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How the internet of things may help feed 9+ billion people

How do you grow the same amount of food in 35 years that we’ve grown in the last 10,000? That’s what’s going to have to happen, as our increasingly urbanizing population is on track to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. Given the persistent drought in agricultural hubs like California, the average 1500 miles distance produce travels, and more than 50% of it wasted, the status quo doesn’t look promising. 
 
What about urban agriculture? Yes, it does help shorten the distance to market, but as it’s been practiced there’s been a number of hurdles there too:
  • On the ground and up above, landlords are hesitant to lease land that would be difficult to quickly turn over to new uses later
  • Produce can be prone to toxicity due to soil contaminants and  ambient pollutants
  • Difficulty in rooftop placement, due to soil and machinery weight, necessitating expensive infrastructure improvements and extensive permitting. 
  • It generally requires depth of expertise while being both labor intensive and low profit.

What to do?

Cityblooms, out of Santa Cruz, California, has created a potential solution: Growbots, which enable the efficiency of large scale farming in a small, malleable footprint, able to be installed anywhere from the urban jungle to the actual jungle, even off grid. 
 
Flat packable, and modular, they automate everything in between planting and harvesting. Using a deft mix of hydroponics and Internet of Things technology, they enable people to grow a substantial amount of clean produce, consistently, with minimal effort and expertise. 
 
Live crop data allows for growth optimization throughout, and previously tedious record keeping is simply managed. Given that the modules are enclosed, produce is unaffected by its surroundings. Mountable on roofs using existing, broadly permitted solar mounting, they can go just about anywhere in the world, bureaucratic hurdles eliminated  Using 90% less water and zero soil, they are hyperefficient, able to grow produce at scale. 
 
Beyond vaporware, Cityblooms has proved their technology in an unexpected location: Plantronics, whose on site solar installation is able to power Cityblooms growbot, the resulting produce then prepared and served on site by Bon Appetit. A rarity among corporate food providers, Bon Appetit has long been committed to locally sourcing its food. It’s now able to fulfill on this in spades, reducing food miles to yards in a closed loop system. 
 
Moving forward, Cityblooms is now welcoming interest from the first crop of early adopters which, beyond similar corporate campus installations, could include:
  • Universities, the growbots providing both an educational opportunity and reliable food supply. 
  • Companies seeking a tangible way to fulfill on their CSR objectives, increase employee wellness and retention,
  • Hospitality groups, seeking a reliable way to supply their hotel’s produce, especially in import dependent remote islands.
  • Hospitals seeking food safety certified produce they can use to bolster their patient’s wellness. 
  • Urban agripreneurs seeking a reliable source of produce for their products.
Rather than being a wholesale replacement of large scale farming, Cityblooms  sees itself reducing the load of large scale, more distant farms, letting them focus of produce best grown in soil, while Cityblooms produces highly perishable produce at close range, reducing water and soil use, along with energy spent storing, transporting and refrigerating produce. 

Quickly get up to speed about the developments with this video: 


For more information 
GreenSmith Consulting 
Paul Smith 

Publication date: 2/4/2015

 


 

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