking for, but that's the fact.

But the money continues to flow into vertical agriculture. Venture capitalists have pledged about $ 1 billion over the last two years to finance start-ups such as Plenty, AeroFarms and Bowery Farming. Amazon, Google and Microsoft are in the game.

Market Research Projects The global vertical agricultural market will reach $ 10 billion by 2025. Operations such as the 70,000-square-meter AeroFarms facility in Newark, New Jersey, and the 100,000-square-meter farm that Plenty built outside of Seattle will follow shortly. Proponents claim it has become commonplace.

Matt Barnard – Plenty's CEO, who has amassed more than $ 200 million from investors such as Jeff Bezos and SoftBank, Uber's controlling shareholder, says he's huge because of the size of the company's problem.

"I was brought down by one thing and now I'm here for many – for health, nutrition and stress in the land system," says Barnard. However, this mission may depend on trusting not just one solution, but a combination of many.

At the moment, the vegetables you find at the local farmers market or at the upscale grocery store reflect this dichotomy. You can easily find a plastic tub with lettuce from a hydroponics farm, and depending on the season, you can also find a sweeter, smaller, more efficient variety of honeydew pumpkin, developed in part by Barber and Row 7 Seeds.

Hydroponically grown green plants and squash grown on small farms, living side by side in harmony: a utopian vision that is already in front of your shopping cart. The real question is, will you buy too? If you are really worried about your health and the health of the planet, the answer is that you buy both.


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