Thursday, May 21, 2015

freight farming?

Have you read about freight farming? In Boston, this is where food may be coming from now. Wow. This is the future! Freight cars transformed into aquaponic vegetable gardens. Lights, nutrients all delivered artificially. It removes the variables of weather, airborne disease spores and sunlight availability. Amazing.

As an outdoor gardener, I question this approach. Do we want to eat vegetables raised in a "freight car" environment? Yes, I do buy the aquaponic tomatoes and lettuce in the grocery store IN THE WINTER in New England. But has our environment become so pathogen infested that this is needed year round? In cities like Boston, the pathogen level plus the transportation cost must be benefit by this?


What about food nutrient levels of the artificially tended produce? Do these compare with organic field-raised vegetables? And the expense of air conditioners and year-round artificial lights? Does this make the difference useful? I am imagining a ring of freight cars full of salad growers around cities. Not a bad image, but why not a ring of farm fields around cities? Are giving in to the fight for easy food production?

It doesn't just happen! To grow food without chemicals and WITH natural light and air takes some effort. But it produces food that provides flavor (!!), nutrients, visual pleasure. Variety. Traditional. -- I can't imagine all those year round AC's balance out.


George G said...

Interesting concept but ludicrously expensive.
I think it is no threat to traditional agriculture.
By the way I think you mean "hydroponics", not "aquaponics" (which is a combination of aquaculture with hydroponics)

Daphne Gould said...

I've read about those and the indoor skyrise farms. All don't use soil or natural light. Personally I really think it is the equivalent of a junk food life for plants. I have a hard time believing that those plants have as many of the phytochemicals that are good for us. But I've never seen anyone do a study on them. And what about minerals. Selenium for instance is something the plant doesn't need, but we has humans need it. It probably won't be in their plant food. Though to be fair New England soil doesn't have much of it either. Growing hydroponically or aeroponically leaves so much of the complexity of the soil and microbes out. We don't really know how that will change things.

kathy said...

Plastic food I think. We deprive the eaters and growers of so much.

I manage a large community garden and we provide agribon row cover to gardeners. It's the best organic pest control I think. So now we have a field full of crops under white covers. I'm wondering if this is getting to be a freight car? But no, we use fresh sunlight, real soil, and actual NE weather. The gardeners experience all this and it's right nearby their urban homes. I think this food is what keeps us healthy and happy.

I look at some rooftop gardens too and think it's a nice concept be so sterile. Where is the new one? The Fenway garage or something. But all those plastic bags of sterile soil! Maybe some 5:10:5 too. I say where are the on site compost bins? The chickens to add manure? Does it make sense cost-wise to transport everything up to the roof? I'm going to be so glad when I get to year 3 or 4 in my new yard and I have my own on site compost, and my own amended soil. Flowers for my bees and bees for my flowers.

OK I gotta get out and dig now ....

Lady of LaMancha said...

While I think it's good to have the technology developed and in place for times of disaster/war/etc., I don't understand the need for large-scale farming in the city. It makes me sick to think of all the old family farms in the metrowest area that have closed down in recent decades in favor of technological parks, malls and housing developments (my great-great grandfather's farm in Hudson, included). Don't you remember all the apple tree and dairy farms? Heck, there were even buffalo on a farm in Southborough! I have never understood why city planning never seems to take into account food production, and the labor of farming nevers recives its just recompense.

m said...

Here in London, U.k. people are consciously growing on roof tops in raised beds or bags to encourage people to grow veggies, flowers and help bees, there are some amazing honey collectors with inner city bee colonies. I agree Hydroponics are not the same as soil grown, but in a world where sadly some adults and kids are completely unaware of how and where there veggies come from together with the concept that all fruit and veg is "seasonally" available all year plus given so much green space is being turned into new accommodation around London, I have to concede that at least we are getting somewhere if in the Supermarket they pick up the out of season hydroponically gorwn cucumbers and tomatoes that are grown 20+ miles away from our area in a space in Kent, U.K. rather than being imported from Spain etc.

So much to discuss here. We are so lucky to have are plots patches and Lotties!


Unknown said...

Interesting initiative in London.

kathy said...

HI Milena. I listened to their video. Very cool. They are growing micro-greens in tunnels under London using hydroponic methods.

They explain that they use less water, less fertilizer, no pesticides, no carbon emissions. Minimal transportation needed.

It sounds OK, I suppose. Its only salad sprouts. Just pretty sterile. And dark. If they only had a window and used sunlight instead of electric lights.

kathy said...

Yes Marion. It is really good that kids learn about growing food. That they learn how simple it is to turn sunlight into food. I'm still amazed by it. And families can grow food on small scale in all sorts of little urban spaces. Its so great that their are many small spaces clean enough for this.

My concern is when it is unsustainable (annually transporting in compost, peat moss and fertilizer in plastic bags, artificial lights, etc), when the varieties that are grown are are flavorless (like many hydroponic cukes and tomatoes), and when the produce has less nutrients than conventionally grown food. Kids can learn about sustainability, tastiness (I remember my young nephew running to the cucumber vine and eating them with glee) and nutrients.