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.

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.

Why Are We Wasting So Much Food?

We need to move the farms and not the food. It’s better for our environment, and growing near the end-user means the food arrives in refrigerators and on plates much quicker.

Let’s get right to the point: large-scale food waste in this day and age is completely unacceptable.

Around one-third of all food produced worldwide is lost or wasted, which is equivalent to around 1.3 billion tons of food each year. Why? With our complex logistics systems, tracking abilities and near-infinite means of communicating, how is this issue still so widespread?

Food waste happens everywhere, whether it be at the consumer level, in transit or during production. And this comes at a time when we need more food than ever to support Earth’s rapidly growing population. Many have heard that, according to the United Nations, the world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, which means that food production will need to increase by about 50 percent to meet demand. But this estimation is based on the assumption that people will continue to consume a similar diet to what they do today.

So, what can we do to resolve these long-standing issues?

Dietary changes could drastically impact food demand. As incomes rise, people often consume more meat and dairy products, which require more resources to produce than plant-based foods. If the world’s population continues to shift toward a more Western-style diet, food production will need to increase even more.

Second, grow plant-based foods NEAR THE CONSUMER! We need to move the farms and not the food. It’s better for our environment, and growing near the end-user means the food arrives in refrigerators and on plates much quicker. In short, the more time people have to eat their veggies, the less of it will be thrown away.

Third, we should be working with food recovery agencies — almost every major city has one — to make sure the food that has been produced reaches someone who can eat it.

Last year, the Feeding America network and its partners rescued 3.6 billion pounds of groceries that otherwise would have been wasted. That food went directly to meals for people facing hunger. FarmBox Foods has worked with We Don’t Waste in Denver to repurpose what the company wasn’t able to sell.

There’s little doubt that we need sizable shifts in how we do things, but the roadmap for improvement is there. We just need to follow it.

Farmers Adapting to Changing Times and Conditions

The shifting climate is having a big impact on the agricultural sector, and farmers around the world are being forced to adapt to numerous challenges. Here are some of the challenges that farmers are facing due to climate change:

  1. Changing weather patterns: Climate change is causing shifts in weather patterns, leading to extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, heatwaves, and storms. These changes can damage crops, reduce yields, and affect the timing of planting and harvesting.
  2. Water scarcity: Changing rainfall patterns can result in water scarcity, making it harder for farmers to irrigate their crops. This can lead to reduced yields and even crop failure.
  3. Increased pests and diseases: Rising temperatures and changing weather patterns can lead to the proliferation of pests and diseases that can damage crops and reduce yields.
  4. Soil degradation: Climate change can cause soil degradation, making it less fertile and less able to support healthy crops. This can result in lower yields and reduced food quality.
  5. Reduced biodiversity: Climate change is causing shifts in ecosystems, which can reduce biodiversity and disrupt natural pollination cycles, leading to lower crop yields.
  6. Financial pressures: Climate change can lead to increased costs for farmers, such as higher irrigation costs, increased pest management expenses, and greater investments in technology and infrastructure to adapt to changing conditions.

What Can We Do?

  1. Promote sustainable farming practices: Encouraging sustainable farming practices such as conservation agriculture, crop rotation, and agroforestry can help to improve soil health and reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides. This can also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
  2. Develop and promote drought-resistant crops: Developing crops that are more tolerant of drought conditions can help farmers adapt to changing rainfall patterns and reduce water usage.
  3. Improve water management: Improved water management techniques, such as drip irrigation and rainwater harvesting, can help farmers to conserve water and reduce the impact of droughts.
  4. Expand access to climate information: Providing farmers with access to reliable climate information can help them make better decisions about when to plant, what crops to grow, and how to manage their farms.
  5. Support research and development: Investing in research and development to improve agricultural productivity, develop new crop varieties, and enhance soil health can help farmers adapt to changing conditions and improve their resilience.
  6. Provide financial support: Providing financial support, such as subsidies or insurance, can help farmers to manage the financial risks associated with climate change and adopt new practices.
  7. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture through practices such as conservation tillage, improved nutrient management, and the use of renewable energy can help to mitigate the impact of climate change on agriculture.

What makes FarmBox Foods a green-oriented company?

What makes FarmBox Foods a green-oriented company?

A cow eating hydroponic fodder

We use only upcycled shipping containers.
We give used, insulated shipping containers a new life: growing food at scale in areas that struggle with reliable cultivation and/or access. By outfitting them with the components to grow produce, the repurposed containers are kept out of landfills and scrap heaps.
 
The farms we build are designed to promote efficient water usage.
We capture, filter and reuse water in both our Hydroponic Fodder Farm and our Vertical Hydroponic Farm, which requires only about 5 gallons of water per day. Water is often lost to evaporation and transpiration in traditional farm settings. By recycling the water, our farms get the most out of every drop. In times of severe drought and diminishing water supplies, this efficiency is critically important. 
 
The farms were built to reduce energy usage associated with agricultural production.
Our Vertical Hydroponic Farm uses around 190 kwh per day, the energy equivalent of two loads of laundry. The Gourmet Mushroom Farm uses even less, drawing an average of only 80 kilowatt-hours of electricity each day. High-efficiency, low-energy LED lights are used in FarmBox containers to reduce energy consumption.
 
Reduced need for fossil fuels.
Every kilogram/pound of food waste has a corresponding waste factor for energy, labor, water, carbon emissions, etc. It takes a lot to get produce from point A to point B, including diesel fuel to power trucks and trains. Transporting goods across long distances could be a thing of the past, as our portable container farms enable people to grow food near the consumer, thereby reducing emissions and expenses. Hyper-local growing almost entirely removes the supply chain — and its ongoing issues — from the equation.
 
Indoor farms don’t require the use of pesticides.
Because our farms are enclosed, they’re protected from many of the variables that keep traditional farmers up at night, like drought, flooding, heat waves and hail. But it also prevents impacts from pests, and therefore, pesticides are not required in our farms. As a result, the water discharged from the Vertical Hydroponic Farms and Hydroponic Fodder Farms we build does not contribute to groundwater contamination.
 
Fodder consumption by livestock reduces methane output.
Barley fodder is easier to digest than traditional alfalfa hay and other nutritional supplements, and because of this, less methane is emitted into the atmosphere. We’re in the process of gathering more specific data to quantify the reduction of methane from different types of animals, and how that reduction corresponds with their respective intake of protein-rich fodder.
 
Growing near the consumer reduces the likelihood of food waste.
After being harvested, produce grown in traditional outdoor settings often spends a few days on trucks and in distribution centers before it arrives at the store. Hyperlocal growing helps fresh veggies arrive on consumers’ plates and in their refrigerators much sooner — often within 24 hours of being harvested. The produce maintains its shelf life, which provides a longer period of time to eat the food. This results in less food waste at the consumer level.
 
Our farms can run off solar power.
Anyone who wants to grow nutrient-dense food off-grid can do so by hooking their farm up to a small solar grid. 
 
Compost from our Gourmet Mushroom Farms helps promote soil health.
The spent substrate from FarmBox Foods’ GMF showroom model is donated to the local community to be used as nutrient-rich compost. The seedling pods and spent mushroom substrate can be used for further plant-growing compost once they are removed from the farms. The spent mushroom substrate, in particular, is quite sought after for this purpose. These eco-friendly by-products can also be incorporated into the soil, and the substrate will continue to grow mushrooms if properly managed.
 
Soil rejuvenation and less need for agricultural acreage.
Millions of acres of America’s traditionally fertile soil have been stripped of vital nutrients, and farmers are compelled to implement crop rotation and remediation steps like composting to regenerate agricultural land. A FarmBox occupies only 320 square-feet of space (they can also be stacked), does not need soil, and allows farmers to revitalize oft-used ag soil.
Furthermore, clear-cutting forests to make room for agriculture is not necessary for some crops. Farmers can utilize available vertical space to grow more food on a smaller footprint.

Farming Solutions for a Sustainable (and Less Scary) Future

Farming Solutions are needed – It seems every day you come across a news story that paints a very bleak future for traditional farming and the consumers who benefit from it.

We’ll briefly explore the many challenges facing the agricultural industry, but we’ll also posit some potential ways for farming operations large and small to adapt to changing times and conditions.

Shifting climate patterns are making it vastly more difficult to predict whether a crop will make it to harvest. Heat waves, hail storms, cold snaps and floods have become more pervasive and intense in recent years. Even crops that may not be directly affected by catastrophes, like the severe drought currently gripping the western portion of the U.S., are being indirectly impacted by residual factors, like smoke from wildfires.

We’re also facing other crippling issues without a foreseeable fix. Supply chains that support agriculture have been stretched to their limit since the beginning of the pandemic for a variety of reasons, including transportation availability, labor shortages, and associated delays affecting raw material sourcing. And the skyrocketing cost of fertilizer is further complicating matters for traditional farming operations and having an outsized impact on already-thin profit margins.

But what if there was a way to circumvent these issues using innovations in agtech? It sounds impossible, and while it comes with its own set of challenges, indoor growing, especially in urban areas, could be a big part of the answer going forward. 

Science and tech have come a long way in the last decade (hello, sensor technology!), allowing growers to do much more with much less in a smaller footprint. And hyperlocal farming means produce grows near the consumer, eliminating supply chain-related woes. Instead of spending the first half of its shelf life in transit, veggies get to the end user much quicker, resulting in less food waste. Local growing also reduces the need to burn fossil fuels to get food to its destination, and empowers communities to gain more control over their own food supply.

It’s hard to put a value on security and reliability, and we certainly won’t attempt to, but controlled-environment agriculture allows people to harvest large yields year-round without external variables getting in the way. There’s also no need for fertilizers or pesticides, which takes possible contamination of drinking water out of the equation. 

The practice is gaining momentum worldwide and already having an impact on sourcing for grocery chains, hotels, hospitals, restaurants and food banks. Likewise, farmers are embracing the technology because it provides a security blanket in uncertain times.