Jason Brown Named Colorado Leader in Ag

We’re incredibly proud to announce that Jason Brown, our VP of Operations, is one of 22 people in the entire state of Colorado to be named as a Leader in Agriculture by the Denver Business Journal. Jason was employee No. 1 at FarmBox and he designed and built our very first container farm from scratch.

A general contractor by trade, Jason has dived into his leadership role and oversees the deployment of all of our farms, among many other responsibilities. We’re fortunate to have a hardworking, forward-thinking person like Jason on our team, and we appreciate all that he’s contributed to our company and the world.

Jason will be honored alongside the other 21 recipients during a ceremony on March 28, 2024, at the CSU Spur Hydro Building.

What ‘Supporting Local Farms’ Really Means

We often hear the phrase “Support your local farmers.” But what does that really mean?

Well, it contributes to the economic vitality of local communities in a major way. When consumers choose locally produced goods, they help sustain crucial local farming operations, preserving agricultural land and maintaining rural (and urban) livelihoods. In turn, this fosters a stronger economy by generating employment opportunities and encouraging entrepreneurship within the community.

Supporting local farms also promotes environmental sustainability. Locally sourced produce often requires less transportation, reducing the carbon footprint associated with long-distance shipping. This can lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a more eco-friendly and sustainable food system. Many local farms prioritize sustainable farming practices, promoting biodiversity and soil health, too. These elements of the operations can’t be overstated.

Buying from local farms often means fresher and more flavorful products as well. Locally grown produce is typically harvested at peak ripeness, offering consumers higher nutritional value and better taste. This connection to fresh, seasonal ingredients can also foster a greater appreciation for the diversity of crops and promote a healthier diet, while ensuring that people have a longer period of time to eat the food before it goes to waste.

Supporting local farms plays a role in maintaining food security. By diversifying the sources of food production and distribution, local communities become less vulnerable to disruptions in global supply chains, like what we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic. This localized approach helps build resilience against external factors that could impact food availability and affordability.

In a social context, backing local farms fosters a sense of community. Farmers markets and direct-to-consumer sales allow for direct interactions between producers and consumers, creating a stronger bond and understanding of where food comes from. This connection promotes a shared commitment to sustaining local agriculture and can strengthen community ties.

In short, supporting local farms goes beyond the act of buying food; it’s a holistic investment in the economic, environmental and social well-being of communities. Choosing locally sourced products empowers local farmers, promotes sustainability, enhances the quality of food and contributes to the resilience and cohesion of communities. What more can you ask for?

Sustainable Food Production Isn’t Just Possible, It’s Inevitable

The idea of adopting sustainable practices in food production to address critical environmental, social and economic challenges has until recently been seen as a pipe dream, an impenetrable barrier to progress.

There’s concern about costs and whether implementation would be widespread enough to result in noticeable change. But as tech has advanced and prices have slowly come down, this is something that’s within our grasp and something we should expect to see in our lifetimes.

Sustainable food production minimizes environmental degradation by promoting practices that conserve soil fertility, reduce water usage, and mitigate the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers. Prioritizing ecological balance helps safeguard biodiversity, maintain ecosystems and combat climate change. This is crucial for ensuring the long-term viability of our planet and securing the availability of natural resources for future generations. We don’t want to be remembered as the generation that had the opportunity to do something, but squandered it.

Sustainable food production has significant social implications. It fosters equitable distribution of resources, promotes fair labor practices and supports local communities. Sustainable agriculture often involves small-scale, community-based farming that empowers local producers and reduces dependence on large-scale, industrialized farming systems. This not only strengthens local economies but also enhances food security by diversifying sources and reducing vulnerability to external shocks, such as the supply chain disruptions that crippled our food systems during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adopting sustainable practices in food production is essential for addressing global food security challenges. As the world’s population continues to grow, ensuring a stable and sufficient food supply is going to become more difficult. Sustainable agriculture emphasizes efficiency and resilience, optimizing yields while minimizing negative impacts on the environment. By embracing methods such as agroecology, organic farming, and precision agriculture, we can create a more robust and resilient food system capable of meeting the nutritional needs of a growing population without compromising the health of the planet. Again, this is achievable with a little bit of political will and a whole lot of education.

Sustainable food production is also economically prudent. While initial investments may be required to transition to sustainable practices, the long-term benefits far outweigh the costs. Sustainable agriculture, like farming in controlled-climate shipping containers, reduces reliance on expensive inputs, maintains soil health for traditional growing, and promotes resource efficiency, leading to increased productivity and decreased production costs over time.

It opens up new market opportunities as consumers increasingly prioritize sustainably produced goods, creating a positive feedback loop that encourages businesses to adopt environmentally and socially responsible practices. It’s already happening in the U.S. People have shown a willingness to incorporate changes into their own lives, and they’re more cognizant about where their food comes from. Taking a holistic approach isn’t some esoteric, “hippie-dippie” idea anymore. Creating an equitable future for both people and the planet, while expanding access to nutritionally dense foods, isn’t just achievable, it’s imperative.

How to Meet Food Demand for a Growing Global Population

Meeting global food needs in the coming years is going to require some ingenuity, marrying a combination of strategic changes and innovations across various aspects of the food system.

As you might have guessed, sustainable agriculture practices are at the forefront of what FarmBox Foods is doing as a company to help move that needle. It’s part of the company’s mission to promote and adopt sustainable farming practices, such as hyperlocal growing, conservation agriculture, and concepts that help minimize environmental impact and enhance long-term soil fertility. FarmBox is well aware that it’s not the entire solution, but we endeavor to play our part to the extent possible.

There are several things happening outside of our purview that we wholly support, among them: embracing precision agriculture technologies including sensors, drones and data analytics. But where we’re strongest is: optimizing resource use, improving crop yields, diversifying available foods, reducing food waste, and lowering the carbon footprint associated with agriculture.

Perhaps the company’s strongest contribution is in helping to shore up the protein needs of communities in need. Conditions are such that raising livestock has become a gamble in some areas of the world, particularly where drought plays a large role. So what can be done? Large-scale mushroom farming in a container is filling those nourishment gaps.

Much work is being done to invest in crucial research and development of climate-resilient crop varieties that can withstand extreme weather conditions, helping ensure stable yields in the face of climate change.

Many nations are also implementing efficient water management practices, including drip irrigation and rainwater harvesting, to conserve water resources and address water scarcity challenges.

Developing and implementing strategies to reduce food loss and waste at every stage of the food supply chain, from production and storage to distribution and consumption, is also a key area of interest for FarmBox Foods, given that our model is meant to empower individual communities with the ability to grow their own food.

Governments worldwide are fostering international collaboration and partnerships to share knowledge, technologies, and resources to address global food challenges collectively. They’re implementing policies that promote sustainable agriculture, support research and innovation, and incentivize environmentally friendly practices. Likewise, more private sector entities are increasing education and awareness regarding sustainable and healthy food choices and promoting consumer understanding of the impact of their dietary habits on both personal health and the environment.

According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, we will need to produce 60 percent more food to feed a world population of roughly 9.3 billion by 2050. It’s an ambitious goal with staggering consequences if we get it wrong. Addressing global food needs requires a holistic, integrated and coordinated approach that considers social, economic and environmental factors. Sustainable and resilient food systems will play a crucial role in ensuring food security for our growing global population. Now is the time for each individual and company to calculate where and how they can contribute.

The Growing Popularity of Gourmet Mushrooms Explained

Gourmet mushrooms have experienced a surge in popularity in recent years, and there are many factors at play to explain this growing fungi phenomenon.

There is increasing awareness and appreciation for diverse and unique culinary experiences, with gourmet mushrooms offering a distinctive flavor profile and texture to each dish. The burgeoning interest in plant-based diets has led individuals to explore alternative protein sources, and gourmet mushrooms serve as a nutritious and savory option, especially for vegan consumers.

The rise of sustainable and local food movements has encouraged the cultivation of gourmet mushrooms, which can be grown efficiently in controlled environments using organic materials, such as hardwood pellets and soy bean hulls. This aligns with the growing consumer preference for environmentally conscious and ethically sourced foods. Essentially, more and more people want to know where their food comes from, and how its grown.

The versatility of gourmet mushrooms in various cuisines, coupled with their potential health benefits, has contributed to their popularity. Mushrooms are known for their umami taste, and chefs and home cooks alike appreciate their ability to enhance the overall flavor of a dish. Lion’s mane is used in crab cakes, and is being prepared in a variety of forward-thinking ways by chefs who like to branch outside the proverbial box (lion’s mane filet mignon, anyone?). Oysters also find their way into a plethora of culinary concoctions, like risotto, stroganoff, curries, soups and stews.

And there are many other options, such as enoki, turkey tail, reishi, cordyceps, king trumpets, chestnuts and more.

The accessibility of information and resources for cultivating gourmet mushrooms has increased, empowering individuals to try growing them at home or in commercial-scale, start-to-finish cultivation containers, Like FarmBox Foods’ Gourmet Mushroom Farm. This DIY approach has fostered a sense of connection to food production and a desire for fresh, locally sourced ingredients among consumers, as well as those in the back of the house of farm-to-table restaurants.

In short, the popularity of gourmet mushrooms has increased worldwide due to their unique culinary attributes, alignment with dietary trends, sustainability aspects, versatility in cooking, and the growing interest in the cultivation of healthy foods.

Did you know…?

-China is the world’s leading producer of mushrooms

-Fungi mycelium acts as a neutral network in the forest, connecting and benefitting flora in the vicinity.

-Mushroom cultivation and identification have experienced a big jump in public interest since the release of Paul Stamets’ documentary, “Fantastic Fungi,” in October 2019.

Feeding Your Animals With Hydroponic Fodder

Hydroponic fodder is more digestible than traditional alfalfa and contains essential vitamins and minerals, making it a valuable source of nutrition for livestock.

Feeding livestock with hydroponic fodder — or sprouted grains grown in a soilless, nutrient-rich water environment — can offer several benefits to farmers and ranchers across the globe.two cows eating one chunk of barley fodder

Hydroponic fodder is known for its high nutritional content. It’s often more digestible and contains essential vitamins and minerals, making it a valuable source of nutrition for livestock. Having year-round access to this dietary supplement is crucial, and when you’re growing in a controlled environment, it can be grown year-round, regardless of weather conditions. This ensures a consistent and reliable source of feed, reducing the risk of feed shortages during adverse weather or seasonal fluctuations. It also shields farmers and ranchers from spikes in feed prices.

And consider this: hydroponic systems use significantly less water compared to traditional field crops. The controlled environment allows for precise water management, making it an eco-friendly option, especially in drought-stricken regions with water scarcity concerns. A Hydroponic Fodder Farm made by FarmBox Foods uses around 1 percent of the water needed for a traditional grow with the same annual yield (30-35 acres).

It’s also worth noting that containerized hydroponic fodder systems require far less land than traditional forage crops. This is advantageous in areas where land is limited or expensive.

Hydroponically grown fodder typically grows faster than traditional crops. A fodder FarmBox supports the growth of most cereal grains, but we recommend using barley grain because of its nutritional value and quick growth cycle. This rapid growth can help maintain a consistent supply of feed for livestock, around 850 pounds per day.

Hydroponic systems are also less susceptible to pests and diseases that can affect soil-grown crops. This often results in healthier fodder for your livestock.

While the initial investment in hydroponic fodder systems can be high, the long-term operational costs may be lower due to reduced water usage, improved feed conversion rates and onsite growing that reduces or eliminates the need for outside sources. Over time, this leads to cost savings.

Hydroponic fodder is often more easily digestible by livestock, leading to better feed conversion ratios. This means that animals can convert the feed into weight or milk more efficiently. And because hydroponic fodder is more digestible, the animals emit less methane, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions for larger operations.

The nutritional content of hydroponic fodder can contribute to better overall health and production in livestock, potentially reducing the need for supplements or veterinary interventions. Ingestion of fodder also reduces the likelihood of colic and laminitis.

Environmental sustainability should also be part of the discussion. Hydroponic fodder systems are designed with sustainability in mind, minimizing soil erosion, pesticide usage, and water wastage, which benefits the environment.

Specific livestock dietary needs should be considered before implementing hydroponic fodder as a primary feed source. FarmBox has a full breakdown of nutritional content, dry matter ratios and more so you can have an informed conversation with your veterinarian or livestock nutritionist.

The Long-Term Impacts of Indoor Agriculture

Container farming, a version of indoor farming also known as vertical farming, involves growing crops in controlled environments within shipping containers or other enclosed spaces. The advent of this technology, which relies on sensors to control the growing parameters, holds a lot of promise, especially as climate shifts continue to farmers and ranchers in traditional settings. While it’s difficult to predict the future with absolute certainty, it’s now possible identify several potential long-term impacts of container farming.

Sustainable agriculture: Container farming offers a more sustainable and efficient way to grow crops compared to traditional outdoor agriculture. By using less land, water, and pesticides, it can help reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. This could lead to a decrease in deforestation, habitat destruction and the use of harmful chemicals that end up in our food and drinking supply.

Local Food Production: Container farming allows for year-round production of fresh produce, regardless of the local climate. This can reduce the need for long-distance transportation of food and promote local food systems. It may also help address food security and reduce the carbon footprint associated with food distribution.

Improved Resource Efficiency: Container farms can make more efficient use of resources like water, energy, and space. They often use hydroponic or aeroponic systems, which consume less water than traditional soil-based farming. Advanced climate control and LED lighting systems can optimize energy use. Colorado-based FarmBox Foods uses pre-insulated to help energy draws.

Food Security: Container farming can play a crucial role in ensuring a stable food supply in areas with food scarcity or those affected by natural disasters. The ability to control growing conditions can help mitigate the effects of climate change and other environmental challenges.

Job Creation: The container farming industry is growing, creating jobs in areas such as plant science, engineering, data analysis, business planning, and farm management. This can contribute to local and regional economic development.

Technology Advancements: As container farming technologies continue to evolve, they may lead to breakthroughs in agriculture, such as improved crop genetics, pest and disease management, and data-driven decision-making. These advancements are expected to benefit traditional agriculture as well.

Reduced Food Waste: By enabling on-demand production and minimizing transportation distances, container farming can help reduce food waste — currently a significant global issue — because food arrives on the plates of consumers much sooner after being harvested.

Educational Opportunities: Container farming can serve as a valuable educational tool, teaching people about plant biology, technology, and sustainable farming practices. Schools, universities, and community organizations use container farms to engage students and the public, including the South Carolina Governor’s School of Science and Math, Delaware State University, the EPIC Campus in Littleton, Colo., and more to come.

Space Exploration: Container farming concepts have been explored for space missions, such as Mars colonization, where growing food in a controlled environment is essential due to harsh environmental conditions. Research in this area may have applications for future space exploration.

The long-term impact of container farming is likely to be positive, with the potential to transform agriculture, reduce its environmental footprint, and address food security issues. But it will depend on continued technological advancements, cost reductions and successful integration into existing food production systems for it to make a sizable impact as we head into an uncertain agricultural future.

Why Localized Food Production Matters

Local food production, or “localized agriculture,” offers a range of benefits that can have positive impacts on individuals, communities, and the environment. gourmet mushrooms

Freshness and Flavor Matter!

When food is grown nearby, like in a shipping container farm, it can be harvested at its peak ripeness and delivered to consumers more quickly, which results in fresher and more flavorful produce compared to items that have traveled long distances.

Nutritional Value

Fresher produce typically retains more of its nutritional value because it spends less time in transit and storage.

Reduced Food Miles

Growing food locally reduces the distance it needs to travel from farm to plate. This reduces the carbon footprint associated with transportation, helping to mitigate climate change.

Support for the Local Economy

Local agriculture supports local farmers, creating jobs and contributing to the economic vitality of the community. It keeps money circulating within the local economy, which can have a multiplier effect.

Community Engagement

Growing food near the consumer often fosters a sense of community. Customers can connect with the farmers who grow their food, fostering relationships and trust.

Food Security

Hyperlocal food systems can enhance food security by reducing reliance on distant sources of food. In times of disruption, such as natural disasters or supply chain issues, local food production can ensure a more stable food supply.

Preservation of Open Space

Supporting local agriculture can help protect open spaces and agricultural lands from development, preserving the rural character of communities.

Customization and Diversity

Local farmers may be more responsive to consumer preferences, allowing for a greater variety of crops and specialty products. This can lead to a diverse and unique food offering, in addition to food that’s culturally relevant to the community as a whole.

Reduced Food Waste

Because local food doesn’t have to travel long distances, it is less likely to spoil in transit. This can help reduce food waste, which is a significant issue in many parts of the world. Around one-third of food grown in the U.S. goes to waste.

Cultural and Culinary Connections

Local food systems often celebrate regional culinary traditions and cultural diversity. Consumers can enjoy foods that are unique to their area and learn about local food traditions.

Seasonal Eating

Eating locally encourages seasonal eating, as consumers rely on what is currently in season in their region, which promotes a healthier and more diverse diet.

Health Benefits

Fresher produce can be more nutritious and may encourage people to consume more fruits and vegetables, leading to improved health outcomes.

Transparency and Accountability

With shorter supply chains, it’s often easier for consumers to trace the origin of their food and ensure it meets certain quality and safety standards.

While there are numerous benefits to growing food close to the consumer, it’s important to recognize that not all types of food can be grown locally in all regions due to climate and other factors. Therefore, a balanced approach that combines local production with responsible global sourcing may be necessary to meet all food needs sustainably. We will always need traditional farming to grow staple crops like corn and wheat!

Remediate Soil with Mycelium Substrate

Soil remediation is a critical environmental practice aimed at restoring or improving the quality of soil that has been contaminated or degraded by various pollutants, such as heavy metals, pesticides, petroleum products and industrial chemicals. The importance of soil remediation cannot be overstated due to its numerous ecological, agricultural, and human health benefits. Mycelium substrates, specifically mycoremediation, have emerged as a promising and sustainable approach to assist in soil remediation.

Here are some key points on the importance of soil remediation and how mycelium substrates can help:

  1. Environmental Protection: Contaminated soil can have severe adverse effects on the environment. It can lead to soil erosion, groundwater pollution, and harm to local ecosystems. Soil remediation helps mitigate these negative impacts, contributing to overall environmental protection and conservation efforts.
  2. Agricultural Productivity: Healthy soil is essential for agriculture, as it provides the necessary nutrients and support for plant growth. Soil contamination can lead to reduced crop yields and food safety concerns. Remediated soil can restore fertile ground for farming, ensuring food security and quality.
  3. Human Health: Contaminated soil can pose serious health risks to humans, especially if the contaminants leach into the water supply or are taken up by plants in the food chain. Soil remediation helps safeguard public health by reducing exposure to harmful substances.
  4. Biodiversity: Many soil-dwelling organisms, including microorganisms, insects, and plants, depend on a healthy soil environment. Soil remediation efforts aim to protect and restore these ecosystems, supporting biodiversity and ecological balance.
  5. Land Reclamation: Remediated soil can be repurposed for various land uses, including residential, commercial, and recreational purposes. This repurposing of land can revitalize urban areas and promote sustainable development.

Now, let’s explore how mycelium substrates plays a role in soil remediation, which FarmBox Foods customer BLH Farm has been doing since acquiring a Gourmet Mushroom Farm:

Mycoremediation: Mycoremediation is a bioremediation technique that employs fungal mycelium, the thread-like vegetative part of fungi, to break down or absorb contaminants in the soil. Mycelium has several properties that make it effective in soil remediation:

  • Biodegradation: Mycelium can secrete enzymes that break down complex organic molecules, making them more easily metabolized by other microorganisms and reducing the toxicity of contaminants.
  • Metal Accumulation: Some species of fungi have the ability to accumulate heavy metals in their mycelium. This can help to immobilize or concentrate metals, preventing them from leaching into groundwater or affecting plant growth.
  • Soil Structure Improvement: Mycelium can also improve soil structure by binding soil particles together, increasing soil porosity, and enhancing water retention.
  • Carbon Sequestration: As fungi grow and decompose organic matter, they contribute to carbon sequestration, which can help mitigate climate change.
  • Low Environmental Impact: Mycoremediation is often considered an environmentally friendly approach because it typically requires minimal external inputs and doesn’t produce harmful byproducts.

While mycelium substrates offer promising solutions for soil remediation, it’s essential to note that their effectiveness depends on various factors, including the type and extent of contamination, the specific fungi species used, and environmental conditions. That being said, mycoremediation is often used in combination with other remediation techniques to achieve optimal results. Additionally, research and development in this field continue to expand our understanding of how fungi can be harnessed for sustainable soil remediation practices.

Exploring the wonderful world of mushrooms

Edible mushrooms have been consumed by humans for thousands of years and are a popular ingredient in various cuisines around the world, but there’s still much to be learned about their nutritional benefits and potential for reducing the risk of chronic illnesses.

Luckily, the science community is putting a greater focus on fungi, which has become a more ubiquitous element of dishes across many cultures in recent years.

Mushrooms belong to a separate kingdom of organisms from plants and animals. They have unique nutritional profiles and are a good source of dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamins (such as B vitamins and vitamin D), and minerals, such as selenium, copper, and potassium.

Some commonly consumed edible mushroom varieties include shiitake, oysters, portobello, cremini, enoki, trumpets, button, lion’s mane and more. Edible mushrooms are used in a wide range of culinary preparations, including soups, stir-fries, sauces, stews, salads, and even as a meat substitute in vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Mushrooms are typically low in calories and fat, making them a healthy choice for those watching their weight or following a low-fat diet.

Edible mushrooms are known for their umami flavor, which is a savory taste sensation often described as “meaty” or “earthy.” The unique flavor profile makes them a versatile ingredient in many dishes.

Mushrooms are the only non-animal food source of vitamin D. When exposed to sunlight or ultraviolet light, they can naturally synthesize vitamin D, which can be beneficial for individuals with limited sun exposure.

Some edible mushrooms, such as shiitake and maitake mushrooms, have been studied for their potential health benefits, including immune system support and anti-inflammatory properties. Likewise, lion’s mane has been identified as a booster for cognitive function.

FarmBox Foods has designed and manufactured a high-output, all-in-one mushroom cultivation container, which comes with a ribbon mixer to create your own substrate,  a steam cabinet to pasteurize the substrate, a clean lab, incubation room, and a fruiting room. It’s a centerpiece of the Colorado company’s suite of containerized farms. It allows for commercial scale growing of oysters, lion’s mane, enoki, chestnut, trumpet, reishi and more.

It’s worth noting that while many mushrooms are edible and safe to consume, there are also poisonous varieties. It is crucial to have proper knowledge and identification skills or to rely on trained experts when foraging wild mushrooms.